COUNCIL CANDIDATES PLEDGE TO STAND UP TO DEVELOPERS: ‘NO NEW SHADOWS ON PUBLIC PARKLAND’?


The five City Council candidates who showed up at the Landmark West forum on Monday night. From left to right: William Raudenbush, David Owens, Helen Rosenthal, Cary Goodman and Mel Wymore.

By Carol Tannenhauser

On Monday night, the five candidates for City Council from District 6 participated in a public forum at Fordham University to discuss the most pressing issues facing the Upper West Side, among them: affordable housing; empty storefronts; over-development and super-tall buildings; the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History; safeguarding seniors; and school overcrowding and segregation.

It wasn’t a debate, so there were few direct exchanges. Responses to the questions posed by Moderator Lesley Massiah-Arthur, an associate vice president at Fordham, were civil, though passionate and laced with implications and accusations, mostly among the Democrats – incumbent Helen Rosenthal, Dr. Cary Goodman, and Mel Wymore. Wymore is running for the second time, after losing to Rosenthal in the 2013 Democratic primary by less than 2,000 votes.


Opponents of the Museum of Natural History’s expansion plans.

The forum was co-hosted by Landmark West, the Historic Districts Council, and the League of Preservation Voters, all nonprofits concerned with preservation, zoning, and land use. In his introductory remarks, Wymore, who served on the board of Landmark West before resigning to run, underscored the importance of these themes.

“Our community depends on the way our built environment proceeds,” he said.

Other candidates present were “Big Bill” Raudenbush (I), who, like Goodman, is a staunch opponent of the Museum’s expansion plan, and David Owens, a self-described “neophyte” (and notably nice guy), who introduced himself to the crowd of about 300, saying,

“I’d like to thank the other people on the podium. Anybody who wants to help my community – our community – I’m supportive of. Even though we’re challengers here, we’re all one community, so I thank each and every one of you for what you bring to the Upper West Side.”

What each “brings” is significant, since all are either Democrats or Independents; there is no “other side of the aisle.” In light of those circumstances, Massiah-Arthur asked the candidates what “differentiates” them from each other. Here’s a sampling of their responses.


Helen Rosenthal speaks as Mel Wymore looks on.

Helen Rosenthal: “In each and every development project that has come before our community, my office got out ahead of it. Developers pay lawyers and PR firms a lot of money to find technicalities to game the system to their advantage. The only way to stop them is to (1) be equally good with technical solutions, (2) not waste the public’s time with solutions that have no chance of surviving a court challenge or a legislative vote; and (3) be real about where you’re gonna go. We’ll never have unanimous consent on these issues. We’re Upper West Siders. We were born to disagree.”


Mel Wymore.

Mel Wymore: “You should view us based on the results we’ve produced and the concrete plans we have. I’ve been on the UWS for almost 30 years and I’ve stood up to developers and landlords that entire time…I won a new community and teen center for kids in need after school…permanent affordable housing…$20 million for our parks… and a new public school. It takes an activist and organizer to be able to do that.”

Dr. Cary Goodman: “It’s going to be easy for me to distinguish myself from my opponents. Both Mel and Helen support the idea of having the American Museum of Natural History annex public parkland.”

David Owens: “I think growing up in the community as I did, understanding what it was before, is very important. Keeping continuity of the community as far as development is even more important. Dropping the ball is not acceptable anymore. The Upper West Side is the greatest place in the world – to me – and we have to protect it. That’s what I’m all about.”


William Raudenbush.

Bill Raudenbush: “The truth is, everyone’s going to stand up here and more or less tell you what you want to hear. The question is, who do you believe? I’m the only candidate who is proposing a hard cap of 500’ on all buildings across the entire Upper West Side…I am dead serious about zoning reform…I propose no new shadows on public parkland. Have we reached the point of inequity in our city where only the wealthy and the powerful are entitled to sunlight? In a body of 51 members you have to have a strong, clear voice if you want to get anything done. Who has the strongest voice?”


Rosenthal supporters in the crowd.

