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2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council in the Third District? | amNewYork

2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council in the Third District?

Clockwise from left: Erik Bottscher, Leslie Boghosian-Murphy, Dante Phelan-Fitzpatrick, Arthur Schwartz, Aleta LaFargue and Marni Halasa.
File photos

Six candidates are vying for the City Council seat in Manhattan’s District 3, which encompasses Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, West SoHo, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron, and the Upper West Side.

The next lawmaker will replace term-limited City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in a district that has elected an out LGBTQ lawmaker three consecutive times. Prior to Johnson’s ascendance to District 3, Christine Quinn occupied the seat after Thomas Duane left for the State Senate.

Four of the six candidates have responded to a questionnaire asking why they are running for office, how they are tied to their local district, what political experience they bring to the race, and more. Among the concerns raised by the 2021 hopefuls include housing affordability and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erik Bottcher

Erik BottcherDONNA ACETO

Why are you running for City Council?

I grew up in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains as the only gay person I knew. It was in New York City that I found myself, and I found activism. I’ve dedicated my life to giving back, fighting for issues like marriage equality, tenant rights, historic preservation, and the fight against HIV/AIDS. Now our city is at a point of crisis unlike any in our lifetimes.

We’re going to need strong, experienced leadership to help us overcome this crisis. I am determined to do everything I can to ensure that we not only save our city, but push progress forward on the major issues of our time. I know we can prevail over these challenges, but it will take an activist City Council that is willing to shake up the system and make bold decisions based on the facts and data, not on the wishes of special interest groups, lobbyists or donors.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and what neighborhood you live in.

I am a Chelsea resident and I love it because of its neighborhood feel and because it is equidistant from the Village and Hell’s Kitchen. The best of New York is at our fingertips. For the past six years I served as chief of staff to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in Council District 3. I am so proud of the work that we have done locally and in partnership with the community. This May I celebrate 20 years in New York City. I slept on a futon in someone’s living room on 49th and Tenth in Hell’s Kitchen. It was a deal at $400 a month — found on Craigslist. New York City was a town where you could come with a few hundred bucks in your pocket and work your way up. We have to fight to make it that way again.

What political experience do you have?

My career in public service began as the LGBTQ & HIV/AIDS community liaison at the New York City Council, where I organized grassroots campaigns on issues including transgender rights, hate crimes, housing for people with HIV/AIDS, and marriage equality. In 2011, I joined the governor’s office as the LGBTQ community liaison, where I was brought on to help win marriage equality in New York State. In 2015, I joined Johnson’s team as his chief of staff.

I have also been active in progressive politics as a member of the Village Independent Democrats and co-founder of United Thru Action. I am an at large board member of the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, on the board of governors of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, on the board of advisors of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, and on the community advisory board of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

Our most urgent challenge is the need to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. This requires action at the grassroots level and also at the highest levels of government. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, I immediately began building an expansive volunteer infrastructure to assist the most vulnerable in our community.

While much can be done at the community level, it will take massive investments from federal, state and local government, and as a city councilmember I will fight for the resources our community needs to recover from this crisis.

Another priority of mine is addressing the mental health crisis. I will fight for an expansion of behavioral healthcare services and help individuals and families avoid the shelter system altogether by extending the moratorium on evictions, increase rental assistance, preserve NYCHA, expand legal representation for those facing eviction, and increase post-incarceration services. I will push to increase rental voucher amounts so that people can realistically rent apartments with them in New York City.

What will you do differently than the current councilmember in your district?

Corey sets direction and delegates, whereas I have a more hands-on approach to constituent services. I will continue working one-on-one with constituents when possible.

Leslie Boghosian Murphy

Leslie Boghosian Murphylesliefornyc.com

Why are you running for City Council?

I have always been someone who believes almost anything is possible if we have the courage and creativity to examine what can be done. I had already grown very frustrated with our elected officials prior to COVID. But the pandemic truly exposed the lack of political will that runs rampant in our city government. If there was ever a time to tackle big, challenging problems, this was it. Instead, I saw a lot of local politicians saying the right things in public but privately weighing every decision with how it would affect their next move. We need policies that reflect what our community is going through, that takes the input of those most affected into account. My neighbors (artists, LGBTQ folks, seniors, NYCHA residents, parents, small business owners) have shared with me their struggles and I’m running for City Council, plainly, to help.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and what neighborhood you live in.

