By Carol Tannenhauser
Dr. Cary Goodman, an outspoken opponent of the proposed expansion of the Museum of Natural History, announced his candidacy on Friday for City Council member from District 6, representing most of the Upper West Side. The seat is currently held by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who is up for re-election this November. Dr. Goodman intends to run in the Democratic primary, but said he is not wedded to any party.
“I am running as a fusion candidate to freeze the funding for the Museum’s toxic plan and save our park,” he said, referring to the proposed Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a $340 million, 235,000-square-foot addition to the Museum that will require the destruction of about a quarter of an acre of Theodore Roosevelt Park, the 25-acre public park that surrounds it, including seven towering old trees. Dr. Goodman, who has a Ph.D. in sociology and has never run for public office before, made his announcement, sitting alone on a park bench in their shadows, calling this “the major issue in this district in this race… along with integration and equity in our schools,” he added.
WSR asked Dr. Goodman, who is executive director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District in the Bronx, how he responds to those who suggest his real motive is to see the new science center built instead within his BID. After listing several reasons why that is a good idea, he said, “I don’t really care that it be built in any other part of the city. I just don’t think this is the right plan for this space.” He countered by calling the expansion a “done deal” before it ever reached the public eye.
The museum’s expansion plan attracted some opposition early on, because neighbors thought it would be too large and impede into surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park. One opposition group tempered its criticism after the museum agreed to reduce the footprint. But Goodman has remained adamant that the building should not move forward, and has organized continuing protests, including against museum board member Tina Fey. The Landmarks Preservation Commission recently gave its approval, and the project is now undergoing an environmental review.
Council Member Rosenthal disagrees and looks forward to debating the issues with Dr. Goodman. “Multiple-candidate races are critical for residents to become ‘high information’ voters with debate on different perspectives and ideas,” she wrote in an email to WSR. “This is a great opportunity for all residents to become further engaged and informed and I welcome that. No one should ever run unopposed, it’s not democratic.”