Illustration by West Side Rag. Click to enlarge.

By Carol Tannenhauser

For the first time, all five candidates for the District 6 City Council seat will be appearing together at a public forum to be held on Monday, July 31st, from 6 – 7:30 pm, at Fordham University.

The race promises to be intense as it moves toward the September 12th Democratic primary and the general election on November 7th.

Democratic incumbent Helen Rosenthal will be joined by Democratic challengers Mel Wymore and Cary Goodman, and Independents Bill Raudenbush and David Owens. Lesley Massiah-Arthur, associate vice president for government relations and urban affairs at Fordham, will moderate a discussion among the candidates, after which questions submitted by the audience will be addressed.

“We’re calling it a forum not a debate,” said Sean Khorsandi, interim executive director of Landmark West, the nonprofit preservationist group that is hosting the event, along with Historic Districts Council, The League of Preservation Voters, and Fordham University.

“We’re not looking for gotchas or whodunnits, just open discussion about land use, preservation, and zoning issues affecting our neighborhood,” Khorsandi said. “A hot topic right now is definitely the threat of ‘super-talls’ arriving on the Upper West Side.”

Other topics to be discussed include “small business retention and support; the accumulation and use of development rights; and the protection of public assets such as parks, light and air.”

If you aren’t quite sure what the City Council is or does, you are not alone. WSR asked a random sampling of passers-by in the neighborhood those questions and most responded with some version of “I have no idea.”

To remedy that and get you ready for the forum – and the ballot box – here’s a basic overview of the City Council’s structure, functions and powers:

Politically speaking, it doesn’t get more local than the City Council, the legislative branch of NYC government. Unlike the federal Congress, it is unicameral –comprised of one chamber. The City is divided into 51 council districts, each represented by a council member, who is limited to two consecutive four-year terms. Most of the Upper West Side falls within District 6, where Rosenthal is finishing her first term. (Manhattan Valley, bounded by West 110th Street to the north, Central Park West to the east, West 96th Street to the south, and Broadway to the west, falls within District 7, currently represented by Mark Levine.)

This is District 6.

Like everything else, “local” in NYC takes on a different meaning than in most towns. Where else, for example, does a local legislature negotiate and have sole approval of an $85.2 billion budget? Or pass legislation allowing a billionaire-mayor to serve a third term? In addition to proposing and passing laws, the Council serves as a citizen’s first line of recourse and support, liaising with and monitoring the effectiveness of city agencies, such as the Department of Education and NYPD. And, significantly, according to its website, the Council “reviews land use and makes decisions about the growth and development of our city.”

Crain’s explained why this is important:

“The New York City political system is dominated by the executive branch, but in one key area, the legislative body calls the shots. All land-use decisions—such as zoning, historic districts and even sidewalk cafés—must go through the 51-member City Council. As a result, few major real estate projects can proceed with just the support of the mayor. Not only is the council empowered to thwart or support a mayor’s development agenda, but recent tradition also gives local members de facto veto power over land-use changes specific to their districts.”

Again, the West Side City Council Candidates Forum: The Balance Between Land Use and Quality of Life, will be held on Monday, July 31st, from 6 – 7:30 pm, at Fordham University, Lowenstein Building, 12th Floor Lounge, 113th West 60th Street. Call (212) 496-8110 to RSVP and receive precise directions. The forum is free and open to all.

NEWS | 17 comments | permalink
    1. Lisa says:

      FYI, part of W96th St is in Helen Rosenthal’s district.

    2. betrayedUWSresident says:

      Helen Rosenthal exemplifies a corrupt, entitled and arrogant politician who cares nothing for her constituents. She betrayed the parents of PS 452, she dared voters to vote her out in the next election and she lied about attending community meetings when she didn’t. She cannot be trusted. We can NOT wait to vote her out!

      • UWS87 says:

        Please provide a source that backs up your your claim that Helen Rosenthal exemplifies a ‘corrupt’ politician.

        While you may disagree with CM Rosenthal on some issues, ad hominem attacks, are not valid arguments against Helen Rosenthal.

        CM Rosenthal has sometimes taken unpopular positions, like her position on public schools, but that shows that Helen is an courageous independent thinker, a quality that is very rare among politicians.

