Every election cycle, the New York Amsterdam News conducts interviews to select candidates for endorsement for public office. For the past three decades, maybe more, we have announced the meetings on the front page of the newspaper for several weeks before the meetings are to take place. We publish this notice because we feel that it is the most egalitarian way to make sure that all those who seek the endorsement of the New York Amsterdam News can apply. We don’t just invite the front-runner; we invite all those who are qualified to run. On Aug. 22, 2017, we held endorsement meetings for candidates who will be on the ballot for the primary election on Sept. 12, 2017.
This year, we saw many candidates for office; some were for open seats, others were incumbents who were facing primaries and others were those challengers to incumbents who they felt were not serving their communities. There were familiar faces and new faces, but what there was most of all was interest. Interest in the process of governing; interest in politics and making this city stronger; and real interest in no longer just complaining, but getting off the sidelines and making a difference.
Here are our endorsements.
MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
The job of public advocate is probably one of the most important posts in the city, yet one of the least understood and funded. The office of the public advocate has a budget of less than $2 million a year, but it is charged with being the ombudsman for New York to the city, its services and agencies. Leticia James was elected four years ago to the post and has done a phenomenal job with the few resources that she has. James is a scrappy Brooklyn fighter. She has been a voice for the underdog and has fought the good fight, passing more legislation than all passed public advocates combined. She was instrumental in insuring universal free lunch for all in New York City Public Schools and has led the charge to make NYCHA more environmentally friendly. One thing for sure is that James does not take “no” for an answer. This job was made for her. Public advocate is her calling. And that is why, once again we endorse Tish James for public advocate.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 2ND DISTRICT
New York City is a diverse place, and District 2 is one of those diverse neighborhoods that tell so much of the New York immigrant story. The district encompasses the East Village, Lower East Side, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay and Murray Hill. The areas once blighted with drugs are now seeing gentrification beyond one’s wildest dreams, yet at the expense of lifelong residents. There are few areas in New York where you can find a men’s shelter, a drug rehab, a $500-plus a night hotel and a $17 million penthouse, all within 250 feet of one another. Well, that is this district. Rosie Mendez has served as the councilwoman for the district for the past eight years and has served the community well, juggling the needs of the different constituencies and the competing interests. But her time is now up and another councilperson must take her place. There are six candidates vying for this position. Two that stand out are Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver. Coincidentally, both have worked for the councilwoman at one point or another. Both are committed and engaged. However, when it comes down to it, Rivera has been there for the community since Day One. She grew up in the same building she lives in now. She walks the same streets she did as a child and knows the community inside and out. She has fought for workers’ rights and tenants’ rights. She has served on her community board and knows firsthand about the trials and tribulations small businesses go through. Working for the councilwoman, she knows how to navigate the city budget and also knows the priorities of the community from Day One. That is why we are endorsing Carlina Rivera for City Council District 2.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL FOURTH DISTRICT
The Fourth Councilmanic District race is another one with a large field of candidates. Nine to be exact. It is a district that takes up a great deal of the East Side of Manhattan from Stuyvesant Town to Yorkville, but also has Times Square in its catchment area. The issues in the district are some of the same as every other district in Manhattan, but then you have Times Square and Trump Towers. This district needs someone that can navigate a district of this magnitude, and we think that Marti Speranza is the woman who can do it. She is a progressive Democrat who led several organizations that have helped to guide and support women in business and small business. She has been a small-business owner. She has fought for affordable housing. She was the director of strategic initiatives for the NYC Department for Consumer Affairs and has been on her community board. She wants a more livable city, as do we all, and with her tenacity, I think she can help make that happen. We endorse Marti Speranza for City Council District 4.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 6TH DISTRICT
