Opinion: Circular firing squad

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Every now and then I like to put on my cap as a former politician and strategic election campaign thinker.

Like so many others, I have been watching the Democratic Party Presidential debates. Way back in the fall, they started out as fairly polite affairs with discussions largely on issues. It was must-see TV for issue wonks and political junkies. There were initially about 24 candidates divided into two separate groups of a dozen on a debate stage. You are forgiven if you have a hard time remembering who said this about that. It was pretty much a blur.

But with the likes of Bill de Blasio, Andrew Yang, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and many others falling by the wayside, those debates are now coming into clearer focus. The genteel days are over and the gloves are off.

The Democratic Party has a history of divisiveness and lack of message discipline in part because unlike the more homogenized Republican Party, Democrats are much more diverse in their views and in their personal backgrounds. They call it a big tent, but it can get messy.

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Local primary voters say they wanted change

Voting signs at 360 First Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated activist and challenger Cynthia Nixon by a significant margin in the Democratic primary election on Thursday evening, with the election called for the current governor less than an hour after the polls closed at 9 p.m., although the victory was much narrower among Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents than it was for all five boroughs.

Citywide, Cuomo received 66.45 percent of the vote and Nixon got 33.24 percent, but of the almost 4,000 Democratic voters in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper, the governor only received 51.1 percent to Nixon’s 48.9 percent.

Incumbent Assemblymember Harvey Epstein also won his race by a large margin in the 74th District, getting 62.4 percent of the vote over newcomer Akshay Vaishampayan, who received 19.2 percent and multiple-time candidate Juan Pagan, who got 17.9 percent.

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Assembly candidate Juan Pagan stays in race, despite cancer

Juan Pagan has been running for local office since 2006. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Despite an ongoing battle with prostate cancer and some intensive surgery he is now recovering from, an East Village resident who’s running in the primary against Assembly Member Harvey Epstein says he is staying in the race.

That candidate is Juan Pagan, a former corrections employee who later worked as a contractor and is now retired.

In a campaign interview with Town & Village this week, Pagan shared that he’d had a radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) on August 14 at Memorial Sloan Kettering in this latest bout with cancer. This is after a recent full recovery from stage 4 lymphoma, Pagan told Town & Village previously, and now Pagan is saying his doctors are optimistic this time around as well. Still, the 62-year-old candidate is taking it easy, and while he agreed to an interview with Town & Village over the phone he also canceled his participation in a debate earlier in the day.

“I have a high threshold of pain, but I’d be squirming in my chair,” he explained.

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High voter turnout at Democratic Primaries, voters choose Hoylman, Mella and Kavanagh

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Brad Hoylman

Voters in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village had three decisions on their ballots for the Democratic Primaries yesterday: the spot for Tom Duane’s Senate seat, Surrogate’s Court judge for Manhattan and the seat for the Assembly, 74th District.

Brad Hoylman, a Greenwich Village resident, came out on top in the State Senate race with 67.4 percent of the vote. Opponents Tom Greco received 23.9 percent of the vote and Tanika Inlaw received 8.7 percent.

Rita Mella

Rita Mella, a Stuyvesant Town resident, won the primary with 59.7 percent of the vote over Barbara Jaffe’s 40.3 percent for the Surrogate’s Court judge position, and incumbent Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh won with 63 percent. Challenger Juan Pagan received 37 percent of the vote.

The polls at the Asser Levy Recreation Center were quiet with only about 10 percent of registered voters coming by 4 p.m., according to voting coordinator and Peter Cooper Village resident Kathleen Kalmes, but many of the other sites for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents reported being busier than usual, especially for a primary election.

“Primaries usually have a small turnout because I think some people might feel like there’s no point since this is a Democratic area in general,” said the site coordinator at 272 First Avenue who didn’t want to be named. “But this has been a busy day, especially compared to the Republican Primary a few months ago.”

Brian Kavanagh

Clarieel Reyes, who was working the polls at 360 First Avenue and who has worked in primary elections in the past, said that over a hundred people had voted at her table alone and the other tables at that site had similar numbers. “This one has had a pretty good turnout, more than past Democratic primaries, from what I’ve seen in previous elections,” she said.

Due to redistricting, there was some confusion among voters about where their poll sites would be. The most notable change for some, according to the coordinator at 272 First Ave., was that a handful of voters in Stuyvesant Town were now supposed to vote at the location in Peter Cooper Village. One irate voter came into 360 First Avenue and was frustrated about where he was supposed to vote, but poll workers said that while there was some confusion about where to go, most were not too put out by the changes, even if they had to go to a different poll site.

Arnie Latterman, a Stuyvesant Town resident who was working as a scanner inspector at the 525 East 14th Street poll site, said that there were a number of referrals throughout the day at his location. “We made at least 40 referrals because there were people who came in (to this location) and didn’t vote here,” he said.

