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.”
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.