I’ve lived in Hell’s Kitchen for over 17 years; first as a young professional, then married, and raising my eight-year-old daughter Cecelia. I was an investigative journalist for over 20 years, giving a voice to marginalized people all over the world. When my daughter was born, I turned toward my neighborhood; first, my building’s board, then my block association. I’m now an executive member of Community Board 4 and our district’s Budget Task Force.

What political experience do you have?

My role on the community board and the board of my building.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

I’m focused on three things: COVID recovery, housing justice and climate justice. First, our local stores need short-term solutions; I brought ShopIn.NYC to the district, which helps small businesses combat the “Amazon Effect.” I want to implement a commercial vacancy tax and move the burden of property tax to commercial landlords. COVID exposed the huge gaps in our education system. I will expand my Student Teacher Learning Initiative, which uses local student teachers in tutoring pods to help relieve the burden on teachers at no cost. Housing justice is a major issue. I will commit to the original points of agreement regarding the affordable housing stock that was part of the Hudson Yards development. Let’s look at potential SROs to see where we can expand the necessary services to make them effective long-term. Lastly, climate justice: I’m committed to electrifying our bus fleet by 2040 and installing electric charging stations across the city. I’m working with Con Edison and the NYCEDC to bring cruise ships at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal onto shore power.

What will you do differently than the current councilmember in your district?

I’m running because I see my community struggling and I believe there are thoughtful, long-term solutions that we can implement today. Bold action is risky, and the blame gets placed at your feet if what you try doesn’t work. But the alternative is the bureaucratic inertia that has crippled city politics.

Marni Halasa

Marni HalasaJim Graniela

Why are you running for City Council?

I am running because our city government is failing to give tenants and small businesses genuine relief. For years, we’ve had policies of neoliberalism, austerity and irresponsible gentrification that have hurt this district and its residents. This is unacceptable. The current councilmember, Speaker Corey Johnson, has not done enough to help small businesses that desperately need rent relief. In addition, he is privatizing the last bastion of deeply affordable housing, NYCHA, which will increase rents and evict low-income people of color. He is also not providing our homeless neighbors with permanent housing, instead, displacing them from hotel to hotel. We need new leadership that prioritizes people staying in their homes — since wealth, health and dignity is tied to a stable, habitable home.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and what neighborhood you live in.

I came to the city to be a legal journalist and attended Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, right after University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Carnegie-Mellon University. But when the journalism market died before the 2008 financial crisis, I was fortunate to follow my heart and also have had the opportunity to teach figuring skating at Chelsea Piers — where I have been for the past 27 years. I am the proud coach of the Sky Rink All Stars, 7- time United States Figure Skating Showcase medalists. I live on W. 34th Street, Clinton/Chelsea.

What political experience do you have?

My political experience consists of being more of an activist. I was a part of Occupy Wall Street. But my activism evolved when I ran against Corey Johnson in 2017 and pushed him to give the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) a public hearing, as well as exposed his massive real estate contributions with my small but fierce, money-out-of-politics campaign (see www.coreyquinnformayor.com). As a community organizer, I also worked with NYCHA’s Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea tenants against Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), and was part of a movement that successfully stopped the demolition of two Fulton Houses buildings. This was an important victory because it prevented the demolition of public housing from becoming a city-wide precedent.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

Housing and homelessness are the biggest crises facing our district. I would not privatize public housing for the 6,000 residents in District 3. I support Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s bill to fully fund NYCHA public housing. I would also repurpose the many vacant buildings and hotels in the district for 100 percent low-income housing as well as housing for our homeless neighbors and families. I do not agree with the mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program.

What will you do differently than the current councilmember in your district?

I will re-introduce the Small Business Jobs Survival Act so small businesses would get affordable and renewable leases. This would also save jobs. I also believe that the community needs the final say in land use decisions. There are too many rezonings happening that the communities do not want. Community input needs to be binding, not advisory. If elected, I would hold hearings to see what that would look like. Historically, the City Council is supposed to act as a check on the mayor, but when it comes to gentrifying our city, Speaker Johnson has always agreed with Mayor De Blasio’s compromised quest to rezone the city.

Arthur Schwartz

Arthur Schwartzfacebook.com/ArthurForNY
Why are you running for City Council?
 
I have been an activist since 1968 when I sat in in the principal’s office at Bronx Science over arbitrary rules and the lack of student input into school governance. I fight hard for what I believe, and especially for other people who need my help. In a city with the crisis ours is in, I felt that my energy could help rebuild it in a way which would make it a far better place when we come through the current crisis.
 
Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and what neighborhood you live in.
 
