ST resident voters wanted change from Bloomberg era

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, pictured in Stuyvesant Town in August, was elected mayor. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, pictured in Stuyvesant Town in August, was elected mayor. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New Yorkers elected a new mayor for the first time in 12 years this past Tuesday and for the first time in over 20 years, made a Democrat the city’s leader. The New York Times called the election for Democrat Bill de Blasio based only on exit poll data because the margin was so wide. According to the unofficial results from the Board of Elections, the city’s current public advocate received 73.34 percent of the vote and Republican Joe Lhota received 24.27 percent.

Current Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also enjoyed a landslide victory in the city comptroller race, getting about 80.53 percent of the vote. His Republican challenger, Wall Streeter John Burnett, got only 16.63 percent.

Locally, City Council Member Dan Garodnick was able to retain his seat with 70.25 percent of the vote over Republican newcomer Helene Jnane, who got 29.75 percent.

At the polls, some voters felt it was important to vote because of issues such as tenants’ rights.

“It’s always about that,” one Stuyvesant Town resident who didn’t want to be named said after voting at the community center. “Without tenants’ rights, we can’t live here. Your vote always comes down to where you live.”

A number of residents, however, were motivated to cast their ballots because of Bloomberg fatigue.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, shown with son Asher at his polling place in Peter Cooper, was reelected. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

Council Member Dan Garodnick, shown with son Asher at his polling place in Peter Cooper, was reelected. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

“I’m so done with 12 years of Bloomberg,” said Lisa Baum, a Stuyvesant Town resident. “He’s done a lot of damage to our city. This isn’t the city that we had before he came into office. I’m raising a child and there is more homelessness in the city now. She sees that, she sees the homelessness.”

Mary, a Peter Cooper Village resident who declined to give her last name, said she was hoping for a Democrat in the mayor’s office after more than a decade of Bloomberg. “He wants more tourists in the city,” she said. “He cares more about tourists than he does about citizens.”

Mary Garvey, a Stuyvesant Town resident and a teacher, said that she is hoping for changes in education as well as changes in general. “New York is a very wealthy city,” she said. “But we need to think about all the people, not just the wealthy.”

The Board of Elections approved a decision in mid-October to use six-point font on the ballots for this election and a number of elected officials have come out against this move because it makes the ballots more difficult for voters to read.

“Voters have a right to clear, readable ballots,” Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said. “Shrinking the words to a minuscule six-point font is simply not acceptable. We have legislation that would make this impermissible — and would make it easier for boards of elections to design ballots that are clearer in a variety of ways — but it shouldn’t take an act of the legislature to make sure people with reasonably good eyesight can actually read the names of the people they’re voting for.”

One poll worker stationed in the site at 360 First Avenue said that voters were making complaints about how difficult the ballot was to read all morning. Garvey, who voted at the community center polling site, said that she didn’t have too much trouble reading the ballot, but she worried that seniors might. “The proposals are a very important part of voting and the font for those is so small,” she said.

As with elections in the past, redistricting in the neighborhood has shuffled polling sites around, sometimes leaving residents confused about where they were supposed to vote.

Madge Stager, a Stuyvesant Town resident who voted at the community center, said that it took her 20 minutes to figure out where she was supposed to go because she went to her regular polling place and only then discovered that the site had changed. She ultimately figured out that she was supposed to vote in the community center at 449 East 14th Street but said that she never received any notice about a change, and the site coordinator at the community center, Donna Canton, said that polling places have been changing frequently.

“They redistricted again after last year’s general election and they shouldn’t be doing that,” Canton said. “My polling site last year was 283 Avenue C and now it’s 10 Stuyvesant Oval, and even one of my neighbors in my building has a different poll site.”

Other than these few hiccups, poll workers said that everything was going relatively smoothly on Tuesday morning. They noted that voter turnout was heavy and the residents that came out were more than happy to do their civic duty.

“I’m glad to vote,” Garvey said. “It’s a moment of optimism. Voting always makes me very emotional.”

