A rendering of the proposed Richard Gilder Center at the Museum of Natural History.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A new poll from City Council challenger Dr. Cary Goodman claims to show that the majority of Upper West Siders are either unaware of or opposed to the Museum of Natural History’s plans to build a new educational center that will encroach on a local park. The museum is currently awaiting city approvals to move ahead with the project.

But the three questions constructed by Goodman and the polling firm, Voice Broadcast, which robocalled 20,000 registered Democrats, appear far from “objective,” leading Samantha Levine, a spokesperson for incumbent Council Member Helen Rosenthal,  to call the poll “misleading, inaccurate and fear-mongering.”

Take question 1 (reproduced as written):

Are you aware of the museum of natural history’s plan to expand and erect a giant, fossil-fueled building in our public, Teddy Roosevelt Park?

Press 1 if you haven’t heard of the plan.

Press 2 if you approve of this annexation of public parkland.

Press 3 if you disapprove of this expansion proposal.

According to Goodman, based on an average of 500 respondents,“Only one out of five registered Democratic voters in City Council District 6, favor the expansion of the museum of natural history into Teddy Roosevelt Park. Almost half of the Democratic voters polled never even heard of the expansion plan. One out of every three voters is opposed to the plan. Taken together, 78% of those polled either don’t know about the plan or oppose it.”

“The poll is extremely biased and inherently skews the story,” Levine responded. “As Cary Goodman well knows, the new science center will use only 1/4 acre of Teddy Roosevelt Park, leaving the public parkland and dog run virtually untouched. Moreover, it is absurd to combine the numbers of those who oppose the project and those who haven’t heard of it and present that as a meaningful percentage — it is not. Every time Helen explains the facts to voters, they support the plan, as does she.”

A spokesperson for the museum wrote that it will meet at least a LEED Gold rating and “The Gilder Center will exceed NYC building code energy efficiency requirements, with energy consumption at least 26 percent below the relevant industry standard.”

Writing in the third person, Goodman emailed his reply, “Cary Goodman knows a rapid response poll when he sees one, because he has a doctorate in sociology. The idea that we should cut down public parkland, using public money and give the greenspace to a private corporation to erect a building is the real absurdity.”

Question 2 of the poll:

If you have heard of the proposal, do you know that our incumbent City Council representative has steered tens of millions of our tax dollars to this project?

Press 1 if you agree with this use of public funds.

Press 2 if you think our taxes should be used differently (for example, to fix the subways or build homeless shelters).

Press 3 if you are not sure if public funds should be used for this private corporation.

Calling AMNH a “private corporation” is a bit misleading, as it is a nonprofit.

Goodman said of the responses, again, of about 500 people: “Only 18% of the people who heard of the expansion approved of the use of taxpayer money to fund it. A whopping 63% of those who heard about the use of public funds opposed using the tax dollars for the museum and thought they could be used for a better purpose like fixing the subways or building homeless shelters.”

Question 3:

Finally, how important is this issue to you in voting in the Democratic primary on September 12?

Press 1 if you will only vote for a candidate who supports the expansion.

Press 2 if you will only vote for a candidate who opposes the expansion.

Press 3 if you won’t vote for a candidate based on this issue.

Goodman’s interpretation: “Only 12% of registered Democratic voters will vote for a candidate who supports the expansion plan. Almost three times as many registered Democrats said they would only vote for a candidate who opposes the expansion plan.”

What Dr. Goodman left out was that a 52.7%  of the 484 respondents said they “won’t vote for a candidate based on this issue.” That may not bode well for his candidacy.

Mel Wymore, a Democrat who is also running for the council seat, has been critical of Rosenthal’s decision to give money to the project before it’s been through a public process. But Wymore has not made the museum the centerpiece of his campaign in the same way as Goodman.

The primary is on September 12th and the general election is on November 7th.

NEWS | 31 comments | permalink
    1. GG says:

      Mr. Goodman, with all due respect, your candidacy has officially become a joke.

