Silver for Assembly

We share many of the oft-mentioned criticisms of Albany’s “three men in a room” system of government, and certainly one of the men, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, bears his share of responsibility for that. But Silver has also represented Lower Manhattan’s and New York’s interests very well. We understand the temptation to say “Throw him out and see what happens,” but the problem is we think things would be worse without him.

Silver didn’t wait for his first primary challenge in 22 years to start listening to his district — the only American community to suffer two major attacks from international terrorists. No, since 9/11, Silver has been a responsive and effective voice for Downtown.

The city’s fastest growing community now has two large K-8 schools under construction and Silver deserves more credit for this than anyone else.

The notoriously standoffish Dept. of Education has begun to meet in Silver’s office with parents and principals to find solutions to Downtown’s school overcrowding problems. After last year’s fatal Deutsche Bank fire, Silver dragged the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. to the table to speak with community leaders and L.M.D.C. critics about the community’s previously ignored concerns, and the group continues to meet.

Three years and two governors ago, Silver was the first to sound the public alarm about the Port Authority dawdling on preparing for construction of the World Trade Center’s eastern towers, and had his warnings been heeded back then, we probably would have been able to avoid some of the current mess at ground zero.

There are a few thousand people living in Gateway Plaza who have had rent stabilization protections for 14 years because of Silver’s powerful Albany hand, and if there’s any chance of continuing this private Battery Park City program, it is dependent on his reelection.

Silver blocked the ill-conceived boondoggle known as the West Side stadium.

We have chastised this otherwise strong transportation advocate for allowing the defeat of congestion pricing and its transit funding stream. We are disturbed that no one knows how much money Silver makes at a private law firm and what exactly he is paid to do there. And we do want to see him embrace more legislative reforms such as non-partisan district lines — something that has a chance to pass if the Democrats capture the State Senate in November. But Silver’s pluses far outweigh these minuses.

A Democratic Senate will remove the biggest roadblock to Albany reform and put his previous promises to the test.

Of Silver’s two challengers, Paul Newell, a community organizer, has the more focused message and has brought some good ideas to the campaign. But outlining good legislative concepts is only part of the battle — we are skeptical of how much he would be able to accomplish, even though he would have star power coming to Albany as a giant-killer. Downtown would almost certainly get much less. We hope Newell remains active in community issues though, and encourage him to consider another stab at elected office. Luke Henry has not demonstrated he would represent us well.

Downtown Express endorses Sheldon Silver for Assembly in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary and reminds our Democratic readers to also vote for Dan Squadron for State Senate on Tuesday.