SOHO PERSPECTIVES: Off To The Races

While Bill Thompson seems like an underdog in the mayoral race at this point, there are some important similarities to his last run four years ago. The fact that he did not have access to something like $120 million in personal funds to edge out a billionaire definitely played out against him, and had the Democratic Party supported him wholeheartedly we’d now be discussing his re-election.

What is striking about Thompson’s campaign is not only that is has been low-key, but that he has been gradually gaining the support of minority communities. We take that to mean that his attention has been at the ground level, at the community level.

Like the community of SoHo, where the glamour of its arts heritage has filled the pockets of developers building multi-million dollar condos and created special governing entities like the SoHo BID, instead of attending to the needs of residents. SoHo is about art and has a culture of bohemianism. It was not founded by tourists.

In an interview with Bill Thompson several years ago, while he was Comptroller, there was a strikingly personable quality about him and his staff. Even with the power of office, you could sense his interest in talking with representatives of a community. When Tip O’Neil said that “all politics is local,” there was meaning in that comment that we should not miss. The other candidates, among which is Bill DeBlasio—an attractive candidate—seem to miss that relevance. Unfortunately, we have had 12 years of someone who has exercised power with a pen and checkbook. And, like Aeschylus, Bloomberg has had his head in the presidential clouds while deciding for us that we should ride around on bikes and drink from smaller soda cups. Worthy goals, I suppose, but should our political leaders be telling us how to lives our lives? Better that they attend to the concerns we have about our communities. Better that development be curtailed when the historic fabric of our neighborhoods are threatened by bulldozers. Do we need scores of hotels like Trump SoHo, 45 stories tall? For our residents? How about re-dedicating Bob Bolles park? Or, more schools.

Democratic leaders are focusing on candidates that will support the historic nature of our communities and defend the integrity of the local activists involved in protecting the heritage.

Sean Sweeney of the SoHo Alliance has come out for City Council candidate Jenifer Rajkumar. She is gaining traction among the SoHo activists in her admittedly uphill battle against the incumbent Margaret Chin. But, it should not be lost among voters that she has been winning endorsements in downtown clubs for her pro-community stance. And, legendary Jim McManus has said of Bill Thompson, “he’s a guy who will pick up the phone” and talk to local residents.

Thus far, Thompson’s campaign has been low-key but it appears to be poised for increasing momentum. He has a new team of advisors and has added Hank Sheinkopf to his roster of consultants. Having gained the support of Ruben Diaz, Bronx Borough President, who describes Thompson as a “coalition builder” means a lot for us as well. SoHo has been ignored by the Mayor, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Margaret Chin, our City Council Member. Perhaps as mayor, Bill Thompson will support the “minority” community of SoHo.