Gale Brewer Files to Run for Her Old City Council Seat in 2021

Gale Brewer (center) greets the goats of Riverside Park. Photo by Mildred Alpern.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has filed papers to run for her old City Council seat on the Upper West Side, preparing for what would be her fourth term. The field of candidates for the District 6 seat (now held by Helen Rosenthal) is already crowded, with five other people having filed to run. But Brewer will immediately be a front-runner given her long service in the community.

Brewer, 69, has been living on the Upper West Side and working in city government for more than four decades. She served as the Upper West Side’s City Council member from 2002 through 2013. Known for a tireless work ethic, she regularly attends multiple meetings every night. As a council member, she was a consistent liberal voice in favor of things like rent regulation, and fought for rules that limited the size of storefronts on the Upper West Side — an attempt to reduce the spread of chain stores. Still, the neighborhood became increasingly unaffordable throughout her tenure.

We got a brief word with her on the phone on Saturday.

”Are you running, Gale?”

”I am,” she said. “Slowly, because I have a lot of Borough President things to do,” she added, “but I filed with the CFB (Campaign Finance Board). There’s no announcement yet, but I filed.”

Brewer has previously said that she thinks the council needs experienced people to run because there will be a lot of turnover next year. “The Council is an important body and, while I have no idea who is going to be mayor, I think it needs to be strong in terms of its knowledge,” she told Politico last year, before she had made up her mind.

Sara Lind, a member of Community Board 7 who is also running for the seat, told us that “new progressive leadership” is important.

“I have great respect for Gale, her decades of public service and her dedication to Manhattan and the UWS,” Lind wrote. “It’s critical that New York build a bench of new progressive leadership to address the realities at this moment in time and lead our city into the future. I’m ready to be part of that movement.”

Brewer opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to run for a third term even after voters had approved a referendum limiting city officeholders to two terms. But she herself ended up running for a third term in the council. She won her race to become Manhattan’s 27th borough president in 2013 and easily won reelection in 2017.

NEWS | 65 comments | permalink
    1. Paul says:

      And who else is running?

    2. Cead Mille failte says:

      How any incumbent city politician could be re-elected is beyond my ken.

    3. Michael says:

      Reading the phrase “build a bench of progressive leadership” made my blood run cold. How much worse can things actually get in this city before we end up worse than San Francisco or Portland?

    4. B.B. says:

      This is why term limits per se just don’t work. Thus far all NYC has got to show for it is a game of political musical chairs.

      Same group of elected officials vacate one office when termed out, go some where else, now apparently return to where they began to start all over.

      Am sure Ms. Brewer is good at public service, but isn’t it time to give someone else a shot? How are others going to gain “experience” if they cannot even get in?

    5. Leon says:

      I wouldn’t mind some new blood but Sara Lind lost me with “progressive.” Nationally I am a moderate Democrat but locally I want someone who is going to be tough on crime, will help businesses of all sizes rather than demonizing the large ones, creates working class jobs, can manage a budget, strong public schools without deBlasio’s race to the bottom mentality (i.e. he is ruining the good schools to try to help the weak ones), tough negotiator with unions, and doesn’t throw away money on unrealistic progressive priorities. I think many UWSers agree. Does such a person exist?

      • Westside mom says:

        Totally agree Leon. So many of us share the same thoughts. Can such a candidate please stand for election?

      • Ellen Shell says:

        This is definitely NOT Sara Lind and I think we have all seen Gale’s hand. She makes time out of her busy schedule for a photo op with goats, but ignores swath of her voting constituents! Even to hear them out. I think these are not the right priorities for the UWS in 2021 and beyond. We need a change!

    6. Joseph Hanania says:

      I interviewed Gale while writing a NYT story (on the redevelopment of South Street Seaport). She is the real deal, a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington type, only dealing with NYC issues. Whatever her stance on any particular issue, of which I know little, I can vouch for her competence and character.