We will be profiling each candidate in the coming weeks before the Democratic primary on September 12th and the general election on November 7tt . Be sure you are registered to vote! “We have a crisis of participation in our democracy,” Raudenbush said. “Barely one million people participated in the last city-wide mayoral election. That’s about one in nine…”

NEWS | 43 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      They’re all atrocious and they’re pandering to the crowd.

      I don’t see how you can create “affordable” housing on the UWS while you prevent construction.

      I guess the basic laws of economics cease to exist on the UWS.

      • UWS87 says:

        Hi there Sherman,

        You’re right on the money that increasing the supply of housing with new construction will stabilize rents, but I part ways with that the candidates are all pandering to to the crowd.

        from the article above:
        Helen Rosenthal stated that (she would) (2) not waste the public’s time with solutions that have no chance of surviving a court challenge or a legislative vote; and (3) be real about where you’re gonna go.

        Generally, the other candidates are making unrealistic promises that they they will stop development or make sure that we will build new entire buildings here that are affordable,

        CM Rosenthal supported rezoning legislation, that incentivized building affordable housing, by offering developers a break from building height requirements, if 30% of the units were devoted to affordable housing, albeit most of the units are regulated for 30-50 years, and not permanently non-market rate.

        I can’t think of a better win/win scenario for advocates of affordable housing and the community at large who will benefit from lower or stabilized rents, caused by the overall increase in units.

        I heard some of the candidates criticize this plan, because either they disagree with the 70/30 ratio, and they don’t get why it shouldn’t be 100% below market rate, but I think CM Rosenthal’s and Mayor De Blasio’s position are economically sound.

        There are a lot of new construction apartments coming to the market, and rents are projected to reduce. See this recent WSJ article:
        https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-apartment-vacancies-projected-to-soar-1501598196

        • Sherman says:

          What you are saying sounds good at first blush but offering developers tax breaks and other incentives if they devote a percentage of new construction to “affordable” housing only makes the situation much worse.

          What you are recommending is actually “subsidized” rather than “affordable” housing.

          When developers are given incentives to put aside a certain percentage of units as “affordable” the rest of the community actually bears the price.

          For starters, developers get billions a year in tax breaks for these “affordable” units that the city could desperately use.

          Second, the developer will simply jack up the rent on the remaining market rate apartments.

          This is why these “affordable” apartments are actually subsidized by everyone else.

          The most sensible way to make the UWS affordable is to get rid of regulation and red tape and all these ridiculous tax breaks.

          As your article correctly states rent is slowly going down due to a glut of new construction. Letting the free market work is the best solution.

          • UWS87 says:

            Hi, Sherman, I see you are very much a free market believer, but the majority of voter in NYC elect officials are never going to be laissez faire capitalists, so I’m impressed when they harness economic incentives (even including tax breaks) for the public benefit.

            “When developers are given incentives to put aside a certain percentage of units as “affordable” the rest of the community actually bears the price.”

            You are right, in a sense, that if buildings were entirely market rate, then rents would reduce for the community as a whole, but with local zoning laws as they are, a building could not be built above a certain height limit, thus reducing the maximum potential units.

            But since building height exemptions were made for 70/30 buildings, many more apartments have be built, both market rate and ‘subsidized’, and rent levels have somewhat stabilized, and are forecast to reduce.

            “As your article correctly states rent is slowly going down due to a glut of new construction. Letting the free market work is the best solution.”

            Shouldn’t we give some credit to de Blasio and Rosenthal for the lower rents caused to the incentivized new zoning breaks, and the resulting new construction?

          • Christina says:

            Sherman…You have no idea what you’re talking about! It doesn’t make it worse! I know, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum!

      • OriginalMark says:

        In your world of “they’re all atrocious”, how do you find solace?

      • Jen says:

        Sherman, are you pro affordable housing all of a sudden? Or you are true to usual self promoting new developments however monstrous they are under the guise of being pro affordable housing?

