B.P.C. District Leader races part of primary

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | On Tuesday, Sept. 13, primary election day in New York State, registered Democrats in Battery Park City will be choosing the people whose names will go on the November election ballot as district leader.

In the 64th Assembly District, Part C, Linda Belfer and Jeff Galloway, endorsed by the Lower Manhattan Democrats, are running against Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, endorsed by the Downtown Independent Democrats. The district takes in the southern part of Battery Park City as well as parts of the East Village, the Lower East Side, the South Street Seaport and the Financial District. In the 66th Assembly District, Part B, which includes the northern part of Battery Park City, David Reck, the L.M.D. candidate, is running against John Scott, the D.I.D. candidate. Jean Grillo, of the D.I.D. is running unopposed in that district.

Each district elects one male and one female district leader. They serve two-year terms and are unpaid but play an important role in grassroots politics. “We are able to influence how our communities develop based on our input,” said Linda Belfer, who has served as District Leader for many years. “We can influence our elected officials based on the fact that we work on their behalf and we can pass along to them the knowledge that we have acquired as to what our communities need.”

Belfer, a lawyer by training, was one of Gateway Plaza’s first tenants and is currently president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants’ Association and chair of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee. She has been endorsed by U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, N.Y. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, N.Y. State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Member Margaret Chin.

Jenifer Rajkumar, her opponent, also lives in Gateway Plaza and is also a lawyer. Her résumé includes advocacy for domestic violence victims at Sanctuary for Families, for the rights of low-income immigrant workers via the American Civil Liberties Union, and for women’s reproductive freedoms at the Center for Reproductive Rights. She practiced civil rights law at Sanford Wittels & Heisler. “Here I was lead counsel on cases against corporate fraud and helped litigate some of the largest class action lawsuits on gender and race discrimination,” she said.

She has been endorsed by City Council Member Rosie Menendez.

Jeff Galloway, another Gateway Plaza resident and a lawyer, is running for district leader for the first time. He and his family have lived in Battery Park City since 1982. He is chair of Community Board 1’s Planning and Community Infrastructure Committee and co-chair of C.B. 1’s Battery Park City Committee. He is co-founder of the Battery Park City Dog Association. Galloway seeks to be district leader as “an additional avenue to the elected officials.” One of his concerns is the process by which judicial candidates are picked. “It’s incredibly important to have a high-quality State bench,” he said. “Civil Court judges hear the kinds of disputes such as landlord/tenant that most people might be involved in. Supreme Court judges hear divorce, child custody and commercial cases. As district leader, I could have more impact on the selection process.”

Paul Newell, his opponent and the incumbent, founded and led the Coalition for a New Village Hospital to replace St. Vincent’s with a hospital serving Downtown residents regardless of ability to pay. “I was also a prominent voice advocating for religious tolerance when our community board meetings were being invaded by the culture wars,” he said, referring to the fight over what some people called the “Ground Zero mosque.” Newell has worked vigorously for stronger rent laws. He has been endorsed by Scott Stringer, Daniel Squadron and Rosie Mendez.

In the northern part of Battery Park City, incumbent David Reck is being challenged by John Scott. Reck, an architect, is the chair of Community Board 2’s Zoning and Housing Committee and served on a task force created by Stringer to keep an eye on N.Y.U.’s development plans and make recommendations. He is a founding member and president of the Friends of Hudson Square. He has been endorsed by N.Y. State Assembly Member Keith Wright.

Scott, a former President of the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association, headed Community Board 1’s Youth Committee, served on the first committee to run Washington Market Park and helped to get PS 234 built. He has been endorsed by Margaret Chin and Daniel Squadron.

“So much of politics is very local,” said Lower Manhattan resident Catherine McVay Hughes. “That’s why it’s important to vote in the primary. This election will decide who’s on the ballot in November.”

The polls will be open on Sept. 13 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.