Rival clubs go head-to-head in district leader races


On Tues., Sept. 13, primary election day in New York State, registered Democrats 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 Little Italy, Nolita, South St. Seaport, Financial District and parts of the East Village and Lower East Side.

In the 66th Assembly District, Part B, which includes the northern part of Battery Park City, as well as Tribeca, Soho, Noho, part of Greenwich Village, and some of the East Village, David Reck, the L.M.D. candidate, is running against John Scott, the D.I.D. candidate. Jean Grillo, of 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 been 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 Tribeca development’s Tenants Association and chairperson of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee. She has been endorsed by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, state Senator Daniel Squadron, Borough President Scott Stringer and City CouncilmemberChin.

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.

“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 Councilmember 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 chairperson of C.B. 1’s Planning and Community Infrastructure Committee and co-chairperson 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, co-founded and has helped lead 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 Stringer, Squadron and Mendez.

In Battery Park City’s northern part, incumbent David Reck is being challenged by John Scott. Reck, an architect, is the chairperson 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 in the South Village and make recommendations. He is a founding member and president of the Friends of Hudson Square. He has been endorsed by Assemblymember Keith Wright.

Scott, a former president of the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association, headed C.B. 1’s Youth Committee, served on the first committee to run Washington Market Park and helped to get P.S. 234 built. He has been endorsed by Chin and Squadron.

“So much of politics is very local,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, a prominent C.B. 1 member. “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 Tues., Sept. 13, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.