        As well you are not that naive portraying economics solely in terms of supply and demand. You are very well aware that the news condos catering to the rich changed the neighborhood affordability for the middle class.

      • Spence says:

        If you call campaigning pandering to the crowd, then yes. Sounds to me that they were addressing concerns of the neighborhood.

        • Jay says:

          No. They were addressing the complaints of a very small slice of the neighborhood. Most people on the UWS are not NIMBYs and welcome new people and new things.

      • Andrea Rosen says:

        The basic laws of economics largely cease to exist outside the Eco 101 classroom. They certainly do not apply to housing. When housing units cease to deliver more than ample profit margins, developers will cease building.

        I’m a former UWS resident now living in Washington, DC, where affordability has disappeared and the same arguments for building without restraint are proffered.

        • Nathan says:

          “When housing units cease to deliver more than ample profit margins, developers will cease building.”

          Wait, so you mean as prices decline, developers will provide less supply? Who knew?!

          Way to contradict yourself in two sentences.

    2. Phoebe says:

      Those developers who vowed each time to make sections of their buildings affordable for lower incomes did not live up to their promises and it was not enforced. What do you say?

    3. Chris says:

      I have contacted all of our local politicians and CB 7 about issues with One Lincoln plaza and their handling of commercial waste on West 63rd street. All to no avail not one response from the CB7 or these politicians. So I would not hold your breath that they will stand up to the likes of the Milstein’s whom just do what they see fit and make their own laws while enriching these politicians.

    4. Karen says:

      Thanks for a great overview of this important UWS event. I have a great respect for anyone who wants to be a politician in this challenging environment. The one issue candidate have passion, I understand, but would not serve the community as a whole. Helen Rosenthal has been an active and engaged city councilperson…and I am impressed with her accomplishments and dedication. I look forward to seeing the upcoming profiles.

    5. Judith M Kass says:

      So where does H Rosenthal on the museum expansion? Hard to tell.

    6. bravo says:

      More and more creative ways to sock it to the middle class. The “affordable, the “save” and so on are all euphemism for pretending that the Upper west Side should be a neighborhood of only projects, only empty storefronts (these two issues are related: businesses must make money to stay open), self-appointed arbiters on economics and safety of the lives of others. Go away, all of you.

    7. Cyrus says:

      The four girls on the bottom picture don’t even appear to be voting age. Should we assume those are Helen Rosenthal’s daughters and her friends?

    8. UWS40 says:

      The deal is done

      Developers, City Hall, and local politicians have been plotting behind closed door since “Teflon Koch” was mayor.

      Whatever Rosenthal and the others say to your face are lies.

      FYI. Tina Fey and others like her support the expansion.

      • Independent says:

        How/why are the opinions of a privileged, elitist celebrity like Tina Fey of any more relevance here than those of any other neighborhood resident?

    9. Elizabeth shackelford says:

      Loved the article. My only disagreement is that “the other side of the aisle” was not represented. I am a Republican, “the other side of the aisle”. However I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican in the tradition of John McCain. Both would be appalled at the conspicuous consumption of the development community at the hands of our national parks nationwide and the expansion of, ironically, Teddy Roosevelt Park in particular. Perhaps, on this issue, there is no other side of the aisle. We are all Westsiders. I remember having a conversation with a councilmember in another district ages ago. She said we are all after the same thing that we go about it in different directions. RIGHT ON,

      • UWS87 says:

        “Both (Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain) would be appalled at the conspicuous consumption of the development community at the hands of our national parks nationwide and the expansion of, ironically, Teddy Roosevelt Park in particular.”

        That is debatable. Teddy Roosevelt’s father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr. was a signer of the original amnh charter in 1869, and TR himself donated specimens to the museum collection. While Teddy Roosevelt was the original conservationist President, his family supported the building of the museum on land that very well could have only been made into a park, so it appears that they valued both parkland and natural history.

        Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall was a prior expansion of the Museum, finished in 1936.

        From the AMNH website: “On Oct. 27, 1931, Roosevelt’s fifth cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, laid the cornerstone of the two-story Memorial.”

