VIDEO: Voters, on Primary Motivators

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  A growing economic divide, the lack of a local hospital and the viability of Chelsea for middle class residents and small businesses were among the concerns that motivated locals to participate in the September 10 primary — according to an informal (but telling) poll conducted by Chelsea Now, as voters exited the polling station at Bayard Rustin High School (351 West 18th Street). Below are excerpts from those conversations, which can be seen on chelseanow.com, in the form of a video report (embedded into the web version of this article).


The couple have called Chelsea home for nine years — “seven as renters and two as residents.” Lynn showed up at the polls to support candidates whose policies spoke to her concerns about “affordable housing, education and jobs.” Jerry’s number one reason for voting was three-fold: “Leadership, leadership, leadership.”


“The way all of our neighborhood flavor is being taken away by people raising their rents on the little guys” was a trend of great concern for Chinlund. She moved to Chelsea 24 years ago “because it was a mixed neighborhood. I liked the flavor between black and white, gay and straight…now, it’s become such a high-rent district. They kick out people who can’t afford to make their businesses work…what’s coming in are fancy restaurants. I’ve lost my cleaners, my wonderful deli. All my darling little guys, they’re all going.”


The daily activity happening beyond the polling booths set up in the lobby of Bayard Rustin High School was of great interest to Everett, a non-Chelsea resident who happened to be in the building on business. “Education, education, education,” he said when asked what he’d place atop the agenda of those who’ll be in power at the end of this election cycle. “I think Bloomberg has done a horrible job with the educational system. He’s all smoke and mirrors. He focuses too much on testing and not enough on getting the students to enjoy the learning process.”


The West Village business owner (Tea & Sympathy), who moved to Chelsea two years ago, noted, “The rent is just too damn high. We can’t survive here, none of us.” She urged Chelsea Now to, “Do a story on small business renters. We pay a huge real estate tax.” Regarding St. Vincent’s Hospital, Perry objected to the role Quinn and other electeds played in “giving that hospital to the Rudin family, so they could have condos.”


A Chelsea resident since 1965 and an advocate of storm surge barriers long before Sandy hit, Trentlyon said, “I always come out to vote. Today, I came out because I support those people who’ve been active in the same issues and projects that I have [worked on over the years] — Chelsea Waterside Park, Hudson River Park and the Chelsea Recreation Center, which Quinn got built.” Preservation was also on Trentlyon’s mind, both in terms of protecting existing buildings and ensuring that future construction will provide viable options for the middle class. “The fight to keep the historic district” should be taken up by our electeds, he said, advocating a scenario in which, “If you build any new residential buildings, part of the building has to be for affordable housing. If you did it that way, I think it would solve a lot of the problems that we presently have.”


“All the huge buildings that are going up, the glass towers…they don’t seem filled with [locally involved] people,” said Fine. “You have to live here to care about the neighborhood.” A resident since 1980, Fine recalled how, “I moved here because of the mixture of people. That’s all changing…the people that I have known who have to move away are being forced out of Chelsea. It’s becoming a city where — at least the area around Chelsea where I live, on 22nd and 10th — it’s a new world out there, and it makes me feel very sad.”


The 44-year resident of Chelsea spoke about the importance of “affordable housing and limiting the developers in our area. I think that’s a very important issue, and the person that I chose [to vote for] is the one that did fight to keep St. Vincent’s open — but it didn’t happen.”