The Upper West Side of New York has been the home to some of the greatest liberal minds of our century. So many great Democrats have come out of these neighborhoods and have made a great difference in our communities. This year, we have three candidates running for the seat: Helen Rosenthal, the incumbent; Mel Wymore, who we endorsed four years ago for this seat; and Cary M. Goodman, a first-time office seeker. All of these candidates have their own individual reasons for running, and each has a very loyal following. Wymore is the first transgendered candidate to run for office in New York. He is committed to issues that affect everyone and has stayed involved even though he did not win four years ago. Goodman is passionate and dedicated, but his priorities seem too focused in one direction. Rosenthal has worked hard for four years in the City Council, and although some do not agree with all that she has done, many are extremely happy with the changes she has brought to education within the community. She has fought for diversity and won. We believe Rosenthal’s work is not yet done, and she deserves another four years in office. Therefore, we endorse Helen Rosenthal for City Council.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 8TH DISTRICT
East Harlem is a vibrant community that is going though a lot of changes as the Second Avenue Subway teases the community with the promise of better transportation. Also, part of the Eighth Councilmanic District is in the South Bronx, which has seen exponential growth in some areas and the continuation of blight in others. This district needs someone with a lot on energy and vision who is ready to face the issues head on. Living in the district his whole life, Robert Rodriguez is the person who can do it. Currently serving in the New York State Assembly, Rodriguez is poised to continue the work he has done there, but be able to deliver more to his constituents. He has been fighting for Fair Fares and the expansion of the subway. He wants to make the waterfront is productive in communities of color. And he wants to increase opportunities for youth and seniors in his district and across the city. That is why we are endorsing Robert Rodriguez for City Council.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 9TH DISTRICT
Once again there are six candidates running to represent the esteemed community of central Harlem, the Ninth District. A little more than six months ago, a special election was held for this very seat, and we held endorsement interviews then as well. Although Bill Perkins won that special election back then, he did not win our endorsement. And once again we must say he is not getting our endorsement. But instead, as we did last time around, we are endorsing the woman who we believe will best serve the community. And in our opinion that person is Cordell Cleare. Although she does not come with the endorsements some of the other candidates have, she has the kind of tenacity, intelligence, commitment and integrity that a councilmember needs. We have watched her grow over the years, and we clearly understand the significant role she played during her years working in the City Council and the state Senate. Cordell Cleare is our choice for the ninth Council District
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 10TH DISTRICT
Ydanis Rodriguez has been a fighter since Day One. Born in the Dominican Republic, he moved to New York at 18 years old, and he saw the city and this country as a land of opportunity, but to get that opportunity was a battle in and of itself.
While attending City College, Rodriguez fought to make ends meets, working endless hours, while at the same time putting his all into making the community stronger and fighting for every person and for their right to an education.
In the council since 2009, he has been an advocate and champion for education, housing and language interpretation services in hospitals, and he has kept the needs of his constituents at the forefront of his mission. Most recently he has been fighting the inhumane actions of the Trump administration and has been advocating for the undocumented who are trying to make a way for themselves and their families. He is working to make New York a better, kinder place for everyone and he is succeeding. That is why, once again, we endorse Ydanis Rodriguez for City Council.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 35TH DISTRICT
Laurie A. Cumbo did not take the traditional political path. She came out of the arts, founding the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts and was a cultural leader in Brooklyn. Since being elected to the City Council she has helped to create more than 1,000 new unit of affordable housing in her district, introduced legislation to end the wage gab and made sure women get equal pay. She has delivered for the seniors of her district by helping to save senior centers and has continued to fight to make neighborhoods safer. She continues to fight for her community every day and it is for these reasons and more, we endorse Laurie A. Cumbo for the 35th Council District.
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL 42ND DISTRICT
Every civic body needs a voice that stands outs and is not afraid to be heard. In the New York City Council, we need that lone wolf who will stand by his or her convictions, no matter how unpopular, because that person will vote with conscience. That person is Inez Barron. Serving in the state Assembly since 2008, Barron has been that voice. She has stood up when others sat silent. She has a long history as an educator and community activist, and she wants to bring her voice and her knowledge to the Council. We believe Inez Barron would be a welcome voice to this chamber and endorse her enthusiastically for City Council.
JUDGES OF THE CIVIL COURT KINGS COUNTY (VOTE FOR 5)
Robin K. Sheares
Frederick C. Arriaga
David C. Pepper
Connie M. Melendez