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Volume 73, Number 18 | September 3 – 9, 2003


Vote for Gerson at the polls Sept. 9

In the weeks before Lower Manhattan was attacked in 2001, there was a vigorous seven-candidate campaign for the Democratic primary for Lower Manhattan’s First City Council District. This time, the two-candidate Council primary has received much less attention.

Councilmember Alan Gerson, who won the open seat two years ago, now faces Peter Gleason, an attorney and former firefighter who lives in Tribeca.

Gerson has done well representing the diverse district, which surrounds the World Trade Center site and includes Battery Park City, Chinatown, the Financial District, Little Italy, the Seaport, Soho, Tribeca and parts of the Lower East Side and the Village.

On preserving and advocating for more affordable housing, paying attention to the needs of residents as Lower Manhattan is rebuilt and working to protect people from dangerous amounts of diesel fuel stored in high-tech buildings, Gerson has shown leadership.

During the blackout, Gerson shone, setting up an emergency office at City Hall and putting in place a plan to provide food and water trucks and light towers at key population centers.

Many of Gleason’s attacks are trivial, irresponsible or mistaken, such as mocking the Chinese name Gerson will use on bilingual ballots.

Some of Gleason’s criticisms are valid. Gerson has a tendency to become so immersed in details that constituents are not always clear exactly what his position is. Whether or not to toll the East River bridges is a case in point.

Gleason is correct that Gerson could have better used the pulpit of the councilmember representing the Trade Center site to draw attention to needs of residents.

We were disappointed to see Gerson recommend community board appointments to assist Jim Smith against Brad Hoylman in the Community Board 2 chairperson election. Hoylman was an excellent candidate and Gerson appeared to be worried about a potential rival, Hoylman, who ran a strong campaign against Gerson in 2001.

On the whole, though, Gerson has done a commendable job and we hope he only improves. The Villager endorses Alan Gerson for City Council.

Keen Berger for district leader

The biggest and really only competitive election on the ballot in Greenwich Village and a small part of southern Chelsea next week is the race for female Democratic district leader. Following Aubrey Lees’ decision to bow out after eight years and not seek reelection, the seat opened up.

The three candidates, Keen Berger, Cynthia Smith and Lois Rakoff, are all intelligent, interesting women, all Villagers, committed each in her own way to the community. Yet there are definite differences.

Smith, a past president of Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, is undisputedly a leader in Manhattan’s L.G.B.T. community. However, her failure to stand apart from her running mate, male District Leader Arthur Schwartz, raised concerns about her independence.

Rakoff is a relative newcomer both to the Village and local politics. While she is energetic and enthusiastic, she needs more experience.

Of the three candidates, Berger, to us, is the complete package. She’s lived in the Village 37 years, having raised four daughters here with her late husband, Martin Berger, the civil rights attorney and former V.I.D. president and district leader. Just meeting or talking to Berger, one immediately recognizes she is intelligent, compassionate and level-headed. She isn’t combative in the negative sense; and that is something that Village politics sorely needs a dose of — someone who isn’t looking to start vendettas and internecine wars that waste everyone’s time.

Berger has nothing to hide, doesn’t get defensive and is simply open, forthcoming and genuine. Those qualities served her well on Community School Board 2, of which she was a former president.

Berger is not just a terrific candidate whose time has come; she’s a veritable treasure of the Village. We know the Village will be a better place and its politics much improved if she is elected Sept. 9. The Villager endorses Berger.