        See:
        http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/theodore-roosevelt-memorial/theodore-roosevelt-memorial-hall

        and

        http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/theodore-roosevelt-memorial/central-park-west-facade/history-of-the-memorial

      • Independent says:

        However I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican in the tradition of John McCain.

        Difficlut to imagine T. Roosevelt supporting suicidal immigration policies the way McCain has. For that reason alone, the comparison is flawed.

        (Yes, a complete tangent, but difficult to let that pass.)

    10. UWS Dad says:

      I’ve heard on social media that the West Side Rag is ONLY posting comments that favor Helen Rosenthal! Is that true? If so, SAY SO! Don’t pretend to be neutral. I attended the forum and found Helen to be the same person I will not vote for on Sept 12th. #SayHellNo2Helen and liberate the Upper West Side!

      • West Sider says:

        This is false. Don’t believe everything you hear on social media.

      • OriginalMark says:

        Well, considering that you are looking at WSR and can easily look around and find comments that are biased against her, it would seem that you can answer your own question.

      • Independent says:

        As “OriginalMark” pointed-out, if you would have taken a few minutes to read– or even cursorily /scan/– through the comments, you would have noticed a number of posts that were anything-but-positive about Helen Rosenthal. You clearly appear to be a shill for one of the other candidates.

        DISCLAIMER: At this point, at least, I do not support /any/ of the candidates– neither Ms. Rosenthal nor any of her rivals.

    11. 47yrUWSider says:

      When you profile these candidates, don’t just reprint their candidate-supported bios. There is little information provided about their work history and current occupation, who they are connected to (and by that I don’t mean endorsements, I mean contributors and other sources of funds like family wealth), whether they consider themseleves representing the whole city or the Upper West Side, and what their vision for the neighborhood (or the city) would be. Participation in local politics is lacking, in part, because people do not get informed about their choices. Given recent scandals with various council members from other districts, I would even say some candidates count on lack of transparency and media attention to see what they can get away with. Please do a balanced and unbiased profile of each candidate here, we are not going to get it in the Times and certainly not from the candidates.

      • Arle says:

        Yes! I second more in depth reporting on the candidates. I want to be informed and it’s so hard to find consolidated, unbiased info.

      • Independent says:

        In a post I made back on election night this past November, I made essentially the same criticism as “47yrUWSider” did above.

        My final paragraph was:

        Is it too much to expect someone running for public office– any office– to maintain a web site containing info informing the public of the candidate’s basic philosophy, positions on key matters and on which the candidate makes the case as to why the voters should elect him (or her)?

    12. Cassandra says:

      It’s really interesting reading about the event after being there there in person. The live dynamic was so much more telling and informative. Bill B, Cary G and Mel W articulated a host of creative solutions. The incumbent Helen R was uninspiring and Trump-esque when defending her record. I caught multiple truth twistings, bordering on “alternative facts”, although she was at times incomprehensible so that could be my mistake.

      Bottom line is it’s great that this is a real race and I hope voters get out and see for themselves. I think the Nov general election will end up being between Wymore (D) and Raudenbush (I). Both would be great for the UWS.

      • Mark says:

        “Helen R was uninspiring and Trump-esque”

        Having trouble getting the guy out of your head?

      • Ground Control says:

        Totally agree with you Cassandra and I was there! The most exciting, optimistic and progressive remarks came from Bill Raudenbush and Mel Wymore. They would be enormous assets to the UWS and the City. I found Helen Rosenthal to be very condescending-annoyingly so. While certainly she has done good things while in office-her prescription for making change was that change could only be had by staying within the boundaries of the status quo. A status quo which has overfilled our neighborhoods with massive development for the rich and super rich-where schemes to run end runs around the zoning laws often succeed with a wink and a nod from those empowered to protect our communities. This increasing density and the crushing demands to our infrastructure, our historic districts, our light and air, and our quality of life is at Code Red! Please don’t lecture those most effected with this is how it works as if we’re that naive. We know REBNY owns City Hall! That’s what must be changed by ALL Councilmembers who care about this city. Fight for change Ms. Rosenthal and if you can’t then let others who will. Mel or Bill will have my vote. And thanks to Landmark West for bringing this incredibly important forum to the UWS. Well done!