      • Ellen Shell says:

        I have heard lots about her character from people. And all the work she does on various causes that she cares about, including, I believe fostering children. Very admirable. However, I believe an elected position requires a person to represent their constituents, the people who vote for them, and not a personal agenda. We need leaders who represent their constituents. Her vision is hurting the UWS community. She may have tremendous character but I need to focus on results achieved. It’s hard to see how she will bring us out from this dark period. From everything I read, it doesn’t seem like she thinks anything is actually wrong up here. That is scary.

    7. Pedestrian says:

      The only term limitation should be the voters.
      Good Luck to Gale.

    8. Otis says:

      So-called “progressives” like Brewer have caused enough damage to the UWS.

      Electing Sara Lind or re-electing Brewer will continue this damage.

      We need competent and moderate leadership for the UWS to recover.

    9. GG says:

      Awwwww, remember the goats?

      I forgot about those little guys. Too bad they didn’t do it again this year but I guess I understand why.

      For a couple of months those goats were like UWS celebrities.:)

    10. Jose Habib says:

      “Still, the neighborhood became increasingly unaffordable throughout her tenure.”

      This should read: “As a consequence, the neighborhood became increasingly unaffordable throughout her tenure.”

    11. babrarus says:

      Any one is better than Helen Rosenthal, BUT – can we please get some younger new blood to enter the race?!
      Same old same old will just not do it for us anymore.

    12. Bob Wyman says:

      This is wonderful news!

    13. brandonsos says:

      New progressive voices are important especially considering that Gale Brewer believes that James Oddo, an elected official who supported law enforcement profiling of Muslims, is “a first rate human being” who should be deputy mayor after 2021. That is something that the crowded field of CD 6 candidates must address.

    14. Steven silver says:

      I’d like to see Jason Haber run for the seat.

      • RJF says:

        So Haber can be a voice in city government taking people’s cars away. All he wants to do is sell luxury apartments and take people’s cars away. The very definition of the gentrification destroying NYC.

    15. EL says:

      You go, Gale. And then run for City Council Pres.

    16. Sheila Samton says:

      Yay Gale! We want you back!

    17. Ronnie says:

      While nearby areas are turning to dynamic younger people like Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, the UWS continues to make due with plodding career pols like Brewer, Nadler and Stringer. A real shame.

      • sg says:

        Really, these three you think are going to benefit NYC…more like expedite the flight. It’s always been a game of chicken in NYC…how high can you raise taxes, ignore safety and succumb to the career “activists” before reasonable people take their money and flee.

      • UWSer says:

        Yes, we need progressive voices in our district. I want a candidate like Kristin Richardson Jordan (running in district 9), or Chi Ossé (district 36)

    18. UWSConcerned says:

      This is really disheartening. More of the same in the form of Gale Brewer is exactly what we don’t need to stop the tide of deterioration of quality of life. It’s time for a change.

    19. UWSider says:

      For the life of me I cannot understand how people actually living in the city could cheer for progressives and welcome back Gale Brewer and the likes of her. The city is on the brink of financial collapse. Only a moderate and pragmatic politician with business experience or at least a basic understanding of economy could bring it back to life. It is suicidal to continue in this line of ignoring crime rise and making it impossible for businesses to survive. New blood and new vision or the city is finished.

    20. LongtimeNYer says:

      I’m strongly opposed to Brewer because of her support of adding more homeless to hotels on the Upper West Side. There are probably 15,000 members of Upper West Siders for Safer Streets who will vote against her.

      • Lisa says:

        I love Gail and admire her dedication, kindness and work ethic. But I will vote against her. The UWS has become a slum with no stores. It’s time for some drastic action and Gail is not on board with that.

        • World Peacenik says:

          The UWS has become a slum with no stores????

          I am sorry that you experience the neighborhood that way.

          But I am also very concerned with how this leads people to think and act.

          It is this kind of thinking that has led to the harassment of the Lucerne residents.

          And to the segregation of our Public Schools.

