Gerson’s “Lame” Amendment, Little Steven on SPURA, Bike Lane Wars and More

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District 2 City Council member Rosie Mendez plans on making an endorsement in the First District City Council race soon. But she doesn't seem to be too pleased with the incumbent, Alan Gerson. Speaking of Gerson's failed amendment to hold a referendum on extending term limits, Mendez says, “Alan…all I can say about that amendment is it was lame — and everyone knew it.” After the proposal failed in the Council, Gerson voted to extend the limits. Mendez voted "no."  Some good news for Gerson: he'll be endorsed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer this afternoon.

SPURA update via The Villager: "Steven Van Zandt, a.k.a. Little Steven of the E Street Band,
a.k.a. Silvio Dante of “The Sopranos” fame, recently toured part of the
site, specifically the old market buildings along Essex St. south of
Delancey St. (City Council member Alan) Gerson said Van Zandt was interested in creating a 'recording-studio complex' at the location, but then the stock market
crashed, and everything got put on hold. Gerson said, in addition to
eying the renewal area for cultural uses, he’s pitched the area to the
garment industry as a place for fashion manufacturing, design and
retail…"

A man died in the aftermath of a fight that broke out at a homeless shelter on the Bowery.

Work is progressing on the Allen Street Mall. This from Curbed: "Yes, friends, that's a brand spanking new protected bike lane that's coming to life… a bike lane that's going to reduce Allen Street to a mere two lanes, a move planners hope
will curb excessive driver speed through Chinatown and the LES. To
follow: "higher curbs, permanent planting beds, and post and chain
fencing."

NYC's non-profits are continuing to struggle, even as there are new signs of life in other parts of the city's economy. Danny Rosenthal of the Educational Alliance says its hasn't been easy absorbing cuts in the organization's city contract to provide childcare services.

The New York Post takes a look at the Howl Festival.

Chinatown Debate: Chin Comes Out Swinging

CCD1 elections logo Even her opponents would have to concede it was Margaret Chin's night. A large crowd turned out in Chinatown last night to size up the four candidates running against incumbent City Council member Alan Gerson. In a lively, two hour forum, Gerson was under constant attack by Chin and another challenger, Pete Gleason. But Chin – a longtime Chinatown activist – on her home turf, took the lead.

It was the third major forum in advance of the Septhember 15th Democratic Primary. Chin's message was, essentially, "eight is enough." After two terms, she argued, it's time to give someone else a chance. Chin railed against Gerson's decision to side with the mayor in extending term limits. But she also strongly criticized his leadership. Taking issue with Gerson's argument in earlier debates that he has an "unparalleled record" of achievement, she claimed he only acts when prodded to do so by community activists (such as herself).

Gerson spent most of the night defending his eight years in office and highlighting his accomplishments. Enjoying a significant amount of support in the neighborhood, his responses were generally followed by fairly enthusiastic applause.  Meanwhile, PJ Kim refrained from criticizing his opponents, making the case that the time has come to move beyond divisive politics. Arthur Gregory positioned himself as the "truth teller," the only candidate who will truly confront the realities facing the district. Gleason, who has been Gerson's fiercest critic, kept up the pressure and pledged to "stand up to the powers that be" at City Hall and in Albany.

At the end of the night, the candidates had one thing in common: none of them was brave enough to reveal his or her favorite restaurant in Chinatown!

A short time ago, we posted the full audio recording of last night's forum. Below, are two video excerpts. The first clip, focusing on support for struggling small businesses, illustrates Chin's forceful criticism of Gerson. There's also an exchange on term limits. In the second clip, you'll hear portions of the candidates' closing statements.

Gerson Campaign Responds

More on the battle of the bike lanes. After City Council member Alan Gerson's rally yesterday to protest the configuration of the Grand Street bike lanes, CD1 candidate Margaret Chin released a statement sharply critical of the event. Chin alleged that the rally, on a Chinatown street corner, was little more than a campaign stunt. Now the Gerson campaign is out with a statement of its own:

Council Member Alan J. Gerson held a press conference specifically to assure the community that he has introduced Intro 10-63, which allows more community input regarding citywide bicycle policies and street access.  Gerson believes that changes to street conditions directly impact the lives of residents and the community.  That is why their voice and concerns, as well as those of bicyclists, must be considered, not only by the community board, but also by the NYC Department of Transportation.  This legislation will increase community input across the city. It is unfortunate that this benign legislation is attacked by his political opponent for political purposes.

Chin is one of four candidates challenging Gerson in the September 15th Democratic Primary. At the rally, he was surrounded by Chinatown residents and business owners, who believe the bike lane has snarled traffic and made Grand Street more dangerous. The First District includes Chinatown, where Chin is a longtime community organizer.

Kim Wins Citizens Union Endorsement

6a01127920a5dc28a40120a5582cf2970c-120pi The "good government" group, Citizens Union, has decided to endorse PJ Kim in the District 1 City Council Primary:

In the race to challenge incumbent Councilmember Alan Gerson, Citizens Union prefers Jin (P.J.) Kim because of his energy, fresh ideas, knowledge of the evolving needs of the district and his broad base of support. Margaret Chin is also a strong candidate with experience and meaningful ties working on tenant organizing issues, especially in the Chinatown portion of Council District 1. 

In a statement, Dick Dadey, Citizens Union executive director, said:

CU felt the need to make recommendations that encourage voters to retire a number of  two-term incumbents and support new faces who will breathe fresh air into the city council. And where appropriate, we are encouraging the return of effective members who do a good job of serving their constituents and meeting the public interest of New Yorkers." 

Gerson, a two term incumbent, is facing a strong challenge from four rivals, including Kim, Margaret Chin, Pete Gleason and Arthur Gregory. His vote to extend term limits, has been a major issue in the campaign.

Citizens Union asked candidates to fill out detailed questionnaires. You can see their responses to a range of "good government" questions here

City Council Debate: Gleason Sharply Critical of Gerson Tenure

IMG_0340 The five candidates competing to represent District 1 (including the LES) on the City Council debated the issues Monday night at a forum sponsored by The Villager and Downtown Express newspapers. The evening was marked by an aggressive attack on incumbent Alan Gerson by challenger Pete Gleason. By the end of the forum, held at Pace University, the contours of the race began to take shape. In the absence of major disagreements on the issues, the voters will likely make their choice in September's Democratic Primary based on differences in personal styles and backgrounds. Gerson vigorously defended his tenure, trumpeting a record of "unparalleled accomplishments." Gleason positioned himself as the outspoken fighter against the status quo at City Hall. Chin portrayed herself as the champion of affordable housing and education who would brings decades of experience as a community organizer to the Council. Kim touted his fresh approach to issues and an ability to build consensus. And Gregory presented himself as the affable, shoot from the hip businessman and activist, who wouldn't be afraid to speak his mind.

Gerson Testifies Before Court Referee

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We just heard from Lawrence Mandelker, the attorney representing Councilman Alan Gerson in State Supreme Court. As we reported earlier, a referee is sorting through the disputed facts in two lawsuits — one filed by Gerson against the Board of Elections, and the other a suit filed by challenger Pete Gleason against Gerson.

Mandelker argued today that Gerson fulfilled the requirements of state law and of the city's Election Board, in spite of the Board's ruling that his petition is invalid. He said the campaign made a "typographical error" on a cover sheet attached to one volume, incorrectly listing Gerson's address as 1505 Laguardia Place, rather than 505 Laguardia Place. Mandelker contends that since 1505 Laguardia is an address that does not exist – and since Gerson submitted more than 7-thousand signatures (far more than the required 900), it amounted to an inconsequential error.

He argued that since state law only calls for "substantial compliance" and is meant to prevent fraud, the Board should not have called on Gerson to file an amended cover sheet. Mandelker rejects the Gleason campaign's suggestion that the manner in which the amended cover sheet was filed, invalidated the entire petition. Gleason attorney Ray Dowd alleges that Gerson went down to the Election Board's office to correct the error himself, and in so doing, committed fraud. But testifying today, Gerson said he did not handle the issue personally.

The Gleason campaign will present its case on Thursday. Meanwhile, Mandelker will appear before the Board of Elections tomorrow morning to argue a narrow point — that rather than invalidating the entire petition, only those pages affected by the wrong address should be discounted.

We placed a call to the Gleason campaign earlier today. We'll update if we hear back this evening.

Multiple Lawsuits Filed in First District Council Race

It appears the State Supreme Court is going to be kept busy next week dealing with the legal maneuverings of the candidates running for the First District City Council seat. Earlier today, we reported that candidate Margaret Chin has filed suit against rival PJ KIm. Now comes word that Councilman Alan Gerson, who has been thrown off the ballot, has filed a suit against the city's Board of Elections. Also, another candidate, Pete Gleason, has filed an "invalidating petition," against Gerson and the Elections Board, arguing that he should not be allowed back on the ballot.

The Gerson campaign has said a printer's error was responsible for an incorrect address on the cover sheet on one volume of his petitions. This is how the Downtown Express has characterized what happened next:

When the Board of Elections wrote Gerson about the
mistake, he sent one of his campaign volunteers down to fix the error.
The volunteer, who is an elections lawyer, crossed off the extra “1”s
but forgot one key thing: At the bottom of the amended cover sheet, he
was supposed to write, “This is to certify that I am authorized to file
this amended cover sheet” and then sign and date it, said Valerie
Vazquez, spokesperson for the Board of Elections. Gerson
said the volunteer realized his mistake while he was still in the
building and tried to correct it, but the Board of Elections would not
allow him to do so. “You only have one
opportunity to cure a defect,” Vazquez said. The cover sheet “was not
presented to the board in accordance with the rules.”

The article, in yesterday's newspaper, continues:

Gerson, who is a lawyer, defended his decision to not
go down to the Board of Elections himself when the issue with the
petitions first came to light last week. “I’m
not an election lawyer, I didn’t think it was necessary, and my first
priority remains the business of my district,” Gerson said.

The Gleason camp is calling into question the Gerson statement that he did not go to the Board of Elections Office personally. Gleason's lawyer, Ray Dowd, says if it can be proven that Gerson was handling the issue himself, then he's guilty of fraud. Even if Gerson wasn't present, Dowd contends Gerson was still responsible for the actions of his staffers and the printer. Dowd says the Gleason campaign is not dwelling on a trivial matter. Instead, he argues the counter-lawsuit is about upholding an important principle: the integrity of the petition process — and a framework that is meant to ensure the candidates on the ballot have a "mandate from the people."

But the Gerson team made a different argument in the Downtown Express article:

Lawrence A. Mandelker, an election lawyer Gerson hired,
said the Board of Elections was wrong to ask Gerson to submit an
amended cover sheet in the first place, since there was no problem with
the original cover sheet. The board could have just discounted the
petitions with the incorrect address, which would have left more than
enough signatures to qualify Gerson for the ballot, Mandelker said. The
goal of election law is to prevent fraud, “And here, there was no
fraud,” Mandelker said. “It’s an outrageous thing, and I don’t think
the court would stand for it for one second.”

We have a call into the Gerson campaign, seeking comment.

The Gleason campaign is also challenging candidate Arthur Gregory's petitions through the Election Board's normal complaint procedure.This is what Gregory had to say about that on his Facebook page:

My petitions have been challenged by John Ross hwo live on W. Broadway in Tiberca NYC, He says he did it because friends told him and his wife Catherine, that I supported loud noise bars, (which I do not). He then stated it was really Pete Gleason one of my oppentants, who for day's has said he had not, until his lawer R. Dowd told him to. I have 2 get a lawyer now.

Regarding the Chin/Kim suit, we have heard back from Margaret Chin's campaign manager Jake Itzkowitz about the lawsuit she has filed against Kim. Here's a portion of the statement he emailed to us:

Margaret Chin… has filed a legal challenge to Jin ‘PJ’
Kim’s designating petitions contending that on top of an alarmingly high rate
of invalid signatures, a large number of the witness statements in Kim’s
petitions were either forged or tampered with. Margaret Chin, who has always
fought for equality and justice, saw the gross forgeries as an assault on the
rights of the voters in District 1 to have authentic candidates on the ballot… As to why we chose to raise these issues in court, rather than at the Board of Elections,
fraud and tampering are serious
allegations and severe breaches of the voters trust. It is only appropriate
that these concerns are debated in a court of law.

It should be an interesting day at the courthouse on Monday.

Breaking News: Gerson Kicked Off Ballot – Hearing This Afternoon

IMG_0926 City Hall News is reporting that City Councilman Alan Gerson has been kicked off the September Primary ballot, due to an error made on his petitions. Here is the full text of the article by reporter Chris Bragg:

Council Member Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan) has been kicked off
the          ballot for a technical error involving the misprinting of one of his
petitions, the New York City Board of Elections has confirmed.

The Board of Elections will hold a hearing at 1:30 p.m.
today to decide whether he will be reinstated. Gerson’s legal representation
met with lawyers for the Board of Elections this morning to discuss the case.

The printer that published Gerson’s petitions apparently
committed an error that incorrectly listed Gerson’s address as 1505
LaGuardia Place, rather than his actual address, 505
LaGuardia Place, in a petition book that contained
approximately 1,000 of his signatures. Gerson attempted to cure the error this
weekend, but tried to do so without the assistance of an attorney. He tried to
cross the extra “1” in the address off the petitions, but the board was not
satisfied, according to Gerson campaign consultant George Arzt.

Arzt said that Gerson had submitted over 7,000 signatures
and expressed confidence that the incumbent, whose signatures had not been
challenged by any of the other candidates in the race, would be reinstated to
the ballot.

If he is not reinstated, Arzt said, Gerson would file legal
action against the board.

“This would never stand up in court,” Arzt said. “This
really shows the need to simplify the board’s arcane rules.”

Artz, who also consults for Council Member and Public
Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), will also find out at the hearing
today whether he is reinstated over a technical error.

One source who had looked at both candidates’ petitions,
however, said they believed the errors Gerson had made were much more serious
than the error committed by a de Blasio attorney, who mislabled the number of
petitions de Blasio had submitted.

TLD Interview: City Councilman Alan Gerson

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This is the fourth installment of our series of interviews with the candidates running for the 1st District City Council seat. The District includes the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Soho, Wall Street and Tribeca. We have already heard from Margaret Chin, Pete Gleason and PJ Kim. Today, it’s the incumbent’s turn.

We talked with Councilman Alan Gerson at his campaign headquarters, a quirky setup in the back of the Silver Spurs restaurant, on La Guradia Place in Soho. Gerson is able to run for a third term thanks to the City Council’s decision to extend term limits — a move he helped spearhead. We asked him about that controversial term limits decision, the fate of the former SPURA site, the future of Chatham Square and several other issues. Gerson is just now getting back into the swing of things, after overcoming a bout with the swine flu.

In these interviews, we want the candidates to be able to lay out their positions fully. For that reason, editing was kept to a minimum. We removed extraneous comments that were repetitious or not directly related to the question asked, and streamlined questions. For more information on the campaign, including our interviews with Chin, Gleason and Kim, see below. The full interview with Alan Gerson can be found after the jump.

TLD Interview: Margaret Chin
TLD Interview: Pete Gleason
TLD Interview: PJ Kim
Gotham Gazette’s District 1 Profile
City Hall News Primer – District 1 Race


Deadline Day: City Council Candidates Submit Petitions

Yesterday was the deadline for City Council candidates to turn in their petitions to get on the September Primary Election ballot. Each candidate is required to submit 900 signatures, but they usually turn in a lot more than that in case there are challenges. We heard from three of the challengers (taking on Councilman Alan Gerson) in the District 1 race. Margaret Chin and Pete Gleason’s campaigns both said they submitted about 5-thousand signatures, while Councilman Gerson collected over 7-thousand signatures. PJ Kim made a mini-media event out of his filing late yesterday afternoon.  Here’s what he had to say moments before handing in his petitions, containing 5500 signatures, at the city’s Board of Elections office :

TLD Interview: City Council Candidate PJ Kim

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Today we have the third installment of our series of interviews with the candidates running for the 1st District City Council seat currently held by Alan Gerson. The District includes the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Soho, Wall Street
and Tribeca. We have already heard from Margaret Chin and Pete Gleason, two of the candidates hoping to deny Gerson a third term. Today, it's PJ's Kim's chance to talk about the issues impacting the District.

Kim was vice president of Single Stop USA, a company that helps low income families access government services such as food programs and health care. He also worked as Director of Income Policy for FoodChange, now part of the Food Bank of New York.  Kim graduated from Princeton in 2001, and moved to New York to work for McKinsey, the management consulting firm.  He served on Community Board 1 for two years.

In these interviews, we want the candidates to be able to lay out their
positions fully. For that reason, editing was kept to a minimum. We
removed extraneous comments that were repetitious or not directly
related to the question asked, and streamlined questions. For more
information on the campaign, including our interviews with Chin and Gleason, see below. The full interview with PJ Kim can be found after the jump.

TLD Interview: Margaret Chin
TLD Interview: Pete Gleason
PJ Kim's web site
Gotham Gazette's Profile of District 1
City Hall News primer on District 1 race

Progress Report: Luther Gulick Park

As we mentioned a couple of days ago, City Councilman Alan Gerson has agreed to help fund the facelift of Luther Gulick Park. Earlier this month, LES resident Dave Bolotsky arranged a meeting with members of the community and a Department of Parks representative to discuss ideas for refurbishing Luther Gulick. The park, located at Delancey and Willett Streets. has suffered from years of neglect: tables and benches were removed in the 80’s to discourage raucus crowds from congregating near the Hillamn Co-op – diseased trees had to be cut down a decade ago.

At Tuesday night’s Community Board 3 meeting, Patricia Olan announced that her boss, Councilman Gerson, had found some money for Luther Gulick’s restoration. Yesterday, Bolotsky told The Lo-Down he’s organizing a second community meeting, probably to be held late next month, to solicit more feedback. He’s also working with the city to line up additional funding. Parks official Bob Redmond said at the June 4th gathering that the project would probably cost about $2 million.

We’ll have more details about the time and location of the meeting as soon as it is scheduled.

TLD Interview: City Council Candidate Pete Gleason

Pete+gleason  

Today we continue our series of interviews with the candidates running for the District 1 City Council seat currently held by Alan Gerson. The District includes the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Soho, Wall Street and Tribeca. Last week we heard from Margaret Chin, one of four challengers Gerson
faces in September's primary election. Today it's Pete Gleason's turn.

Gleason is an attorney, as well as a former New York City police officer and firefighter. He ran against Gerson unsuccessfully in 2003. Recently, he won the endorsement of an influential political club, the Downtown Independent Democrats. Gleason has been an outspoken critic of the lack of progress redeveloping the World Trade Center site.

In these interviews, we want the candidates to be able to lay out their positions fully. For that reason, editing was kept to a minimum. We removed extraneous comments that were repetitious or not directly related to the question asked, and streamlined questions. For more information on the campaign, see below. The full interview with Pete Gleason can be found after the jump.

TLD Interview: Margaret Chin

Pete Gleason's web site

Gotham Gazette's profile of District 1

City Hall News primer on District 1 race

Public Meeting to Discuss Bowery Rezoning Tonight

This evening City Councilman Alan Gerson and the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors are holding a "Stakeholders' Meeting" to discuss proposed zoning changes to the East side of the Bowery. The west side of the block was included in the recent rezoning of the Lower East Side, but not the east side. The plan devised by the Bowery Alliance would restrict the height of buildings to 8 stories and protect certain buildings that are historically significant. The gathering will bring together residents, business owners, developers and community groups to talk about the proposal, in advance of an upcoming meeting of the Department of City Planning. The meeting will be held at 6:15 at P.S. 131, 100 Hester Street (Forsythe).

TLD Interview: City Council Candidate Margaret Chin

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Today we kick off a series of interviews with the candidates running to represent the 1st District in the New York City Council.  The District includes the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Soho, Tribeca and Wall Street. There are four candidates seeking to unseat Councilman Alan Gerson, who was only able to run for a third term after the Council voted to extend term limits this year. Gerson supported Mayor Bloomberg's controversial campaign to extend the limits.

Our first interview is with Margaret Chin, a community organizer, affordable housing advocate and former teacher. This is the fourth time she's run for the City Council. We discussed a range of issues last week in her modest campaign headquarters in Chinatown. She shared her views on Chinatown development, the redevelopment of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, a variety of transportation issues and how she feels about Councilman Gerson's unexpected decision to jump into the race.

We want the candidates to be able to discuss the issues important in the 1st District fully. For this reason, the interview is largely unedited – we have simply removed extraneous phrases and streamlined the questions.  Read the entire Q & A after the jump. For more information on Chin and the 1st District, see:

Margaret Chin's web site
Gotham Gazette's profile of District 1
City Hall News primer on District 1 race