It’s Election Day tomorrow in New York City, which means candidates for local office are frantically crisscrossing the Lower East Side in search of those last undecided voters. We’re keeping a close eye on the battle for District 1, where incumbent Margaret Chin is fighting for a third term in the City Council.
Chin faces three opponents, including Republican Bryan Jung, Christopher Marte (running on the Independence Party line) and Aaron Foldenauer (who will appear on the Liberal Party line). Yesterday afternoon, Chin rallied her supporters in Chatham Square in a rainy “get-out-the-vote” event. She was joined by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (he’s running for Daniel Squadron’s former Senate seat). Also appearing alongside Chin were several candidates vying to become the next City Council speaker.
Chin’s message: She’s accomplished a lot in eight years, bringing new affordable housing and social services to the neighborhoods of district 1. The Council member said, however, there’s “more work to do,” creating additional, “affordable housing, senior housing and “providing resources to our immigrant communities.”
The back-and-forth between Chin and Marte, who nearly defeated her in the Democratic Primary, has grown testier during the final days of the general election campaign. Chin has said her opponents are spreading misinformation about her record.
On Sunday in Chinatown, she told supporters, “We are going to fight back, to beat back the lies, defeat the fear mongers, beat back all the misinformation.”
At this past week’s meeting of Community Board 3, Chin offered a more specific defense, discussing her strategy for battling three proposed mega-towers in the Two Bridges area. The Council member referred to criticism that she hasn’t fought hard enough against the unpopular development projects. Chin said, “You know, it’s very easy to criticize. There’s a lot of stuff (real estate development) happening in the city that’s as-of-right. It makes us sick, but there’s nothing we can do about it because that’s the way it is.”
But Chin said she has worked hard to find loopholes in the law. Recently the Council member and Manhattan borough president submitted a proposed zoning text amendment that would require a full public review of the projects. “You know,” said Chin, “I kept at it. I told the (City Council) staff, ‘Help me find a way.’ So we got “fast track’ (legislation that, if signed by the mayor, could expedite the zoning changes),” and guess what, some of my (Council) colleagues are very happy, because now they also have this tool to support their community.”
“I have lived in Lower Manhattan pretty much all my life,” said Chin, “since I was 9 years old. Since college, I have been involved in community organizing and been involved in many struggles. I am not going to stop fighting.”
We caught up with Marte on Orchard Street early yesterday evening to hear his final thoughts heading into election day. Marte told us, “I’m extremely proud of my campaign and what we’ve been able to achieve. During the primary, people said (victory) was impossible, and we have proven them wrong. And we have proven them wrong doing it the right way, trying to unify communities.”
“Whether you’re a restaurant worker in Chinatown, or a Soho mom, or a bodega owner in the Lower East Side,” said Marte, “we were able to bring communities together and say, ‘Let’s talk about the issues. Let’s talk about over-development. Let’s talk about the lack of transparency. Let’s talk about the lack of community engagement.”
Asked about allegations from the Chin campaign that he has twisted her record, Marte said, “We’ve seen her track record, and it’s changed drastically on a lot of these issues.”
“Whether it’s (the) Two Bridges (neighborhood), last year saying these developments are as-of-right and there’s nothing that we can do,” argued Marte, “to recently proposing to have a text amendment…” or an issue that came up just last week, the campaign by home health workers to be paid for all hours worked. “The home attendants,” said Marte, “endorsed me on an issue where our Council member was silent. Now she supports them.” Explained Marte, “We’ve just seen, because of the pressure, because of how we run our campaign, we talk about the issues, we have seen our Council member’s track record change, on where she stands on the issues. We hope that, win or lose, that the side she takes now is the side she’s committed to.”
[In the case of proposed towers in the Two Bridges area, Chin asked the Department of City Planning for a full land use review, but the agency rejected the request. Chin told us in a recent interview that it took time to devise a legal strategy to fight the towers. In addition to the proposed text amendment, she’s supporting a push for a neighborhood rezoning, which is being led by three community groups. Her staff has maintained that she never referred to the proposed developments as “as-of-right” projects. Chin addressed the home care worker issue on Friday, releasing a statement that read, in part: “I have had the opportunity to fight alongside healthcare workers for fairer wages and more benefits, including sponsoring the Paid Sick Leave Law that expands coverage to thousands of New Yorkers and helps thousands additional workers receive restitution from employers. I am proud to have the support of the dedicated and hardworking members of healthcare unions like 1199SEIU based on this track record.”
Aaron Foldenauer is also chiming in during the last hours of the City Council campaign. He won the support of just 734 District 1 voters in the primary, edging out another challenger, Dashia Imperiale, who had 459 votes. In an endorsement letter, Imperiale is backing Foldenauer. She writes, “Unfortunately, Margret Chin, the developer’s doormat, won the Democratic nomination. At the same time, Christopher Marte never voted in his life except for himself. He has no experience in housing and never saved anyone’s homes. We know most politicians are corrupt and in donor service, not public service.”
Bryan Jung, the Republican candidate, has not mounted a robust campaign. You can see his campaign statement here.
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