          Among many other destructive acts.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            reply to World Peacenik:

            thank you for bringing up school segregation, truly a huge blemish on the UWS. And to think some of these so-called “reasonable” commenters support this! the exact same arguments are made that were made in the South in the 1960s. they will whine that i am exaggerating. But i am not.

      • Jassa says:

        Make that 15,001.

    21. Carolyn says:

      Wonderful news! Gale is a real servant of the people! She has unbounded care and concern for us. I’ve been to many upper west side and city-wide events and she is always there….supporting….. and always has time for us. I’m thrilled to hear that she will be running……

      • HelenD says:

        I’d be willing to vote for her or any other person who could get the police in the subway station on 72nd & B’way around the clock NOW. Aside from all the incidents already reported, there have been 8 alerts this week, perps with hammers, knives, throwing bottles, punching and pushing, and just minutes ago another woman was assaulted. Why is this not a priority?

    22. UWSer says:

      I’ll vote for Sara Lind but I wish we had a DSA candidate, if only to participate in the debate.

    23. Right now, Ms. Brewer is rolling over and backing twin towers stretching nearly 4xs taller than historic zoning allows in the tiny Seaport Historic District of lower Manhattan in favor of a $50 million dollar bribe to her favorite and eternally mismanaged South Street Seaport Museum. Her pet-project is costing us flood mitigation measures (in the high risk zone) piercing 50 years of historic preservation AND subjecting young children at public school next to the site to a construction project that will take FIVE years to complete. Comparatively, an as of right – low scale project would take less than a year to complete. What UWS non-profit darling will she sell your district out for? More than 6k people have signed a petition against the towers… and yet, she remains silent and therefore complicit in this ultimate betrayal of her constituency. learn more…

    24. Sidney Schwartzberg says:

      The careful praise for Ms. Brewer while noting the need for new “progressive” leadership is a non sequitur. At least Ms. Brewer has experience serving in NYC government during a time where great progress was made in the city (let’s not forget the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s). Any candidate without any relevant experience that speaks in flowery progressive language should be rejected at the polls.

    25. Santa Texidor says:

      Yes gale we need you and we are happy you coming back to work with us if you need me please call me santa texidor AHRA.

    26. Andrew says:

      Another career politician, exactly what the city does not need.

    27. Jeff says:

      Gale did a lot to win my lasting support by helping to pass the limits on storefront size. When those limits debuted, the neighborhood’s small businesses and aesthetics were rapidly being overrun by big banks and Duane Reades.

      The limits didn’t singlehandedly change that trend, but they have helped to keep it from spiraling out of control, and for a variety of reasons, the West 70s now seem to have fewer chain stores than they did a decade ago (Duane Reade in particular has shrunk its footprint dramatically).

      • B.B. says:

        Meanwhile original intent (to curb stores like Walmart) was totally a failure thanks to internet shopping. Gale Brewer did Walmart a favor if they did but know it then, and they certainly do now.

        Amazon, Walmart and the rest don’t need large spaces on UWS or anywhere else in city, and are doing very well thank you.

        OTOH what many on UWS moan about, lack of good supermarkets is directly attributable to lack of appropriate sized spaces.

        • Static contextual zoning to create the look of small businesses was not effective with constantly changing business environments.
          There is continued development of larger stores on the periphery of the unnecessary gerrymandered Enhanced Commercial Districts.

          Many of the pharmacy locations disappeared after older leases ran out. Able to pay higher rents, banks took up smaller storefronts. High rents, strict regulations and taxes continue to plague small businesses.

      • B.B. says:

        Want to see more of what came of Gail Brewer’s handiwork? Long’s new bedding store on UES (former Gracious Home space on Third avenue) is spacious and doing a brisk business.

        Certain retail needs or at least benefits from larger spaces. Something they can not get on UES thanks to Ms. Brewer’s zoning changes.

