SOHO POLITICS: The Choices For SoHo

It looks like it will be a difficult choice for the general population to choose among the many candidates vying for office this election. But, while it may be tough for a larger audience, the decision shouldn’t be that hard for SoHo residents.

The City Council races for the two overlapping portions of SoHo are District 1, with Jenifer Rajkumar challenging incumbent Margaret Chin, and District 3, with Yetta Kurland opposing Corey Johnson. The District 1 area of SoHo covers Houston to Canal and reaches west to roughly Thompson street. District 3 begins at Thompson and goes to the river on the west side.

For the Chin/Rajkumar race, the essence of the controversy is determining exactly what kind of activism we need. Prior to becoming a City Council member, Chin was widely known as a housing activist. She could be seen at rallies protecting regulated and non-regulated tenants from eviction. While these were primarily in her area at the time, Chinatown, these efforts were not lost on a wider audience.

Since she took office, she has supported many unpopular issues that SoHo residents have come to resent, including support for the SoHo BID, and, has appeared to be much too close to developers in their attempts to reduce the power of activism among SoHo residents. Virtually no efforts have been made to maintain the stock of regulated apartments. In fact, when asked to appear as a friend of the court in an outrageous eviction in SoHo in support of a tenant, she refused. No cameras, no action.

Jenifer Rajkumar, on the other hand has clearly worked very hard to make her presence known. She has stepped out front, and in a very short time has identified the issues that affect SoHo residents. And, in what should be a very simple concept, she has let SoHo residents know that she is LISTENING. And, that’s the key to an effective politician. Someone who will LISTEN. Not, someone who decides what he/she wants to do.

The SoHo Alliance and Downtown Independent Democrats support Rajkumar and several clubs have indicated that she is their selection. But, more important, she has the support of SoHo residents. Rajkumar is following in the footsteps of SoHo’s most illustrious and effective City Council member, Kathryn Freed.

For some, the decision between Corey Johnson and Yetta Kurland is a polarizing one. But, the overriding issue with the choice between Johnson or Kurland must come down to the brand of activism we need in a City Council member. We NEED a firebrand.

Kurland manned the barricades with OWS and St. Vincent’s Hospital. There really isn’t any way to compare this degree of emotional intensity in the service of our community—to what Kurland has exemplified in her fight to keep the hospital open. SoHo needs that level of political ferocity. For our art, our apartments, and our rights.

Kurland is not close to the real estate industry and she frequently rubs people the wrong way as a result of her passion. But, when she supports an issue, which she would do for the residents of SoHo, she commits herself fully. She is relentless. She will support the arts and protect neighborhoods, especially SoHo. And, she will stand behind rent stabilization and rent control to maintain SoHo’s history.

Finally, in the race for Comptroller, with Spitzer opposing Scott Stringer, let us reflect upon of the successes in bottom line democracy. Stringer worked very hard to reform the Community Boards (the essence of democracy). While the Boards still lack some fundamental representation, prior to Stringer’s appearance on the scene as Borough President, the corruption was rampant. It was not corruption involving money or illegality as much as it was a corruption of power groups. Due to his efforts, that has changed. The community now has much more control over the Board’s efforts.

Stringer has also been one of the few politicians who has supported affordable housing in Manhattan in the face of crushing pressure from the real estate industry.

And, as Jim McManus of the McManus Democratic Club has said of a good politician, “he’ll pick up the phone [once elected]”, and talk to you.

While not using those words, Sean Sweeney of the Downtown Independent Democrats similarly supports Stringer for being up front and center when he needs to be reached.

SoHo needs Stringer for Comptroller.

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