The New York City primaries are on Tuesday. Taking a look at various candidates’ proposals on land use and transportation, I’ll take this opportunity to make a few endorsements.
Whomever wins this primary will have an uphill battle against the incumbent, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — not just for the election, but for the endorsement of this website. Since I’m probably going to vote to re-elect the mayor in November, I’m going sit out on this one and avoid an official endorsement.
The other reason for this is that there are three more or less equally strong contenders: Fernando Ferrer, the frontrunner, served as Bronx Borough President and would have the political and administrative skills needed to run the city. Congressman Anthony Weiner is a feisty, hard-charging and ambitious politician, the epitome of the city’s ethos. I think he’s the Democrat most capable of beating Mayor Bloomberg, if you’re into that. But Congressman Weiner’s vision on transportation is overly focused on bus rapid transit, little more than a cheap version of the trolleys that Mayor La Guardia sacked in the 1940s, and ferries. Gifford Miller, the speaker of the City Coucil, has put forth the best policy to secure, maintain and expand the subways. In particular, he has strongly supported the Second Avenue Subway and the No. 7 line extension to the far West Side. Like Ferrer, he has also gone on record supporting a car ban on Central Park’s loop drive, and has signed the petition that asks for that. Ferrer and Weiner are impressive, but because of his clear plans for sensible transportation, I’m going to vote for Miller.
For Public Advocate, Norman Siegel
Two opinions of Norman Siegel have been expressed in the mainstream media. Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News said the job is tailor made for Mr. Siegel, the prominent civil rights attorney and former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union. It’s either that, or he’s too “combative,” as The Times wrote in its endorsement of the nearly invisible incumbent. Too combative? The job is meant for somone who raises his or her voice about important issues! That is exactly what Mr. Siegel has been doing even without holding public office. The incumbent, on the other hand, has been on the defensive for not having done enough. After her four years in office, few people even know what the Public Advocate’s job is, and this is probably not a coincidence.
Mr. Siegel’s ideas on responsible development are perhaps a bit too constraining on devlopers for this website’s taste, and his transportation ideas are, like Congressman Weiner’s, too focused on bus rapid transit. But these are not areas where the public advocate would hold much sway. The potentially tremendous benefit that Mr. Siegel would have on the city is evident in his much publicized legal defense of the Critical Mass cyclists, a group of people trying to raise awareness of the ills of our automobile-centric transportation mindset by getting together to ride bicycles around the city. If Siegel wins, one hopes that the resources that the NYPD wastes on the Critical Mass ride would be redirected to productive use, like preventing crime.
For Manhattan Borough President, Eva Moskowitz
This is a crowded field of 11 candidates vying to succeed C. Virginia Fields. Of all the candidates, Assemblyman Scott Stringer has shown the most awareness of the land use component of the job, and he has made a sensible proposal that would preserve manufacturing zoning amid the residential construction boom going on now. New York needs a diverse economy, so preserving manufacturing jobs is an important goal, as long as it does not prevent growth of the housing supply, which itself is extremely tight. Assemblyman Stringer’s proposal to encourage tourism into Harlem and Washington Heights seems like a good one, but one imagines that three other candidates, Councilman Bill Perkins, Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, both from Harlem, and Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat from Washington Heights, would be better suited to accomplish this goal or ascertain how much of a priority the residents of those neighborhoods think it should be.
Brian Ellner has made a big splash recently with a television ad that attacks George W. Bush by showing a nude male torso topped by the president’s head, photoshopped in place. Mr. Ellner concludes the ad by introducing his partner, showing that Mr. Ellner is as loud about advertising his sexual preference as he is at his opposition to President Bush. Time will tell how successful this bold political gambit will be at the polls. The ad would have gotten far less attention if Fox’s local affiliate, WNYW/Channel 5, hadn’t refused to run it. Flamboyant criticism of the president is rousing politics for New York City Democrats, but the connection between the borough presidency and anything to do with the United States presidency is tenuous, outside of rhetoric. The criticism of the president is extremely gratifying, but one would rather see a local candidate focused on issues over which he or she has some purview.
The best candidate by that measure is Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. Like Ms. Fields, Ms. Moskowitz has been a vocal proponent of the most important mass transit project in the country, the Second Avenue Subway. This project will not happen without unified support at every level of government, so it is critical that our elected officials support it. In addition, Councilwoman Moskovitz has also strongly supported the No. 7 line extension, a key project for the city. Besides her advocacy for subway expansion, she was a leader in the movement to ban car alarms in the city — ridiculous devices that do almost nothing to stop car theft but annoy all within earshot. She’s worked to encourage cycling and rides herself.
For Manhattan District Attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau
One can’t help but be impressed with the careers of both candidates for this race, the 31-year incumbent, Robert M. Morgenthau and the challenger, Leslie Crocker Snyder. Besides beying a lawyer and former justice and prosector, Ms. Snyder serves as a legal consultant to the enormously popular TV show Law & Order, but Mr. Morgenthau has been the real life D.A. Adam Schiff for decades. Mr. Morgenthau is 86 years old, but he is mentally as sharp as ever, and he has the experience that makes him the best candidate for this tough job. His high profile prosecution of white collar criminals, as well as his decades of putting away typical street thugs could not easily be replicated by a novice. Crime has dropped meteorically since the years before Mr. Morgenthau took office and the whole tenor of the city has changed. This is probably due more to demographic trends and law enforcement strategies than to prosecutorial ones, but if even a small percentage in crime reduction is the result of Mr. Morgenthau’s ideas and efforts, then we owe him all a debt of gratitude, and another term in office.
For City Council District 9, Yasmin Cornelius
District 9 is gerrymandered a bit, but it is centered in Harlem, where Yasmin Cornelius is the highly respected district manager for Community Board 10. If her able performance as district manager is any indication, Ms. Cornelius would be an eloquent and powerful advocate for her community. The Times, in endorsing her, called her “the candidate who could best bridge the divide between Harlem and Morningside Heights.” Having lived in both neighborhoods, I can heartily second that thought.