We’re starting to see sparks fly in the District 1 City Council campaign. Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader, is taking on first-term City Council member Margaret Chin in the upcoming Democratic Primary. On Sunday at the Jing Fong restaurant on Elizabeth Street, “Chinese for Rajkumar” which was described as “a committee of labor, small businesses, small property owners, and residents” gathered to speak out against Chin.
A spokesman for the group, Professor Peter Kwong of Hunter College, said Council member Chin had “gone along” with Michael Bloomberg’s development agenda at the expense of middle and low-income residents. “Soon there will be no Chinatown,” Kwong warned. “It will only be for tourists and the rich. We must stop her from tearing out the fabric of Chinatown brick by brick.”
An East Broadway small business owner, Mei Ring Song, agreed, saying foot traffic is down, prices are rising and she complained that Chin “pushed through the Chinatown BID,” which has created a “new tax” on property owners and struggling entrepreneurs. Another woman, Trinh Duong, said Chin had refused to help the parents of Shuang Wen, a dual language school that was investigated by the Department of Education. Also included in the group: Josephine Lee and Wendy Cheung, longtime Chin opponents active in the Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side. Both Lee and Cheung said they were representing themselves — not the larger organization.
In her remarks, Rajkumar said, “I would like to be an advocate for the working class.” She said the Chinatown BID imposes “taxation without representation” and she promised to support efforts to dismantle the business improvement district. Rajkumar said she also supports the “People First Rezoning Plan,” which seeks to keep sections of the neighborhood affordable through the city’s land use process. You are my community and we are in this together,” Rajkumar declared. “It is time to ask whose Chinatown is this. It is our Chinatown!”
In response to Sunday’s media event, Chin campaign spokesman Austin Finan said:
These issues have been addressed many times over. The Chinese American community remains strongly in Margaret Chin’s corner because she has been there for them since Day One. The Rajkumar campaign is merely trying to distract voters from the latest revelation that Jenifer embellished her resume in an attempt to deceive voters into thinking she has even a shred of relevant experience.
Last week, the New York Post published a story that carried the headline, “This over-achieving beauty is running for City Council as head of a non-profit that’s only skin deep.” The reporter, Tara Palmeri, wrote that Rajkumar, 30, boasted online about her non-profit, W-Spin, in spite of the fact that it has no staff or budget and has not launched any programs to further the organization’s goal — empowering women leaders. While the Rajkumar campaign felt the tabloid story was overblown, Finan argued the issue speaks volumes about the young candidate:
Jenifer’s failed attempt to pull a fast one is consistent with that of a high school student looking to pad her resume to get into a better college, or an unqualified applicant stretching the truth in order to get a job. Either way you slice it, her sorry behavior is reflective of a disturbing trend and reality voters have come to realize about Jenifer Rajkumar – she simply lacks the integrity to hold higher elected office.
This afternoon the war of words continued with this retort from Rajkumar spokesman Darren Johnston:
Margaret Chin’s desperate, flailing campaign can only sling mud while Jenifer continues to pick up steam with community leaders from Chinatown and across the district. This is the problem with Margaret–she is always focused on the wrong priorities. Jenifer will continue talking about how she will join with community leaders to make Lower Manhattan a better place to live, raise a family, and retire affordably.