By Carol Tannenhauser
A rally to block the construction of a 668-foot building on Amsterdam Avenue and 69th street was about to start Tuesday morning, when City Council member Helen Rosenthal was heard saying, “No. He may not speak.”
She was referring to Mel Wymore, who is challenging Rosenthal for her District 6 City Council seat. (District 6 covers most of the Upper West Side, except for Manhattan Valley.) This is the second time the two will face off – and it could be a close race. Rosenthal squeaked by Wymore in the 2013 Democratic primary, with 27% of the vote to his 22%. But that was in a field of seven; this year, so far, there are only three candidates and the third – Dr. Cary Goodman – seems focused mainly on fighting the planned expansion of the Museum of Natural History.
“This is not a candidate event,” Rosenthal said, as she refused to allow Wymore to make a statement at the rally. “I’m the councilwoman, I put together this rally, I’m all over this, we’re gonna give facts today.” At one point she moved between Wymore and another speaker who was praising Wymore.
Wymore has criticized Rosenthal over this building proposal, saying she was slow to put resources behind fighting it.
The videos below were taken by someone who attended the rally.
Rosenthal and Wymore are on the same side of the fight to block the new building at 200 Amsterdam along with community leaders like Olive Freud and Kate Wood, of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and Landmark West respectively. Freud, Wood and Wymore helped organize the rally, securing the “sound permits” and arranging for traffic police, according to a Wymore campaign spokesperson. Wymore “was on the original list of speakers,” he maintained.
“This was a community rally,” said Wood, president of Landmark West. “It didn’t belong to anyone. It was organized ‘on the fly’ by people who care about stopping this illegal building.” As for whether it was appropriate for Wymore to speak, she would only say, “Mel is a known community leader. He’s been out there on development issues for a long time.”
That wasn’t quite how Rosenthal saw things. “This event was planned by my office, along with the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development,” Rosenthal emailed, “to announce the filing of the zoning challenge to the proposed building at 200 Amsterdam. The list of speakers was discussed and decided by my office and the Committee the night before the event. It included those who had signed on to the challenge as well as the Public Advocate.”
“When we divide ourselves and exclude community voices for political reasons, we throw away our power as a community,” said Wymore, who ultimately did not speak.
We will be publishing more coverage of the rally and the attempt to stop the development.