I am a 68-year resident of NYC and moved to Greenwich Village in 1981. In my 41 years here in the Village, I have raised four kids here, created a home, became a champion of local parks and playgrounds, helped create the fields at Pier 40 (with litigation and parent organizing), and served 24 years on Community Board 2, most as Parks Chair or Waterfront Committee Chair.
 
I am principally a “labor lawyer.” I started as a lawyer for reformers, but when they started to win elections I learned to become a union lawyer. My law firm, called Advocates for Justice Chartered Attorney, is focused a lot around work for Transport Workers Union Local 100. We do a range of employment discrimination work, and in recent years education law, police misconduct, and representation of non-profits.
 
What political experience do you have?
 
I was elected Male Democratic District Leader in the Village in 1995. I stepped aside for Brad Hoylman in 2005. In 2006, I was elected the male Democratic State Committee Member. In 2007 I coordinated Barack Obama’s primary campaign in Manhattan, and was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention (beating Corey Johnson). I was re-elected District Leader in 2013, and have served since then. In 2014 I was Zephyr Teachout’s Treasurer in her run for governor. In 2016 I was Bernie Sanders’ lawyer in New York and was again elected as a delegate to the DNC (and was again in 2020). As an election lawyer I represented Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams in 2018, and Mondaire Jones in 2020. I am Law Co-Chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party.
 
What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?
 
The biggest challenge is how expensive it is to live here. We need a bold plan to address affordable housing, and I propose (like Maya Wiley) that the City engage in a $10 billion capital program to build affordable housing. I support the proposal to create a NYCHA Trust to use Section 8 money, which could then be used to float bonds to do the massive $25 billion plus in repairs needed. But I want tenants in charge. I call for re-imagining the NYPD, removing mental health work, traffic accident work, and other non criminal law enforcement work from the NYPD, and putting that money into schools, health care, and mass transit. Finally we need to implement programs to rescue small businesses. I support giving landlords real estate tax credits in return for forgiving rent due, and adoption of a genuine commercial rent control program until the crisis passes.
 
What will you do differently than the current councilmember in your district?
 
I won’t run for speaker. I will be focused on my district. I will not agree to one more inch of upzoning, or the creation of anymore Mandatory Inclusionary Housing projects. I will do a press event every Sunday at a NYCHA development. I will continue to fight the closure of Beth Israel Hospital, I will work to limit For-Hire Vehicles in Manhattan (even beyond Congestion Pricing), and I will propose plans to make Transit buses free and reduce subway fares.
 

Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick

Facebook/Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick for City Council

Why are you running for City Council?

As a first-time candidate, my experience is unique compared to others in the race. I am not a political insider and I have never held public office. In our democratic society — when your representatives do not understand your struggles, do not share your values, and make decisions that affect your life — you need to stand up and do something about it. The opening of the council seat in District 3 was not only a sign that it was time for me to get involved. It was my responsibility.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and what neighborhood you live in.

I moved here over 20 years ago, the year before September 11, 2011, looking for opportunities that a queer, Black, 19-year-old wouldn’t find in Cleveland, Ohio. For the past 16 years I’ve been a small business operator in District 3. I’m a single dad to an amazing four-year-old daughter named Artemis. I was raised by a white single mother who worked three jobs to support me. I had an openly gay, Black father who, when I was 19, was murdered outside of a gay bar in an attempted mugging that remains a cold case to this day. That’s what drove me to get into this race — my daughter deserves to grow up in a better world than I did.

What political experience do you have?

I am a New Yorker who has worked and lived in my community for over twenty years. I take great pride in my community, in my neighbors, and my fellow New Yorkers. And I know what it takes to run a successful business, to manage a budget, to employ New Yorkers, and to care for employees. The City Council is about being a representative. It’s about customer service. My experience empowers me with a strong sense of what it means to be a public servant.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

We are focused on three big ways to make District 3 a better place to live and work. These are safer streets, vibrant communities, and equal opportunities. That means fighting for racial and criminal justice; supporting small businesses and getting critical industries in our district like Broadway back on their feet; and ensuring that school funding, housing rights, and so many other social programs are prioritized by the City.

What will you do differently than the current councilmember in your district?

I was disappointed by the FY21 budget. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council failed to live up to their promises. Gutting public schools to pour money into the NYPD exhibits where the mayor and Speaker Johnson’s priorities lie–in conflict with the people. Right now, we have people in office who spend more time politicizing movements, virtue signaling on social media, and campaigning for office than actually legislating. These have never been compromises for the welfare of our city, but decisions made to secure them themselves jobs, while the rest of us have been losing ours.

Editor’s Note: Some responses have been edited for brevity and style consistency.
 

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