Join the Greater Harlem Coalition for an Election 2021 conversation about what candidates have said they would do about the quality of life issues that impact you, your family, your guests, and your neighbors, on Wednesday at 7:00 PM. Register by clicking on this link:
The New York Board of Elections has finally produced a list of candidates for Harlem:
PRIMARY CONTEST LIST Primary Election 2021 06/22/2021, New York Democratic Party TENTATIVE – SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Member of the City Council 8th Council District
Tamika Mapp 342 East 119 Street 5B New York, NY 10035 Manuel Onativia 122 East 103 Street 19 New York, NY 10029 Antoinette D. Glover 2415 2 Avenue New York, NY 10035 Diana I. Ayala 430 East 118 Street 6H New York, NY 10035
Member of the City Council 9th Council District
Pierre A. Gooding 2050 Frederick Douglas Boulevard New York, NY 10026 Athena Moore 216 West 136 Street New York, NY 10030 William A. Allen 1925 Seventh Avenue 6H New York, NY 10026 Kristin Richardson Jordan 45 West 132 Street 2D New York, NY 10037 Bernadette McNear 159 48 Harlem River Drive New York, NY 10039 Ruth L. McDaniels 110 West 137 Street 3A New York, NY 10030 Mario Rosser 300 West 135 Street 4K New York, NY 10030 Keith Taylor 32 Edgecombe Avenue New York, NY 10030 Cordell Cleare 1851 Adam C. Powell Jr. Boulevard New York, NY 10026 Bill Perkins 1295 5 Avenue 15D New York, NY 10029 Billy Council 2130 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard 5J New York, NY 10027 Sheba T. Simpson Amsterdam 30 West 141 Street 8N New York, NY 10037 Joshua Albert Clennon 7 West 122 Street 1 New York, NY 10027
City Council is kind of like Congress, but for the city. It may seem like a small office, but since New York has 8.4 million people living here, a local office like the City Council has more influence than you may think.
Klein pointed out that some leaders — Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, to name two — have used the City Council as a stepping stone to higher office.
“City Council is an entry point into politics — and a way to build a bench for more diverse representation in higher offices years down the line,” she said. “One reason many people are disappointed in the mayoral field is because 15 years ago, the city wasn’t building an exciting and diverse bench of new political talent.”
City Council members represent a district that usually includes two to four neighborhoods, and they have four main responsibilities.
They pass laws
Just like Congress or the state Legislature, the City Council proposes and votes on legislation that makes the rules for all sorts of things ranging from public health, education, housing and transportation. You can see all the different City Council committees here.
After a bill is proposed, the Council holds a public hearing to get feedback from the community and potentially make changes. Then, members vote on the bill.
Bills passed by a majority of the Council go to the mayor to be signed into law. The Council can override a veto from the mayor with a vote of at least two-thirds of the members.
The Council negotiates with the mayor to pass the city budget every year. That means members help decide how your taxes and other revenue will be spent to fund different city agencies and programs — ranging from the public schools to policing to a bunch of social services. The most recent budget was more than $88 billion.
Your Council member can advocate for certain programs or projects to be funded in your neighborhood. And each Council member has their own discretionary budget to fund local projects and groups.
How land is used can affect if housing is affordable, what kind of greenspace is available and how much pollution is likely to affect a neighborhood, among other things.
Klein said: “City Council candidates are extremely accessible in a way that candidates for higher offices aren’t. If you want to get involved in local government, meet with your council candidates, get to know them and ask them questions.”
That means where to build, what to preserve and what to close (like Rikers Island). The Council has a major say in real estate deals for city-owned land and votes on all zoning changes or rezoning.
November 2021 will be a pivotal election year for the city. City Council candidates are busily fundraising to get their names out in races currently held by Bill Perkins and Diana Ayala.
Diana Ayala is the only candidate in her district to get matching funds. She’s received over $82,000 of these matching funds.
In Bill Perkins’ district (District 9) no one has qualified for matching funds.
The Campaign Finance Board has an $8-to-1 match from public funds for the first $175 for each for City Council and Borough President candidates.
The CFB issued a total of $17.3 million in its first payment of matching money for all candidates running for city office next year. One comptroller, two borough presidents and 56 City Council candidates also qualified for funds.
More than 96% of candidates running for office next year have opted into the matching funds program which gives a boost to candidates who may not have access to the funds needed to run for office on their own. It encourages them to seek small-dollar support from voters. But by taking public funds, participants are also agreeing to specific fundraising and expenditure rules.
On the map below, you can see the number of candidates per City Council district (darker blue means more competitors)
While fundraising is only one measure of a campaign’s effectiveness, candidates in 2021 are under added pressure to build and maintain momentum quickly with an accelerated primary calendar that moves the municipal contests to June from September, with as many open seats as the city’s seen in a generation, not to mention the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matching funds for the fundraising period, from July 11th, 2020 – January 11th, 2021, will be paid out in February.
