BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated March 26, 1 a.m.: Another candidate is tossing her hat in the ring for City Council District 2. She’s not running in the June 22 Democratic primary, though, so you won’t see her name on the ballot until the Nov. 2 general election.
Allie Ryan, an East Village parent who is active on school issues and in fighting the planned Governors Island rezoning, recently filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
Council District 2 stretches from the Lower East Side to Murray Hill.
Ryan said it was a conscious decision on her part not to run in the primary.
“I feel very strongly about running as an independent,” she told The Village Sun. “I do firmly believe in a multiple-party system. I think a lot of the problems we have in our city stem from a one-party system.”
Her husband is Chris Ryan, a filmmaker, punk-rock musician (Team Spider) and bicycle activist with the group Time’s Up. They married 10 years ago in a freewheeling “pirate wedding” on Governors Island that ended in a Critical Mass ride around the island.
She works part time with Chris, helping him on his documentary films, in addition to raising their two young daughters.
One of Allie Ryan’s chief concerns right now, and one of her main reasons for running for office, is East River Park and the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan. Land use and quality-of-life, as she sees it, are the two key issues affecting city residents, and they are converging in the embattled East River Park plan and the fight against it.
“The park is integral to our daily life,” she said. “In the summer of 2019, the girls took part in two Park and Rec sports classes, so we were there four days a week, and we also used the bike thoroughfare to get to Governors Island. Most years, we go at least five times to Governors Island.
“The whole park is always used,” Ryan said of East River Park. “You can go at 10 a.m. and you see a whole group of people doing different things, and then go at midday and see a group of people doing other things.”
Especially, amid the ongoing pandemic, open space is needed for mental relief, social distancing and exercise. That need was heightened during the lockdown period, she noted.
The city’s E.S.C.R. scheme, however, would bury the existing park and raise it by around 8 feet, with the construction putting about half of the park off limits at any given time during the project. Opponents fear the work could drag on even longer than five years.
“Since we’re post-COVID lockdown, we have to revise that plan,” Ryan stated. “I would like the community-led plan — the berm.”
The community-led plan — an earlier proposal that had received local buy-in and was seemingly all ready to go— simply called for building a berm along the east side of the F.D.R. Drive. But the de Blasio administration abruptly scrapped it and unilaterally replaced it with E.S.C.R.
“I do agree we need a floodwall, flood protection,” Ryan said. “Where we live, the floodwaters [during Hurricane Sandy] came up to the first-floor doorknobs. Our neighbor lost everything. They had to rebuild to the studs. Because I know people who lost everything, I know we need protection. But to me, the berm — you can still use the park while constructing the berm.
“I want to help save East River Park. It’s obviously not a one-person job.”
Like other opponents of E.S.C.R., she’s concerned that the recently publicly released “Value Engineering Report” — which compares the two East River Park plans — was heavily redacted.
Erin Hussein, who is running in the Democratic primary against the incumbent, Councilmember Carlina Rivera, also supports saving East River Park and opposes the E.S.C.R. plan.
Meanwhile, Rivera backs the city’s coastal resiliency plan, which is clearly a factor in compelling candidates like Ryan and Hussein to come forth.
On another potential megaproject, although Governors Island is in Lower Manhattan’s Council District 1, Ryan worries that building a “climate change center” there could have a ripple effect, spurring more development in the adjacent District 2. She’s the co-founder of Metro Area Governors Island Coalition a.k.a. M.A.G.I.C.
“Land use is our number one issue,” she said of the Governors Island effort. “M.A.G.I.C. is part of the Citywide People’s Land Use Alliance.”
She’s also opposed to overdevelopment in the Two Bridges section of the Lower East Side, where the community is battling a large-scale development project sporting four massive megatowers.
“It’s out of control with that neighborhood,” she said. “And that’s what the city is trying to do in rezoning Soho and Noho. You’re creating density in already dense places. We don’t need these high-rises here and you’re also disrespecting our neighborhoods, as well. We don’t need to add to the density of our neighborhood.”
She said that, instead of increasing density in Downtown Manhattan — the coveted “golden goose” for the real estate industry — the city should “create more equal density” by spreading development out more fairly, such as in the outer boroughs.
As a parent of young children, education is critically important to Ryan. Her kids had been attending the Roberto Clemente School, P.S. 15, on E. Fourth St., and loved it. They were both in the Gifted and Talented program there. But in 2019, the G&T program was phased out in her daughters’ grades, according to Ryan.
“That year, they stopped it,” she recalled. “They said they’re only adhering to second-grade standards. Virginia actually had asked to leave the school because she was frustrated, understandably so. She would ask her teacher for challenging work and the teacher said no, because not everybody could handle the material.”
Her younger daughter, Ruby Lee, followed in her big sister’s footsteps two weeks later. Both girls transferred to the Nord Anglia International School, on E. Second St.
Ryan said P.S. 15 had been great before the school decided to do away with accelerated learning in her daughters’ grades.
“We chose the school because it was academically rigorous,” she said. “We were like, ‘This is amazing.’ I thought P.S. 15 was a crazy kept secret.”
Although she’s no longer a P.S. 15 parent, she stays in touch with local education issues.
“I still believe in merit-based education and acceleration as a choice,” she said. “I do keep a foot in that realm.”
In fact, she hopes to return her kids to public school for middle school, though she is concerned about lottery admissions in School District 1.
In December, Ryan wrote a letter to local politicians, demanding that the Department of Education “roll back lottery admissions.”
“Based on personal experience with the D1 elementary school Diversity in Admissions lottery, lotteries are not fair — our education should not be based on luck,” she wrote. “Lotteries do not attempt to match students with schools that meet their academic needs. This policy is bad for my family and all students in our district.”
She also supports year-round education.
“I think the ‘summer slump’ hurts children,” she said. “I’ve seen it in my own children.”
As for hitting the campaign trail, Ryan said she was not worried about interacting with local registered voters to ask for their signatures to get onto the ballot.
“Our COVID numbers are extremely low in District 2, so I’m not really concerned about COVID,” she said.
In general, she’ll be out meeting with voters “in the field.”
“I’m going to be out there,” she assured.
She’s counting on her real-world social network to be a strength for her.
“Thankfully, Chris has lived in the neighborhood 29 years and I’ve lived here now 12 years,” she said. “So I’m hopeful just knowing people and talking to people [will build support for the campaign].”
On the other hand, she said, “I don’t really want to participate with social media because I find it’s so negative. I’m not a Twitter person.”
Nevertheless, she said, “I signed up for Twitter and tweet about things important to me. I don’t have a big presence.”
She hopes to qualify in June for matching funds under the city’s campaign finance program.