Despite the lower turnout expected at the primaries compared to the general election, voters felt strongly about the decisions they had to make. “Even though they’re all Democrats, there’s a wide variance in the candidates,” Latterman said. “One is maybe a bit more progressive than the others and depending on personal preference, that can be important.”

Others who came out said they felt obligated to vote to have their voice heard.

“Primaries are just as important as the final election,” said Stuyvesant Town resident Gary Wiss after voting. “Putting a ballot in the box is a special kind of thing. It’s democracy in action.”

Public school teacher running for Duane’s seat

Tanika Inlaw

Primary Day is Thursday, September 13. Town & Village is running bios of Democrat candidates for the positions of Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge and the State Senate seat to be vacated by Tom Duane.

This article was originally published on July 12


By Sabina Mollot

For potential candidates for the State Senate seat now occupied by Tom Duane, it may be hard to believe that it was only just over a month ago when the longtime lawmaker announced his intentions not to seek reelection. After all, for them, there’s been something of a mad dash to collect enough petition signatures to ensure their names on the ballot for the September primary. The deadline is this Thursday.

As of Monday, no candidates had yet submitted their petitions to the Board of Elections. However, there are now at least three Democratic candidates who’ve said they definitely plan to run in the September primary:

The first is Brad Hoylman, a nonprofit attorney and friend of Duane who received his support the day Duane made his announcement. The others are Hell’s Kitchen bar owner Thomas Greco and Upper West Sider Tanika Inlaw, a public school teacher.

Town & Village previously interviewed Hoylman and Greco, and this week, Inlaw spoke with this newspaper about her campaign and her agenda, which focuses on affordable housing, education and job creation.

Already, Inlaw said she’s been pounding the pavement throughout the district and recently learned firsthand from residents of Stuyvesant Town about their top issues of concern, from classroom overcrowding to the stuffing of students into divided apartments.

In response, she said she thought CWCapital should be made to stop the practice of putting up pressurized walls and renting to students.

Tenants, she learned, “are upset that a lot of families are being displaced and that now all these students are coming in and making noise. We can’t have dormitories. We need to stop that.”

Inlaw also said she considers herself an advocate for LGBT rights as a result of being raised by her uncle, who’s gay, and her grandmother. She called Duane an “amazing” senator. “He’ll be a tough act to follow.”

Though her background is in journalism (she worked for several years for ABC News Radio and for the network’s TV show, “The View”), Inlaw said she “got the bug” for politics from her husband, Evan Inlaw. He had run for a City Court judge position in Yonkers in 2005, and won at the primary level, but lost the general election. Meanwhile, Inlaw was active in the campaign, talking to district residents about their problems and finding that she wanted to do more than she could do at the time. This was just to steer those individuals to the right city agency or public official.

Inlaw around that time also got involved in advocacy work, becoming president of her local chapter of the NAACP. She held that position until a few years ago, and said when she heard about the Senate seat for what will soon become the 27th District, she just decided to go for it.

“I’m a teacher at a Bronx elementary school, and I feel I’m the best candidate because I have no special interests behind me,” said Inlaw.

Though Inlaw knew Hoylman was all but officially endorsed by Duane on that first day, she said she wasn’t going to be deterred by any political “machine.”

“I’ve seen that before with just one candidate, but how can you call that democracy?” she said.

She added that as a senator, she would be an advocate for the middle class, which she feels is now shut out of the political process.

“Barack Obama is a black president, so color is not the shut-out anymore; it’s class,” she said.

“Middle income people don’t have opportunities anymore. It used to be that as long as you had a good education, you could buy a house. Now you could have a good education and have to live with your parents. And I don’t want my daughter living with me when she’s 40.”

Inlaw, who’s 38, began her career in education not long after having children. She now has a five-year-old and a seven-year-old. The idea originally was to be a stay-at-home mom, but that didn’t last too long.  “I needed a break,” she admitted, “and you don’t get any break as a stay-at-home mom.” She also noted she she’s “about to be a single mom,” since she’s in the midst of a divorce from Evan.

On matters related to education, Inlaw said if elected, she would fight to create smaller classrooms and have additional support via assistant teachers for special education classes. She also said she wanted to “bring back extra curricular and arts programs,” which are the first things cut from any school budget. “Every child should have the opportunity for a well-rounded education,” she said.

Bullying is also a focus, with Inlaw saying one way to help stop it would be to demand accountability of the schools where it happens. However, she stressed it should be done in a way that doesn’t shame the schools or administrators, since that approach too often leads to incidents of violence or other problems being swept under the rug. She also thinks it’s important to create a classroom environment that’s rigorous. “That’s what we need — to make kids more competitive.”