With nearly two-thirds of the seats for City Council open with no incumbent seeking re-election, CFB payments highlighted the neighborhoods where those races are likely to be most competitive. City Council candidates needed to raise $5,000 in eligible contributions including from 75 contributors in their district in order to qualify for public matching funds.
100 years ago, the New York Times used blatantly racist language to describe a Harlem real estate transaction, conducted by a church.
Terms like “dead line block” for an imagined racial (real estate) barrier and “invaded”, are sprinkled in the copy as signifiers of white racial anxiety.
The blocks mentioned in the article deteriorated over the next half century as Harlem was redlined and denied mortgages or loans that could have been used to better maintain the housing stock, while racist housing policies forced Black New Yorkers into overcrowded blocks like this. Eventually, Robert Moses intervened and the properties mentioned in the New York Times article were razed and replaced with the Lenox Terrace development.
The image below shows the blocks mentioned in the New York Times Article, and the ones that would be knocked down to build Lenox Terrace. Note the YMCA tower to the left at the center/top, and the CCNY buildings further back to the right of the YMCA:
The “Harlem site” included tenement houses described as “gloomy” with “overcrowded buildings so poorly lighted they are unsafe after dark”. 1,683 families lived in 164 buildings, of which 89% were categorized as “run-down” according to a survey of residents. Many of the buildings were found to have “inadequate courts and air shafts”. View select pages of the plan.
The proposal for the site included razing the three blocks and incorporating the “uneconomic street areas” into the superblock that exists today. Seven 20-story towers containing 1,113 units were to be built in a park with “landscaped sitting areas and playgrounds reserved solely for the tenants and their small children”. Parking would be provided and stores –until then located in converted basements and first floors in residential tenement buildings– would be replaced with dedicated commercial spaces along Lenox Avenue, separate from the residential areas.
Reducing overcrowding was central to slum clearance. The population at the Harlem site had increased by 22.5% between 1940 and 1950, reaching 803 persons per net acre of residential use according to the plan. The new development would reduce density to 440 persons per net acre of residential use, requiring the relocation of hundreds of residents. 1,010 families (60% of those living on the site) would be eligible to relocate to some of the 50,000+ units of public housing that were planned at the time; it was hoped that the rest would “prefer to relocate themselves”, although the City would offer relocation services to help those unable to find an apartment on their own.
Today the Lenox Terrace development appears largely as Robert Moses envisioned it over 60 years ago: tall residential towers stand in the middle of a superblock while separate commercial spaces front the avenues. Parking lots and driveways, however, occupy most of what Moses envisioned as playgrounds and landscaped areas.
Patch has an article on the 12 declared contenders for Bill Perkins’ seat in the City Council’s 9th District. Nick Garber’s article includes a list of the candidates and some info about their fundraising background, and platforms:
A former journalist, Allen has also worked as the National Crisis and Service Director at the National Action Network. He has served as a Democratic district leader in Harlem and worked for the city Board of Elections.
Money raised: $31,699
Cleare formerly served as Perkins’s chief of staff in the State Senate and founded the Michelle Obama Community Democratic Club. She ran for City Council in the 2017 special election, coming in third place.
Council has worked as an administrator at the nonoprofit rehabilitation center Phoenix House, has worked as a youth basketball coach and co-founded the A.A.U basketball program The Rens and the nonprofit CouncilHim.
Money raised: $55,690 (plus $160,444 in public matching funds)
Jordan is an author, poet, teaching after and activist in Harlem. She founded the independent publishing house Pens Up Press, runs the Uproar Poetry Group and has held poetry workshops at a Harlem school and senior center.
Money raised: none
Marcus ran for State Assembly in the Bronx in 2018, as a Republican. He founded the Urban Nonprartisan Club and is CEO of AMX Consultants, a political firm.
Before her retirement, McDaniels worked as a peace officer at city schools, a supervisor at the NYPD’s school safety division and a police sergeant for the city’s human resources administration. She is now a tenant association president and is vice president for an NYPD community council.
Money raised: none
McNear has been a tenant leader at NYCHA’s Rangel Houses and is currently employed as a Program Director of an afterschool program for kids in grades k-5th located in Harlem. Current Employer: Catholic Charities Community Services Alianza/Rangel
A longtime member of Community Board 10, Taylor is an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He worked for decades in the NYPD and served as an assistant commissioner for the Department of Corrections.
New Yorkers now pay about 34% of their income in rent. This ratio has been going up in fits and starts (but mostly up, up, up) since 1965. We’ll see how this pandemic and the economic fallout impacts these numbers:
In 1979, Eugene Giscombe paid $40,000 for the 12-story office building at 1825 Park Avenue known as ‘The Lee Building’ (neighbors now think of this building as the Mount Sinai – hiding under the name Beth Israel -methadone hub of East Harlem).
He was quoted (when selling it recently for $48 million) that, next to marrying his wife, buying the historic Lee Building in Harlem was the best decision he ever made.
When Giscombe first purchased the building, it was only 20 percent occupied. Savanna, the current owner, is asking around $75 million for the early 1900s-era building, or about $555 per square foot.
