It’s local election season in NYC! There’s a lot to consider before we cast our ballots this Fall. Here are some races to watch:
City Council District 31
Incumbent Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) is running for a 2nd term in City Council District 31, which includes Laurelton, Rosedale, parts of Springfield Gardens, Bayswater, Hammels, Arverne, Edgemere, and Far Rockaway. As the chair of Zoning and Franchises, Richards is at the forefront of neighborhood rezoning efforts across the city and was an instrumental force in securing the $91 million Downtown Far Rockaway rezoning and revitalization project that is currently underway. He is also a member of the City Council Progressive Caucus.
The only known challenger to Donovan Richard’s City Council seat so far is life-long Rockaway resident Derek Hamilton. Hamilton strongly opposes the Downtown Far Rockaway rezoning and revitalization project, calling it a “nightmare” on his website.
City Council District 32
Incumbent Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) is running for a 3rd term in City Council District 32, which includes Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neposit, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Rockaway Park, Roxbury, South Ozone Park, West Hamilton Beach, and Woodhaven. When first elected in 2009 at the age of 24, Ulrich focused on small crimes like graffiti vandalism and illegal dumping on city streets. He was one of the first Council Members to introduce Participatory Budgeting in his district and is active in the 102nd Police Precinct Community Council.
In 2010, New York voters overwhelmingly supported a bill limiting elected city officials to two consecutive 4-year terms. However, a this law included a loophole allowing politicians elected prior to 2010 to run for a third term. Though a proponent of the term limit law in 2010, Ulrich now plans to utilize the loophole by running for a third term.
Historically, most attempts to unseat an incumbent in local elections are futile. However, it looks like Ulrich will be facing some real competition this year. Mike Gennaro Scala (D), Howard Beach resident and legislative aide for State Senator James Sanders Jr., recently announced that he will be running for Ulrich’s seat this November. While working in the New York State Senate, Scala gained experience negotiating proposed legislation and was instrumental in the passage of an initiative to help veterans find work in the state. He is also familiar with the state budget process and currently serves as the First Vice President of the Queens Public Transit Committee. Scala is extremely passionate about public transit, placing this issue at the center of his platform. Also in the running are Jay Rivera, Helal Sheikh, William Ruiz, and Daniel Guarino.
There are a lot of ways that Ulrich and Scala are alike in their platforms and priorities. For example, both candidates criticize the evident failings of NYC’s Build It Back Program, which was designed to help affected communities recover their homes after Superstorm Sandy, calling for better
management and increased accountability. One area where Ulrich and Scala clearly differ is public transportation, specifically regarding the proposed Select Bus Service on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevards and the possibility of resurrecting the QueensRail Line. Mike Scala is pro-QueensRail Line and anti-SBS. If elected, Scala pledges to make improvements in South Queens public transit his top priority, including advocating to reinstate the QueensRail Line, and argues that removing a lane of traffic to make way for SBS on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevards makes little sense for a community of drivers already burdened by traffic congestion. Ulrich, on the other hand, views SBS on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevards as inevitable and the resurrecting of the old QueensRail Line as impossible. Scala rejects the notion that any politician should ever do anything less than advocate wholeheartedly on behalf of the interests of their constituents, regardless of how difficult or far away the goal may seem. At a time when the MTA is increasingly unreliable and train delays are rising at an exponential rate city-wide, issues surrounding public transit could play a key role in NYC local elections this year.
NYC Mayoral Race
Though there were still around a dozen mayoral candidates as of late June, no one has emerged as a real contender against Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has spent the last several months preparing for his second run by cosying up to various unions and special interest groups, including the NYPD. In fact, de Blasio has already been endorsed by over 12 unions, including 32BJ SEIU, the largest property services workers union in the country.He has been praised for starting the free universal Pre-K program, increasing affordable housing, and record-low crime rates during his 1st term. 2nd-term priorities include closing Rikers, extending the free universal Pre-K program to 3 years old, and developing a job program aimed at middle-income jobs.
That’s not to say de Blasio hasn’t taken some risks, like launching his controversial new homeless shelter program, which aims to reduce the homeless population in NYC by 2,500 over the next 5 years by opening 90 new homeless shelters across the city. NYC’s homeless population has risen during the de Blasio administration to current record levels of over 60,000, and some advocates have accused the de Blasio administration of managing the problem rather than fixing it. At the same time, the first waves of his new shelter program are facing a lot of resistance at the neighborhood level, which could pose a potential threat to his re-election campaign.
Other frontrunners include Nicole Malliotakis (R) and Sal Albanese (D). Nicole Malliotakis is an Assemblywoman representing parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Malliotakis’ platform includes de-regulating small business and general fiscal conservatism. Sal Albanese, former city councilman and public school teacher, is running for NYC mayor for the 4th time. Albanese is trying to capitalize on the current transit crisis, as shown by his outraged social media posts.
Celebrity candidates include Darren Aquino, founder of an advocacy group for disabled veterans and actor who has played a disabled cop on “Law & Order.” Also in the running is Richard ‘Bo’ Dietl, a private investigator and former NYPD Detective (in real life). Progressive favorites include Robert Gangi, long-time police reform advocate and founder of the Police Reform Organizing Project, and Assad Syed, the first Muslim candidate for NYC mayor and whose major issues include religious freedom, women’s rights, and school reform.