And Inlaw says she’s the voice of experience on that topic, being the first person in her family to graduate from college. She got her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Purchase and later her master’s in education from Hunter. She also attended a specialized high school, La Guardia, studying drama.

She also wants to see hydrofracking completely banned and focus on repairs needed to the city’s infrastructure, including bridges and tunnels. The work would create jobs and not the minimum wage sort. (She also supports raising the minimum wage.)

On issues of housing, Inlaw, who grew up in a Mitchell-Lama building, said fighting for affordable housing is a top priority.

Repealing the Urstadt Law is also a goal. Obviously, Inlaw said she knows what she’s up against in Albany with the Republican majority frequently blocking any tenant legislation. However, she said if elected, she would try to plow through the bipartisan divide by being willing to give and take at the negotiating table.

“(Right now) everything is landlocked because everyone is holding fast to their own opinions and not seeing how it is through someone else’s eyes,” she said. “We have to come together. Even if someone’s attacking me, I’ll agree with them, and that disarms them. They’ll hear me, because I hear them. People want to be heard.”

Senate hopeful: Priorities are tenants, education issues

Brad Hoylman with voters

Primary Day is Thursday, September 13. Town & Village is running bios of Democrat candidates for the positions of Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge and the State Senate seat to be vacated by Tom Duane.

This article was originally published on June 14.


By Sabina Mollot

Last week, following the announcement by State Senator Tom Duane that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection, several names were mentioned as being possible replacements for the representative of what is now known as the 27th senatorial district. However, only one got the blessing and encouragement of Duane himself and that was Brad Hoylman, a nonprofit attorney who the lawmaker called one of his closest friends and someone who would be “a fighter” for the district.

Naturally, it took all of 24 hours for Hoylman, who was running for Christine Quinn’s seat on the City Council, to instead officially throw his hat in the ring for the State Senate.

Hoylman, who left his work in law a few months ago to work on the Council campaign, is also the chair of Community Board 2. Like Duane, he is gay and lives in Greenwich Village with his partner, documentary maker David Sigal, and their 18-month-old daughter, Sylvia.

This week, Hoylman, who spent much of his Saturday petitioning in Stuyvesant Town, spoke to Town & Village about his platform, which he said is very much like Duane’s is that it is pro-tenant, pro-LGBT rights and very much against “irresponsible development” like the planned NYU expansion in Greenwich Village.

“I think the plan is wrong for the community which is essentially a residential neighborhood and it really threatens what makes the Village and NYU special,” he said.

While speaking with residents in Stuy Town, Hoylman said he also heard residents’ concerns about the influx of college students and said that he thought the marketing of apartments to students should stop.

“For CWCapital and Rose Associates to market the property to college students, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said. “I understand that they’re putting up partitions in some spaces, and I think it’s outrageous.”

If elected, he said he would work with other East Side politicians “to make sure that stops. In the East Village, we had a problem with that, and now it’s Stuyvesant Town.”

On that issue along with the planned redevelopment of NYU, Hoylman said there are ways to make even super-schools like NYU listen to the community.

“We have levers we can pull to make sure that they listen,” he said. “They have to come before community boards for approvals and to council members for other things.”

On other ST/PCV-related issues, Hoylman said he supports the Tenants Association’s proposed plan to go condo. He also said he was in support of keeping nearby co-op complex East Midtown Plaza, which is currently mired in a war over privatization, in the Mitchell-Lama program.

As a parent, Hoylman also said he was “very dismayed at the attitude of the current administration towards parents and teachers. I want to work to change the system where teachers are demonized and parents don’t have a voice.”

Another issue would be to try and get a bill passed, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Squadron, that would give protections to transgendered people in the workplace.

Politically, Hoylman said he considers Duane a role model, noting his success as getting legislation passed, even while in the minority party, for tenant protections, marriage equality and against hate crime.

As for the fact that the State Senate’s been the place where rent laws typically go only to be shot down by Albany Republicans, Hoylman echoed a sentiment frequently mentioned by Duane, about the need for campaign finance reform as the best way to deal with pols catering to special interests.

In his role as community board chair, Hoylman said he’s been active in matters involving historic preservation and landlord-tenant issues. In one recent deal that CB2 had a hand in, developers of the old St. Vincent’s site agreed to provide a $1 million legal defense fund for tenants and another $1M for arts programs for local schools.

As an attorney, Hoylman began his career in a private practice, and later worked on housing issues in the nonprofit sector, most recently for the Partnership for NYC.

As a political candidate, his work so far has only been to start the lengthy process of gathering enough signatures to not get booted off the ballot by an opponent. He needs 1,000 to run.

The 27th senatorial district covers part of the East Village, ST/PCV, Waterside, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Hell’s Kitchen.