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August 28th, 2008


by D. Clark MacPherson

Pete Gleason.

This year there are a number of real races among the Democrats, which will affect SoHo in particular. Since we live in a Democratic town, the Primary is the election. November is merely a formality once the Primary battle is concluded in September.

Daniel Squadron, for example, is running against Democratic incumbent State Senator Marty Connor, who for 30 years has not had a serious opponent. That has changed this year. Squadron managed to garner the endorsement of Downtown’s major, if embattled, Democratic political club, D.I.D. (Downtown Independent Democrats), and is clearly now in the lead for that State Senate seat. While Squadron has raised significant money (nearly $500,000 thus far), his real success is in making headway without the overt support of his political rabbi, Senator Schumer. Squadron traveled with Schumer and they wrote a book together.

Having to make one’s own political way–in spite of a tremendous political asset–in order to connect with the community and inspire a sense of commitment is not an easy task. Squadron seems to have accomplished this by virtue of his energy and persistence.

The City Council races for SoHo will soon become more interesting. Julie Menin, Chair of Board #1, thought to have the upper hand in the coming election next year, has primarily focused her attention on attorney Pete Gleason.

Gleason is the choice of many SoHo residents and is clearly preferred by registered voters north of Canal Street–but money may become the issue. Menin’s war chest is supported by her developer husband Bruce. Menin is rumored to be holding a family fortune in the hundreds of millions–a daunting reality for opponents.

Katherine Freed had appeared to be throwing her hat in the ring for the Council seat but little has been said about this and most observers believe that she prefers to remain in her judicial robes.

Margaret Chin is another activist who has eyed that Council seat and who fervently puts her energy where her mouth is. Few work as hard as she does.While she represents a huge Chinese voter cadre Downtown, she has gained popularity with all of those who do not like the idea of a political seat that is for sale to the highest bidder.

Madeline Wils, former Chair of Community Board #1, is also a contender for that Council seat, but as yet she has not made any overt moves. She has been seen at numerous public events and is known to have the interest—and the money—to make a run.

A veritable mini-Opera has been exuding from Community Board #1 over the last several months and has included the D.I.D. coup, which was a small seismic Downtown political event in May and June. That attempt to unseat D.I.D. President Sean Sweeney appears to have been orchestrated to further support Julie Menin’s run for City Council next year.With a political club in tow, turning out the voters is an easier task. While the coup, supported by D.I.D. District Leader David Reck, did not succeed, and was criticized for its covert planning, it was not universally resented. Sweeney, a controversial figure, has led the SoHo Alliance for a decade and has supported some unpopular causes. Avoiding enemies in politics is virtually impossible.

So-called Ballotgate, a more recent Community Board #1 controversy, relates to a missing ballot in one of its elections for Assistant Secretary. It surfaced only a short time after the Andy Neale fiasco, in which a Board #1 member was dropped as a result of negative press alluding to an arrest record and threatening behavior. Neale readily admitted his failings and rehabilitation but was angry over how it was handled by Stringer’s office and the Downtown Express. That particular controversy is still playing out and may take some surprising turns.

The rough details about the ballot issue, apparently, are that during the balloting in a race between Community activist Marc Ameruso and his opponent—a Board member named Lynn-Rudder—one ballot went missing.While the election was not a close one, the missing ballot is troubling for a couple of reasons. First, it was Julie Menin’s vote, the Chair of the Board, and, second, it indicates that someone is toying with the election process.

If nothing else, it elucidates the depth of political intrigue going on at Board #1—and the contentiousness involved in planning the ultimate victory.Whether this warrants an investigation (since rumor has it that two attorneys sit on the Executive Committee and are very upset over this) remains to be seen. Since Borough President Stringer is close to Menin, predictions are that this will end sweetly and quietly.

With an anticipated run for Public Advocate next year, Stringer is carefully cultivating the Community Boards and his friends with money (rumored to have been noticed at a $10,000 per plate dinner with the Menins).

His opponent, if he runs, will be Eric Gioia, current City Council Chair of Investigations.

It should be an interesting political season. This November will be relatively boring—only the Presidency is contested.

Community Board #2, no stranger to controversy in the past, has been relatively quiet lately. Although there are some antagonisms, Brad Hoylman has managed to placate a number of opponents as well as cultivate allies. Major issues remain for him to deal with in order to accumulate chits for his Council seat run next year, but he has handled issues like the Rudin/St. Vincent’s development with finesse.

The Council seat for West SoHo, which encompasses Hudson Square and the West Side, comes up next year as well. That race currently seems to be a three way battle between Executive Director Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Brad Holyman, Chair of Community Board #2, and former Board #2 Chair, Maria Derr.

And, by the way, at a recent fundraiser, Bernie Cohen, former attorney and consultant to Nora Anderson, who is making a bid for Surrogate Court judge—a lucrative position—apparently took a swing at Eben Bronfman, Special Assistant to D.A. Bob Morgenthau. It connected.

Bronfman, who was holding his daughter’s hand at the time and was about to leave, caught the unexpected punch. Various obscenities accompanied the blow.

Apparently, Eben has been seen in the company of Anderson’s opponent (Milton Tingling) and he speculates that this was the reason for Cohen’s actions.

Bronfman, however, wasn’t amused that he received this “show of emotion” in front of 80 people.

It was a hot summer.

Filed Under: Articles | Commentary | New York | Politics





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