Stringer’s Wall Street opponent — Burnett says he’d reform city’s pension plans

John Burnett

John Burnett

By Sabina Mollot

On Primary Day, Scott Stringer bested his opponent, former Governor Eliot Spitzer, following a contentious race for comptroller, but Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, isn’t completely out of the water just yet.

In November, he’ll face off against John Burnett, a Harlem-based Republican with a background in finance. Though Burnett has none of the name recognition Stringer’s been building up, via celebrity endorsements as well as a contentious primary race against a man who had his political career derailed over a hooker scandal, he insisted he’s up for the challenge.

During an interview following a recent morning campaign stop in Stuyvesant Town, Burnett told Town & Village he’s running because he wants to make sure “bureaucracy doesn’t stranglehold things.”

He added, “In corporate America, if a corporation doesn’t change in a way to shift and adapt, then they go out of business. So I’m used to change.”

Burnett doesn’t feel Stringer’s qualified for the job of comptroller, saying, “I don’t think Scott Stringer is going to change anything when he’s been inside for 25 years.” He also blasted Stringer’s past attempt at running two bars. He asked why voters should trust him to manage the city’s books when “he couldn’t sell wings and beer in a city of millions?”

The corporate candidate had even harsher words for former opponent Spitzer, blasting him more than once on his website for the former governor’s dalliances with prostitutes and use of taxpayer dollars to fund his travel expenses during those times.

Burnett said if elected to the position of comptroller, which oversees the city’s pensions, he would reform the pension plans by combining them. This, he said, would save its earners millions in administrative fees and costs.

“We have to get to pensions to where they’re self-sustaining” for retirees, he said.

Burnett’s other goal is job creation through economic incentives to help small businesses grow and tax abatements for developers.

“Tax abatements spur real estate growth in New York City,” he said. To help small businesses, he said he would fight the city’s “harassment” of its owners aimed at collecting fines and taxes.

While politicking at Stuy Town early in the morning, he said most of the questions he got were about jobs or housing. He noted that even with the unemployment rate dipping slightly, it’s still “double digit with blacks and Hispanics.”

As for housing, he knows the city needs more of it and is in favor of more “combination housing,” a mix of affordable and market rate development. “We have to do it in a way that is timely and doesn’t cost a lot of money.” In this case, he wasn’t sure that reducing real estate taxes was the answer, since a reduction in landlords’ own costs wouldn’t necessarily lead to them feeling the need to pass the discount on to tenants.

Burnett last worked at McGraw-Hill Financial in risk and compliance before leaving in March to focus on his campaign, and he’s worked Wall Street money management jobs throughout a 20-year career. Previous places of employment include Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney. In his official bio online, the candidate describes himself as a “natural entrepreneur” who started selling candy to classmates at age six. (He would later recruit his family to help him shill homemade cookies.) After graduating from high school, he got a job as a cashier at Pathmark, which was also his introduction to the world of unions. By the age of 20, he was working as a margin analyst for Dean Witter Reynolds, which later became Morgan Stanley. He later, while working, finished college at New York University and got an MBA at Cornell.

Now a father of two daughters, Burnett was born in a public housing development in East New York and his family later moved to Queens Village, where he grew up. He’s lived in Harlem for the past nine years.

As a former NYCHA resident, Burnett weighed in the agency’s current plan to lease existing, open space on eight public housing projects to outside developers, to say he thought it was a good idea.

“I think we need to explore all options,” he said, in contrast to local elected officials who want to make sure current residents are okay with it and that the plan includes affordable housing.

Burnett however, again stressed he liked the idea of a mix of lower-income and market rate housing. “We have to be a city for all demographics,” he said.

He wasn’t initially interested in getting into politics, he said, but was encouraged by the Republican County leadership. He added that he feels that due to the recent sex and bribery scandals involving politicians and candidates such as Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, “it’s really given New York a black eye” and that it’s time for someone with “a higher level of integrity” to step up.

Like any other Republican running for office in New York City, Burnett knows he’s facing a steep, uphill battle in trying to convince democrats to vote for him ― or even not dismiss him on sight. However, he said he hopes to appeal to voters who are “getting sick of the same old thing. The definition of insanity is to do the same old thing over and over again and expect a different result.”