Tenants include Beth Israel Medical Center (Mount Sinai methadone) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the Metro North Railroad and New York City subway lines that run through the nearby 125th Street station.
Tenants recently signed about 16,000 square feet of leases in the building, including an extension and expansion by Beth Israel and a new lease with Northwestern Mutual.
State Senator Brian Benjamin: More Revelations Regarding Potentially Illegal Campaign Contributions
The City has more this morning about very questionable donations to State Senator Brian Benjamin. Observers are wondering how the Senator can run for an office whose primary mission is fiscal oversight when his own campaign missed contributions that clearly were made to make it appear as if more people were donating to his campaign. Instead of having Terry English donate $350, for example, Terry English donated $100, and English Terry topped that up with a ‘separate’ $250…
The three donors contacted by THE CITY who denied ever contributing to or even knowing of Benjamin were employed by a security firm called Prime Protective Bureau or PPB.
Also among the Murphy-directed $250 donations Benjamin’s campaign now pledges to return came from a PPB manager named Rashaun Dudley, who acknowledges making a contribution. His employer is listed as “student” in the records the Benjamin 2021 campaign submitted to the CFB.
PPB’s founder and CEO, Terry English, made a $100 money order contribution to Benjamin in July 2020, as did his wife, Sharon Doldron. A third, $250 money order donation to Benjamin is on record in the name of “English Terry,” dated Nov. 8, 2019 — coinciding with the start of the donations pooled by Murphy.
None of those three donations are among the 23 the campaign says it will be relinquishing to the Campaign Finance Board.
The Wall Street Journal has some sad new that the Alhambra Ballroom on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and 126th street is facing bankruptcy because of the lack of weddings, parties and other events that typically book the Alhambra.
The ballroom was renovated in 2003 and recently got a supermarket, below. This space has featured stars like Billie Holiday. And, while he didn’t go in the Alhambra, Fidel Castro held many press conferences in front of the Theresa Hotel, with the marquee of the Alhambra not far behind.
As we all know, Bill Perkins, particularly during this last session, has been unable to forcefully represent our community due to undisclosed issues. While he’s been propped up by his staff, crucial time and representation has been lost and Harlem has suffered unnecessarily.
2021 is an election year, and a number of candidates have jumped into the race for Perkins’ seat. Today, Keith Taylor, a neighbor and person I’ve worked with over the years, reached out to The Harlem Neighborhood Block Association to announce his candidacy for city council. We’ll try to schedule Keith Taylor to join us at an early 2021 HNBA meeting, so you can learn more, and decide if he’s your candidate for City Council – District 9.
Keith notes that he has spent almost 30 years in public service, starting as a social worker at Harlem Dowling and retiring as a commissioner fighting to reform Rikers Island. You can learn more about Keith here: Keith Taylor | John Jay College of Criminal Justice (cuny.edu). Given his role as an adjunct professor at John Jay and amazing professional experience, I confess I wanted to sign up for any number of his classes
The debacle of voting in NYC (note how the still haven’t finished the count and don’t expect to complete it until Thanksgiving) rests partly on the shoulders of Bill Perkins’ wife – Pamela Perkins – who was given a patronage job on the NYC Board of Elections. https://www.vote.nyc/page/commissioners-management.
Perkins himself is not expected to run for City Council (given his health concerns and one of the worst attendance records of a City Council Member). An article last month in New York County Politics notes a number of Harlem Machine members who are hoping, again, to play musical chairs and take Perkins empty seat.
City Councilmember Bill Perkins (D-Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, Upper West Side, East Harlem) will not seek reelection next year. A consultant fielding multiple polls throughout the city presented New York County Politics with data offering insights over who may succeed the veteran elected.
Former Assemblymember and Manhattan Democrats Leader Keith Wright won the poll, with 24 percent of respondents favoring him. Assemblymember Inez Dickens (D-El Barrio, Hamilton Heights, Harlem, Morningside Heights, Upper West Side, Washington Heights,) was the runner-up, with 17 percent support.
Trailing the two were local activists Cordell Cleare (D) with 4 percent, and William Allen (D) with 3 percent, followed by Northern Manhattan Office Director to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D) Athena Moore (D) with 2 percent. Harlem District Leader Keith Lilly (D) and writer, teaching artist, and activist Kristin Richardson Jordan (D) were tied for last place with 1 percent.
In terms of favorability, Wright and Dickens’ are similar to that of the district’s congressional representative, Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem, Inwood, Bronx): in the 43-49 percent range. However, Dickens has an unfavorability rating of 14%, nearly three times that of Wright’s 5 percent rating.
On experience, voters overwhelmingly preferred a government veteran to a fresh-faced outsider, 54 percent to 29 percent.
Republicans v. Democrats and COVID Rates
If you recall, I posted this map soon after the election to illustrate where New Yorkers voted for Democrats, and where they voted for Republicans:
It’s interesting to compare that map with today’s NYC Department of Health 7-Day COVID rate map: