Elected Officials Emphasize Rent Reform During Political Club Appearances

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, DID President Jeanne Wilcke.

Members of the State Legislature are back in Albany today after a two week break.  Yesterday, before ending their Manhattan respite, Lower Manhattan elected officials did a little politicking downtown.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, Senator Daniel Squadron, Senator Tom Duane and City Councilmember Margaret Chin were among those making appearances at a fundraiser yesterday afternoon for the Lower Manhattan political club, Downtown Independent Democrats.

There’s a lot of unfinished business to deal with in Albany, including ethics reform, a property tax cap and a gay marriage proposal. But in brief remarks, Silver said his top priority is the expansion of rent laws, which expire June 15th.

The entire downtown delegation is in agreement on the issue. It remains to be seen whether Governor Cuomo will push Senate Republicans to make concessions on expanding rent protections, or whether he’ll be satisfied with a straight-up renewal of the current laws.

The club honored U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand yesterday (an aide accepted an award on her behalf), as well as Senator Squadron. The city’s political clubs provide important organizational support for candidates running for city, state and national office.

In the last year, Jeanne Wilcke (the club president) and Paul Newell (district leader) have made a big push to expand the organization by recruiting younger members not necessarily part of the political establishment.

DID Announces 2010 Candidate Endorsements

The political club endorsements are starting to roll in. Last night, members of the Downtown Independent Democrats met to decide which candidates to back in the 2010 elections. They, of course, endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, as well as incumbents Chuck Schumer (U.S. Senate), Kirsten Gillibrand (U.S. Senate), Carolyn Maloney (U.S. House) and Jerry Nadler (U.S. House). For attorney general, DID endorsed Eric Schneiderman and they supported all of the incumbents in the State Legislature.

The club also approved several resolutions, including a measure urging a transparent and inclusive NYC Charter Revision process. They want to see all future changes in the charter put up to a vote of the people, rather than simply going through the City Council.

You can see more detail, including the club’s recommendations on the upcoming judicial elections here.

Elected Officials, Candidates Flock to Political Club’s Fundraiser

Rep. Jerry Nadler talks with DID members. Photos by Victoria Lau.

It was a who’s who of downtown politics at Sean Sweeney’s Soho loft yesterday afternoon. The influential political club, Downtown Independent Democrats, held its annual fundraiser, a chance to share a drink or two, devour some shrimp and chew over the upcoming primary races. Sweeney, who stepped down as president a few weeks ago, gave us a tour of his impressive rooftop garden. The club’s new president, Jeanne Wilcke, told us she had a nice chat with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who’s facing a highly publicized challenge from Reshma Saujani.

Followup: Gerson’s Re-election Battle

Yesterday morning, we reported City Councilman Alan Gerson lost the endorsement of the Downtown Independent Democrats to Pete Gleason. Today the Downtown Express is out with more details. Reporter Josh Rogers called the defeat a "body blow" to Gerson's re-election efforts. Explaining the influential club's vote, Rogers wrote, "Gerson has lost the support of some Downtown political leaders who previously helped him get elected."

Gerson supporter Bob Townley said his candidate is facing more opposition in this election, in part,  because voters were expecting new blood in District 1. Gerson would have been prevented from running due to term limits, but he supported Michael Bloomberg's campaign to extend the limits for the mayor and the Council. Townley said Gerson should be re-elected due to his experience and track record helping Lower Manhattan. But a former Gerson supporter Julie Nadel says while she likes him personally she beieves he's "totally disorganized." For Gerson's part, he noted that he won most of the other club endorsements and that the DID "does not represent the district."

Gerson's other opponents are Margaret Chin, PJ Kim and Arthur Gregory. Chin's campaign manager, Jake Itzkowitz, told us she directed her supporters to vote for Gleason so Gerson would not win the endorsement. Itzkowitz says it was a demonstration of Chin's organizational prowess. Incidentally, we'll be interviewing Chin next week. During the campaign, we hope to conduct Q & A sessions with all of the candidates and to cover the 1st District race extensively.

Gleason Wins Key Endorsement Over Incumbent Gerson

The Downtown Independent Democrats (DID) voted last night to endorse challenger Pete Gleason in the First District City Council primary against incumbent Alan Gerson. We received a late night email from the club's president, Sean Sweeney, saying the vote was 64-52. In some ways, the result was not a surprise. Some political insiders were taken aback two weeks ago when Gerson barely squeaked out a win at the endorsement meeting of his home club, the Village Reform Democratic Club. But Gleason, a former cop and firefighter (now an attorney), is a favorite son of the DID. Sweeney has been openly critical of Gerson, saying he does not serve his constituents effectively. Other members were upset that Gerson supported Mayor Bloomberg's bid to extend term limits. But in the last few weeks, Gerson had been packing the club with his supporters. We'll have more details later.

Tuesday News Links

Black and Latino students are making big gains in state math test scores. But the statistics released yesterday are being hotly debated. Joel Klein, head of NYC's public schools, says it's a big victory. Other education experts contend there may be less to cheer about than you might think.

From the New York Post's police blotter, a shop owner on Henry Street (near Catherine) was beaten by two suspects who smashed him with a chair on Friday. The victim said he'd broken up a fight the day before between the suspects and another man.

The influential Downtown Independent Democrats meet tonight to endorse candidates running in September's primary election. Some observers think challenger Pete Gleason could steal the endorsement away from Councilman Alan Gerson in the first district race. We plan to post the results late tonight.

A nice new feature on NYC.GOV makes it easy to find bike racks throughout the city.

The Chinatown Working Group held a town hall meeting last night. We'll have a a report on that later today.