The New York Times, September 2, 1997
Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
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September 2, 1997, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Page 20; Column 1; Editorial Desk
LENGTH: 1221 words
HEADLINE: Manhattan Endorsements
Primary elections will be held Tuesday, Sept. 9. This page will not endorse a mayoral candidate until the final vote in November. But many of the other races will be decided for practical purposes in next week's Democratic primaries. These are The Times's endorsements for some of the more competitive races in Manhattan.
The two strongest candidates in this large field are City Councilwoman Virginia Fields of Harlem and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick of Greenwich Village. A longtime reformer, George Spitz, and John Clark Fager, a schools activist, are not close to winning. Antonio Pagan began his Council career with promise, but over the long haul he has shown himself unable to forge alliances or foster consensus. Adam Clayton Powell 4th, another Council member, is strong on the campaign trail but weak at delivering on the job.
Ms. Glick was the first openly gay member of the State Legislature, but she has proved to be far more than a one-issue politician. In a sea of mediocrity, she stands out as an effective and independent lawmaker. But back at home, she sometimes seems captive of a familiar New York mentality that meets any plan for change with endless reservations or calls for more public hearings. Ms. Glick voted against the important reform of the public school structure. She opposed the city's initiative to control porn shops and was for far too long an opponent of the much-needed Hudson River Park.
We prefer Ms. Fields, who is not as strong a legislator as Ms. Glick, but outstrips her as a consensus-builder. Ms. Fields has grown over her last four years in the Council. Community leaders praise her willingness to negotiate honestly and find common ground with her opponents. She has been helpful in the struggle to improve Harlem's faction-ridden school district. On the Council, she has worked hard on issues ranging from the Civilian Complaint Review Board to that bane of neighborhood life, delivery bicyclists on the sidewalk.
The borough president's office has been a job in search of a function since the City Charter revision. The title comes with a large staff, some discretionary funds for community projects and the power to appoint community boards and one member of the Board of Education. We hope Ms. Fields will keep her promise to use these tools to help improve the borough's schools, and that Ms. Glick continues her valuable work in Albany.
First District (Soho, Tribeca, Chinatown, Little Italy, Battery Park, parts of the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village): The theme of this diverse district is expanding residential areas at war with freewheeling business districts. The incumbent Council member, Kathryn Freed, has made more than her share of enemies in her fights with Soho sidewalk art venders, Chinatown fish merchants and produce warehousers. Her opponents, Marie Dormuth and Jennifer Lim, claim that Ms. Freed is overly confrontational. They may be right, but we do not believe either of them would be as successful in managing the needs and conflicting demands of these crowded, contentious neighborhoods. We support the re-election of Ms. Freed, on the basis of her hard work and commitment to her district.
Second District (Murray Hill, Gramercy Park, Lower East Side): The two women waging the most active campaigns in this district come from opposite political poles. Judy Rapfogel, chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is imbued with the traditional networking and favor-trading skills of New York politics. The district leader Margarita Lopez is much more of an advocate, with an intense commitment to the needs of the most vulnerable residents of her community. Albert Fabozzi, a former community board chairman who helped lead the fight to restore Tompkins Square Park, does not appear to have the organizational base to challenge the other candidates. Ms. Lopez, a social worker, is an openly gay Hispanic whose energy and dedication would be an asset to this largely low-income Spanish-speaking district. But Ms. Rapfogel seems a better bet to deliver improved services the area desperately needs. We endorse Ms. Rapfogel in the hope that she will help stabilize a district often plagued by political factionalism.
Eighth District (East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, part of Mott Haven in the South Bronx): The five-person race to succeed Adam Clayon Powell 4th includes Federico Colon, Mr. Powell's chief of staff, Jorge Vidro-Ortiz, the chief counsel to State Senator Olga Mendez, and Philip Reed, a community activist who has organized H.I.V. care networks and youth programs in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Any of these three men would represent the district well. The district leader Wilma Sena, a teacher, has a history of community involvement in East Harlem, but questions about her residence have clouded her candidacy. The fifth candidate, the entertainer Edwin Marcial, is running far behind. Mr. Colon and Mr. Vidro-Ortiz are good candidates. We were particularly impressed by Mr. Colon's interest in economic development. But we endorse Mr. Reed for his strong history of public service and good judgment.
Ninth District (Harlem, Morningside Heights, part of East Harlem and the Upper West Side): The seat being vacated by Virginia Fields has drawn another crowd of candidates who can point with pride to their records of community involvement. Mary Sweeting, a tenant activist, has been of particular service to her fellow residents of northern Harlem. William Allen has roots that go deep in the district, and I. Ronnie Holly has put years of effort into building up his neighborhood Democratic club. Virginia Montague has a good understanding of the district, drawn from her experience as Ms. Fields's former chief of staff. But the candidate who appears to be by far the best qualified is Bill Perkins, a district leader who works for the State Assembly's Education Committee. Mr. Perkins says his top priority will be turning around the troubled schools in District 5, and he speaks with both passion and intelligence about his hopes for improving education in Harlem. Mr. Perkins, who has held patronage jobs controlled by the Democratic organization for a long time, will have to fight to prove he can be an independent city official. But his strengths include a political veteran's sophistication about how to get things done in the city.
10th District (Washington Heights, Inwood, part of Marble Hill in the Bronx): This page places a high value on the re-election of Guillermo Linares. Mr. Linares's seat is threatened solely because he cast the deciding vote in favor of the deal to develop a Pathmark supermarket in East Harlem. Mr. Linares had to choose between pandering to a bloc of influential campaign donors who own local grocery stores or supporting a project that would bring jobs, cheaper food prices and economic growth to his district. Mr. Linares chose the people over the campaign contributors. His main opponent, Roberto Lizardo, will have plenty of chances for public office in the future. Francesca Castellanos, an energetic grass-roots candidate, also shows promise. But if Mr. Linares is thrown out of office as a result of his principled stand, it will send the worst possible message to other city officials.