Your Neighborhood, Your Choice
Candidates Talk Affordability and Development on Eve of Election On September 10, voters will go to the polls to make decisions almost as crucial as on the big day in November. The primary election next Tuesday will determine who gets on the ballot for each political party. We polled all four candidates vying to represent the Upper East Side in the city council next year to find out why they think they should earn your vote. Three Democrats are running for the party nomination and will go up against the lone Republican candidate also running. All four candidates identified the proposed East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station as the neighborhood's most important issue, each vowing to put a stop to it somehow. Republican David Garland implied that he alone would fight most effectively against it: "I differ from some of my opponents who give great speeches about local issues, but whose actions, or lack thereof, show that they are more focused on gaining favor in their party than on making a real difference in the neighborhood," he said. Ed Hartzog, a Democratic candidate, also took aim at his opponent, current Assembly Member Micah Kellner, over the transfer station: "Our current elected officials, and their staff, have allowed this terrible idea to get this far," he said. Kellner identified the MTS as the most important issue and noted that he has sued the city to stop it. "The City argues that shipping trash by barge is the ideal solution, but that technology is outdated, and we need a plan that won't destroy the quality of life for thousands of New Yorkers," Kellner said. Ben Kallos said that he has "proposed a recycling plan to make this harmful garbage dump obsolete." He also was the only candidate to mention a plan to address affordable housing on the Upper East Side. "Affordable housing is a pressing issue citywide, one I will tackle so residents who have lived here for decades don't get priced out of their homes, by working to reform the 421a benefit and make subsidy applications easier," Kallos said. Quality of life regarding the lack of open space and the Second Avenue Subway construction was also a running theme in each of the candidates' responses. "Too often, residents wake up to construction outside their window with no idea what is being built, how long it will take or if tax-payer dollars are financing the project," Hartzog said. The candidates are seeking to fill the shoes of outgoing Council Member Jessica Lappin; she's running for Manhattan Borough president, a race we also documented for local voters. Lappin is running against two other current Council Members ? Gale Brewer, Upper West Side; and Robert Jackson, Upper Manhattan - as well as Julie Menin, a former chair of community board 1 downtown. The borough president's job is largely what the person in the position makes of it; current BP Scott Stringer earned accolades during his tenure for beefing up the reach and responsibility of the office, throwing his full weight into community boards, land use, and issues like reforming the city's animal control agency. The current BP candidates are each likely to continue Stringer's robust use of the office, but again an oft-heard chorus is one of in unaffordability of Manhattan at large. Brewer named "the loss of affordable housing and the excessive rents that come with poorly-planned development" as the most pressing neglected issue in Manhattan, also blaming that lack of planning for making "20,000 children homeless every night." Jackson noted the same priority and said that "preserving and creating affordable housing is critical to promoting diversity." Lappin, also citing loss of affordable housing options, said that she would do more to "protect our existing affordable housing, [and] help tenants stay in their homes." Menin said that she would "adopt a master plan to require affordable housing on every development" and also lobby to repeal the Urstadt Law, which gives Albany the power to make housing laws for New York City. Public education reform and land use were also mentioned as primary issues facing Manhattan. "On my first day as Borough President I will visit a school and meet with teachers and parents," said Jackson. "Teachers and parents are the people who really know what is going on." Lappin emphasized her experience as land use chair in the city council, where she "played a major role in landmarking and protecting our communities from development, oversaw the approval of 20,000 new public school seats, and addressed tough waterfront issues." Menin also stressed her land use chops from a different vantage point, as the chair of the community board and helping to rebuild Lower Manhattan after 9/11. Keep reading to find out what all the candidates had to say. Don't forget to vote on Tuesday, September 10. Visit [vote.nyc.ny.us] to find your poll site.
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