        CM Rosenthal could have taken the easy road, always agreeing with the loudest crowd, but I respect her for siding with her judgement and conscience when making decisions.

        • Lincoln Sq matters says:

          Maybe not corrupt, but arrogant for sure

        • Mike says:

          Wow, now it is courageous to be a liar, someone who doesn’t stand up for the community that she represents, and to just be another politician who has no desire to change anything for the better.

          • UWS87 says:

            While respect you opinion, your argument has little substance, and I suspect you haven’t gotten to know CM Rosenthal and her staff.

            I know personally at least a dozen constituents in my building and on my block who have gone to CM Rosenthal’s office for help with housing and other needs, and her staff has made an honest effort every time.

            My neighbors tell me that sometimes there is a wait, but its worth it for the amount of care and attention that each are given.

            In regard to PS 452, you may disagree with Rosenthal’s stance, but there is no reason to claim that it was not a principled position. We should be able to respectfully disagree with each other on some topics without questioning motives.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        I am undecided in the council race, but i have to agree with UWS87: there has never been even a hint of corruption around Helen Rosenthal.

        that is a scurrilous attack. please stick to discussing the issues.

      • Spence Halperin says:

        Corrupt? No. But she used terrible judgement when she allocated taxpayer funds to the AMNH without so much as a neighborhood meeting to get feedback from those most impacted by the pending construction. Her behavior at one of the neighborhood meetings subsequently was rude and condescending. We can do so much better, and we have.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          Spence Halperin:

          first of all, thank you for using what (I assume) is your real name, and not hiding behind a pseudonym.

          Second, the item you name — allocation of funding to the American Museum of Natural History — is a relevant campaign issue. this is a matter of policy.

          whether or not CM Rosenthal is condescending to voters is also relevant, and is a matter of style. i have had many interactions with her and have never noticed it. However, if enough people agree with you on this, it will be a campaign issue.

          but, both of these are much different than charges of CORRUPTION. that is a scurrilous unsubstantiated charge and is what i objected to.

    3. Bob Lamm says:

      The statement by “betrayed” underscores all that is wrong with our Internet/social media culture. I don’t support any of the City Council candidates and I don’t mean to be defending Helen Rosenthal or any of them. But it’s so common and so sleazy to publicly attack someone by name… while using an alias. I have no respect for anyone who does that, no matter what candidates or other public figures they support or trash.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Bob Lamm, thank you. you made the same point i was trying to make, only i think you stated it more clearly.

        sometimes i think WSR should require people to use real names, at least for political posts. there is a lot of anonymous mudslinging.

        • Bob Lamm says:

          Thanks, Bruce. It’s an ugly part of our culture on the West Side Rag and everywhere. Anonymous cowards throwing mud at people with real names. It’s wrong whether or not the target is a public figure.

    4. W89resident says:

      Anyone but Helen.

    5. huntz says:

      I look at this lineup and I am so happy I stopped voting

    6. District six says:

      The attacks against Helen Rosenthal is unfair when she is doing her job effectively.
      She is receptive and her staff is professional, diverse truly reflective of the area.

      There are some others ‘long in the tooth’ career politicos who selfishly use public office to advance their own agenda and impose personal vendetta.

      Not name dropping but, you know who they are.

      Frequently aligning themselves with dubious public figures and engaging in questionable tactics, while blatantly ignoring the needs of certain voters in this community who elected them.

      If we are not mindful there will be less minority/women/etc representation.
      Grassroots base is slowly eroding wondering can deep pocket foreign investors vote here?

    7. 47yrUWSider says:

      I went with an open mind, as I do not support and have not supported in the past any particular council candidate. Some of the alternative candidates raised good points but were either single issue OR did not provide much (or any) specific background info about themselves, in particular as to career history. Incumbent seemed knowledgeable but a little stressed and a bit repetitive, lecturing about how the system works. Given the average age of the crowd and likely tenure in NY, I think we well know how the system works. Hope there is a report about this meeting in the Rag because, as most of the candidates seemed to agree, we need more engagement and participation and that starts with getting informed about your choices.

    8. Mary Anne Sullivan says:

      Was this Forum videotaped for all unable to attend to see?