      • Independent says:

        The incumbent Helen R was uninspiring and Trump-esque when defending her record.

        If only Ms. Rosenthal– or /any/ candidate for public office in these parts — would be “Trump-esque” in areas such as immigration and the social culture of the military. Or, better yet, Le Pen-esque; to follow the lead of that woman of valor and champion of her people, the redoubtable Marine Le Pen of France.

        (What a shame that well into the Twenty-First Century, too many of the people of France apparently could not bring themselves to vote for a strong, independent –to say nothing of graceful and charming– woman…)

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          you think Marine Le Pen was rejected because she was a woman?

          but i’m glad you’ve come out of the closet as a full fledged neo-fascist.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          “the social culture of the military”

          I can only guess that you are referring to the attempt to ban transgender people from the military, to discriminate against them.

          I am currently undecided on the UWS City COuncil race. however, your comment makes me think i should vote for Mel Wymore, a transgeneder person, just to make a statement against prejudice. And, i suppose, to give some people something to fume about for 4 years.

    13. Anti Hypocrties says:

      A OK/So So review of forum.

      Helen was her usual rambling self. She had to be told to stop talking several times by the moderator. Her anger and resentment over the fact that she is being challenged is written all over her face. If she were doing the great job she believes in her mind her opponents would not have the support they do.

      Mr. Owens, while a nice guy, is not someone who I think is ready for prime time. Mr Raudenbush and Mr. Goodman were well spoken and connected with the crowd but they seemed heavily focused on the museum expansion.

      Mr. Wymore, while a bit nervous, had the better record of results. He also seems more willing to be inclusive when it comes to getting community input. We all have experience with Helen’s brand of “I hear you but I’m doing what I want to do” mindset.

      The thing that stuck out is when he responded to Rosenthal’s notion that her first responsibility is to the city. Mr. Wymore said it should be the opposite – that your council person should represent the community first. Rosenthal does not. When she says that there is a higher standard for getting endorsements from other elected officials, its actually the opposite as NYC Dems here remained determined to play by the “same ole rules” that lost them the White House” Tsk Tsk.

      If there were only a ham sandwich on the ballot against Rosenthal is Sept, I would vote for the sandwich. But since I have a choice, Mr. Wynore seems to be my front runner, barring any other news about his candidacy.

      • 47yrUWSider says:

        I was there too and totally agree with your review, especially re the incumbent. I came with an open mind as I had no experience with any of them and found her very condescending – this was not an audience lacking in either education or experience in how NYC works, I would guess much of the crowd has been here longer than any of the candidates. And the bit about representing the city vs. the district; if that is true, why even have a council? Resources are limited and we need advocacy for the neighborhood. I am quite sure Mark-Viverito and others put their community first, why shouldn’t our councilmember put the Upper West Side first?

    14. Jens says:

      I can’t be bothered reading coverage of a political event in the WSR because as a blog there is inherent bias. WSR does not adhere to journalistic standards of fair and unbiased. This is evident in the refusal to oost comments that are not in accordance with the opinion of the WSR. The West Side Rag is NOT our local Upper West Side newspaper. It is an opinionated BLOG.

      • West Sider says:

        Fascinating. Biased against whom? Which candidate?
        Have you read the comments before yours? There are tons of different opinions expressed. We do indeed delete comments that are uncivil (and arguably should be deleting even more), or comments by people who continually post the same thing under several aliases, etc. That’s been the case for a long time.

        WSR

        • Mark says:

          “arguably should be deleting even more”

          Yes, Yes, Yes!

        • dannyboy says:

          Do you delete some of the comments that are uncivil, but leave enough uncivil comments to be provocative?

          • West Sider says:

            No, we do our best to delete uncivil comments while still allowing a relatively free flow of on-topic discussion. It’s tough!