      You should be ashamed of yourself. A couple of weeks as a politician and you are already pulling these kinds of shenanigans?? I wonder what’s next.

      In case you forgot, the UWS is one of the most educated and sophisticated communities in the WORLD and you are going to insult our collective intelligence like this?

    2. Jay says:

      Now that’s a push poll…

      This should be filed under absurdity.

    3. westendal says:

      Sorta shows you what a doctorate in sociology is worth.

    4. Bob Lamm says:

      I got one of these calls. This effort should be used in sociology textbooks (I’m co-author of two of them) as a vivid example of a biased poll. How slimy.

    5. Ken J. says:

      I’m no fan of Helen Rosenthal but this poll is totally biased and therefore worthless.

    6. Paul RL says:

      Dr. Goodman, please be a good man and go away already.

      • bruce Bernstein says:

        since you are a proud and avowed Trump voter, PaulRl (I’m not sure if you’re still a proud Trump supporter), the odds are strong that far more people in the community agree with Dr. Goodman’s points of view than yours.

        that doesn’t mean you have no right to express your views. But it seems a little high-handed to tell someone who represents a large segment of the community and who is running for office to “go away already.”

        • Paul RL says:

          In what whacky world do you live in where it’s “high-handed” for a voter to tell a candidate, one whose proposals are disagreeable to that voter, to “go away” on an open forum post? Isn’t that what we do in a democracy? Or has your trolling for arguments here made you lose sight of that?

          • Bob Lamm says:

            Do we really have to read about Donald Trump everywhere? What is his relevance in this discussion? Do we have to choose between Trump and Cary Goodman? I vote “no” to both.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            making an anonymous condescending and snarky remark, without any reference to the actual issues, has nothing to do with “democracy.” in fact, it is closer to cyber-bullying. i believe you were trying to intimidate Dr. Goodman from posting on WSR in the future. i doubt it will work.

            but thanks for raising the issue of “democracy”, because it reminded me of what DOES have something to do with democracy: Dr. Goodman’s candidacy.

            I do not intend to vote for Dr. Goodman, and i don’t even think i agree with him on his main issue, the expansion of the AMNH.

            but he is a true “citizen candidate” who has thrown his hat in the ring because he believes passionately about an issue, and a legitimate issue at that. and he and his supporters have achieved some degree of success. he has gotten on the ballot, and he has managed to make the AMNH expansion a major issue in the campaign.

            instead of condescendingly saying “go away” to Dr. Goodman, we should be asking, “why aren’t the other candidates openly posting their views here?”

            Dr. Goodman is not afraid to get in the ring, and he doesn’t hide behind anonymity. thus, even though i disagree with him (and i think this “poll” was a dumb publicity stunt), i respect him.

            for people who make snarky comments while hiding behind an anonymous screen name: not so much.

    7. JerryV says:

      Goodman is typical of the pseudoscience that many sociologists use to “prove”a point. They often first develop an “opinion” about something, and then bring up data that support their opinion while ignoring data that are opposed to it. Aside from this is the uselessness of the data because of the skewed population that they represent. This was based on the results of interviews with people who had answered COLD calls. People: Raise your hands if you commonly answer a cold call from someone and then stay on the line to answer questions from and interviewer. Most people I know hang up unless they are sick or lonely and just want someone to talk to. Also excluded are people who use only iphones rather than land-lines. The people who participated are not a typical cross section of a population. The whole thing is a fake.

    8. nycityny says:

      Well, this poll served one purpose. It brought common ground to the comments section of the westsiderag. 🙂

    9. 47yrUWSider says:

      I’m disappointed to see how the media is letting this one issue hijack the debate over the council election, in fact NY1 had a televised mini-debate between Rosenthal, Wymore and Goodman and the museum is pretty much all they asked about. Can we get back to the economic and quality of life issues that are more broadly important to Upper West Siders?