        • Jeff says:

          There are several huge empty retail spaces (e.g., the former Food Emporium/Lowe’s at 68th & Broadway) that can accommodate grocery stores if the demand exists. Just because some people kvetch about wanting something doesn’t mean there’s actually a big unmet need.

    28. Julia says:

      I think this is great news. When you look at people who elect public service they fall into three categories: those who do it because it is a calling, those who do it because it is a career, and those who do it because it is a job. If you can put someone in a role they choose to do because it is a calling, that’s as good as it gets. Gale does what she does because it’s a calling.

    29. ST says:

      Helen did a lot of damage. Maybe it’s time for someone less “progressive” and more practical.

    30. Kathleen Treat says:

      Gale is a NYC heroine. She shows up and she gets things done…without “Look at me” fanfare. And Bravo for our system that permits her to stay in office for our benefit!

    31. gretchen says:

      That’s great news! But can we bring the goats back, please! They got the job done!

    32. your_neighbor says:

      Another career politician with no idea on how the real world operates. No doubt she will get elected by the people in our neighborhood who blindly vote party lines.

    33. UWS says:

      Hopefully she will become speaker. Right now Corey Johnson is a joke. Let’s pay more attention to the very useless Scott Stringer who had to be one of the worst representatives of the UWS when he was the assembly member. Can’t recall one single thing he ever did besides show up for photo ops.

    34. Ritamary says:

      Gale Brewer’s tireless efforts on behalf of all NYC residents and those from her West-side district are well known. We want leaders who know the needs of the people and respond, and nobody does it better. Welcome back Gale!

    35. B.B. says:

      Gail Brewer, Christine Quinn and host of other career NYC politicians are throwing their hats into 2021 election ring for a good reason.

      Next year will be first time NYC has ranked choice voting. Obviously those with name recognition are hoping that will translate into votes as people go with a name they know.

    36. UWS Taxpayer says:

      I used to think Gale was different (in a good way) but with her recent pandering in the Lucerne situation, my family and I will be voting against her. She can find another neighborhood to shove drug addicts/sex offenders in to.

    37. B.B. says:

      I find it rather insulting that these career politicians believe themselves self anointed torch bearers of city council knowledge. Worse that in an absence of significant number of them city government will grind to a halt.

      Before she was term limited out Melissa Mark-Viverito floated idea of over turning/extending term limits for same reason. She’s gone along with a few others, and city has survived.

    38. Nevets K says:

      One issue voter says,
      I will vote for any politician who places a No Parking sign north of the bus stop on the west side of Broadway between 88th and 89th Street. Take a look the next time you’re walking by. It’s a well-conceived trap for local and out of town drivers who pay at nearby parking meters and then come back an hour or so later to find their cars missing, having been towed to the pound.
      The politician who manages to place this No Parking sign can write his or her name on it, claiming full credit.
      Let’s see if one of you can do it!

    39. SmartGuy says:

      Just say no to Brewer and Lind. Who else is running? That’s what I’m interested in.

      • RJ says:

        Jeffrey Omura

        • SmartGuy says:

          Looks good to me! Thanks RJ!

        • Juan says:

          My litmus test questions for Mr. Omura (I looked at his web site and it seemed promising but didn’t address these directly):

          – Where did he stand on the Lucerne situation?
          – Does he think there has been an increase of quality of life violations? If so, how will he deal with them?
          – How does he feel about screened middle and high schools?

          Thank you.

    40. RJ James says:

      Why is there no mention of the other candidates by name?

    41. Ralph Andrew says:

      Noone ould now better represent the UWS than Gale Brewer.

      • Beth says:

        The UWS has deteriorated due to policies supported by Brewer and Lind. Lind in particular has proven to be condescending towards her neighbors on CB7 meetings and gets easily frustrated if someone doesn’t immediately accept an apology. I don’t agree with her politics, but even more concerned by her lack of diplomacy and tact. We need a candidate that looks out for the neighborhood’s long-term residents.

    42. Madd Donna says:

      Hell No!