Taking back Congress, Wash. Sq. and the White House, too, in ’08


By Keen Berger

Progress in the past year, what a great theme!

I can report wonderful progress. As your female Democratic district leader, I was thrilled at our victories in the nation and state. One of my daughters phoned me early on the day after the election and said, “Congratulations, Mom, you did it.”

All four of my daughters consider me much more powerful than I am, but there was some truth in Bethany’s congratulations: I was one of millions who “did it.” I went door to door for Kristen Gillibrand, our new congressperson in New York’s 20th District — which includes Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and Hudson — who defeated an incumbent Republican. I was also among several cell phone users who made phone calls from my living room to voters in Iowa’s First District. Their new congressman is a good Democrat; he replaced a conservative Republican.

I also did my part in many other victories. So did my fellow district leaders — Brad Hoylman, my wonderful partner in the 66th District, Part A, and the teams to our north, south and east: Mary Dorman and Tom Schuler; Jean Grillo and David Reck; and Katrina Monzon and Anthony Feliciano. None of our local elected officials — Deborah Glick, Tom Duane, Chris Quinn, Rosie Mendez, Alan Gerson, Scott Stringer or Jerrold Nadler — needed my help, and all of them “did it” for the Democrats as well. Jerry was the one who told us to help Kristin; I am grateful to him that I did my part and that she won.

On local issues, more progress! Washington Square Park is saved from the bulldozers (at least for the moment — start of construction was planned for 2005). In the past six months, I have been appointed to the Parks Committee of Community Board 2 and the Washington Square Park Task Force, where I am part of the solution. A year from now, I expect the park to be fixed up but not renovated — to the joy of many, including my children, who grew up playing in that park. When I told Sarah (local public school all 13 years) about the Parks Department plans, she said, “Mom, don’t let them do it.” She’s thinking I’m more powerful than I really am, again; but with many others, I think we will win.

Sanitation is now legally required to be off Gansevoort Peninsula. I predict their plans for a massive facility on Spring St. will be scrapped. Subway construction is finally off 13th St. at Sixth Ave. Jane Jacobs Way is named and will be spruced up without destroying any trees. No new monstrous buildings have been erected in the past year.

Yes, great progress, but also major problems. The developers are still slicing away at our neighborhood, as you can see in the billboard outside the Hotel Gansevoort, the N.Y.U. buildings planned for the East Village and the design of the expanded Sanitation facility on Spring St.

Those who confuse aggression and patriotism have not yet seen the light, and our nation is far too anti-poor, anti-immigrant, anti-gay. Our national victories have not changed this; we haven’t even stopped the war in Iraq. We will have a new president in 2008 who will be much better than Bush, but meanwhile our newly elected leaders are much too timid. I am enthusiastic about several presidential candidates (not all of them). On this I look forward to hearing from you, reading more and listening to the debates, because I believe we can elect someone with integrity and vision.

District leaders can affect poll sites and poll workers. Brad and I are working hard to fix a dysfunctional system (as we’ve written about before in The Villager). We won’t have computerized voting until 2008, which is good news, since by then we will have a voter-verified paper trail. We have a good local man, Doug Kellner, as the new head of the State Board of Elections; he is often frustrated with the status quo, as am I.

Progress, yes, but much more to do. I look forward to next year.

Berger is Democratic district leader for the 66th Assembly District, Part A, which includes Greenwich Village and parts of the East Village and Chelsea.