    10. One day the incumbent rails against Wymore for his office; the next day she attacks me for my poll.

      Is this how a “public servant” should campaign?

      • Paul RL says:

        It’s not just the incumbent that’s attacking your poll. It seems everyone else is as well. Perhaps the problem is with your poll. At any rate, hopefully in 15 days we will no longer be burdened by your silliness.

      • Sean says:

        Pretty much.

      • Zulu says:

        Even your red herrings are lousy!

      • westendal says:

        What a goofy comment. Was there anything wrong or fabricated in the “incumbent’s” critiques? The 2 issues, Wymore’s office and your poll, may not be important, but there’s certainly nothing wrong in speaking critically about them.

      • Sookey Capote says:


    11. Jeff Berger says:

      There is one legitimate reason to oppose this plan. The real purpose of building an education center is to get on the federal education funding gravy train. Money for Natural History museums are drying up, forcing museums like the AMNH to bring in pre-packaged, for profit traveling exhibits of dubious value. Building an education center will bring in new channels of federal funding.

      • bruce Bernstein says:

        i’m a little confused. why is “access to new sources of funding” one reason to oppose the plan? it seems like a reason to support it.

    12. UWS Craig says:

      Wymore is the one candidate to have the courage to let the fate of the museum expansion be decided by a public process.
      100% of people polled say this should be decided by the public, especially if the final decision ends up being in accordance with their own views.

      • Billy D says:

        Wymore was 100% for this project before he started parsing his words and pretending he’s against it. I’ll vote for anyone who isn’t in the back pocket of real estate which Wymore has proved he his by not claiming his retail space as a donation. #anyonebutmel #wymoreheartsREBNY

    13. j says:

      Although we do not favor museum expansion for multiple reasons, there are many other West Side and NYC issues to consider in voting. The museum is not the most important IMO

    14. Mary Jones says:

      I am a professional pollster, the methodology makes me cringe. The sample they ended up with must have been extremely skewed, not representative at all of Upper West Siders.

    15. Bob Lamm says:

      Two things seem noteworthy here:

      1. Cary Goodman doesn’t address the criticisms of his biased poll. Just attacks one of his opponents. He obviously doesn’t care how Upper West Siders feel unless we praise him.

      2. Not one reader has defended Goodman and this poll. Many wonderful people who passionately oppose the Museum’s expansion must realize that this poll by their leader is a con job and an embarrassment.

    16. Roberta Pliner says:

      Until two years ago when my last dog died, I was in the dog run next to the Museum of Natural History almost every day. But the dog run and the concrete footpaths with a few scattered benches were the only parts of the entire so-called park where anyone was allowed to walk or sit. Most of the so-called park was fenced-off to everyone except squirrels. Unless this park context has drastically changed in the past year or two, then what is there to fight about? A few acres of grass and trees that we can look at but not touch? Better the Museum expand with its promise of exciting research and discovery.

    17. J Hanlon says:

      Hon. Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal is not a racist, far from such a ridiculous idea whoever is guilty of defaming her in this way. Her middle name is tireless, and that’s the river she runs in– persisting in the defence and empowerment of her resident in the entire upper west side ….I’d be wary of those who claim her racist, when she’s fought for and introduced legislation that is now changing the face of tenant harassment, she’s a pillar of strength in this community and race is never a part of any equation she takes actions on protecting and upholding the well being of every last new yorker, thank you Helen our whole building is voting you for this seat. No one cares more than you

    18. Actual UWS Voter says:

      Press 1 if you hate your city and want this project
      Press 2 if you’re a good citizen and therefore side with us
      Press 3 if you’d like to see the actual polling on this

    19. Bruce Bernstein says:

      this was a dumb pseudo-poll and Dr. Goodman should not have used this tactic.

      However, instead of trashing Goodman all the time, why aren’t we asking why the other two candidates in the race are not posting here? It’s a good tool to engage with people directly (despite the inevitable anonymous snark).