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East Side City Council race kicks off, with intrigue

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The Democratic primary election for City Council District 2 is more than a year away, but already two candidates have thrown their hats into the ring — and two other strong contenders could be waiting in the wings.

Since 2018, the district has been represented by Carlina Rivera, who will be term-limited out of office at the end of next year.

District 2 includes the East Village, Union Square, Gramercy, Kips Bay, Murray Hill and part of the Lower East Side. After the recent redistricting, it also now takes in Greenwich Village over to Sixth Avenue.

Already having declared they are running are Andrea Gordillo and Sarah Batchu, the respective chairperson and first vice chairperson of Community Board 3. Batchu announced her candidacy first, in December. Gordillo held her launch event more recently, on Feb. 21.

Meanwhile, in an interesting twist, Harvey Epstein, who has represented the East Side’s Assembly District 74 since 2018, told The Village Sun he is not ruling out a run for City Council and is “exploring options.”

“I am running for reelection this year but open to looking at other positions in the future, including the City Council,” he said.

Flexing his political muscle, in October, Epstein ran for Manhattan County Committee chairperson, but narrowly lost to the incumbent, Domenico “Nico” Minerva.

Asked why he would consider leaving the state Legislature for the City Council — if, for example, he’s weary of the Albany commute — Epstein said, “Family need and new professional opportunities are the things I am considering. … Again, I am running for reelection this year. However, it’s always important to explore your options.”

Allie Ryan has challenged Rivera twice in past elections — winning nearly 40 percent of the vote in last year’s primary — but has not announced yet if she will run in next year’s District 2 Democratic primary.

“I’m undecided,” Ryan said.

She may be waiting until next fall, after Epstein’s Assembly election, which would be a likely time for him to declare whether he, in turn, will run for City Council.

Gordillo was president of Coalition for a District Alternative (CoDA), Rivera’s home political organization, until stepping down on Feb. 1. CoDA has not endorsed for City Council yet — only having just recently done their endorsements for state Senate and Assembly for this summer’s primary elections.

Gordillo is also the development director for The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center and the City Council speaker’s representative to the Public Theater’s board of trustees. Previously, she was the program manager at the Loisaida Cultural Center.

“My campaign is rooted in the robust legacies of justice and creativity of the people of this district, and an optimistic future full of dignified housing, quality of life and radical imagination for all New Yorkers,” Gordillo said. “I am committed to extending the legacy of the trailblazing women who came before me, who were first elected to this position in 1997.”

Indeed, Council District 2 has been represented by CoDA-backed women for more than 25 years now, starting back with Margarita Lopez, continuing with Rosie Mendez and up through Rivera today. Though, like them, proudly Latina, Gordillo is not Puerto Rican but the daughter of Peruvian immigrants.

Sarah Batchu brings City Hall experience.

Originally from Chicago, Batchu came to New York to attend Barnard College. She served in Mayor de Blasio’s administration, working on the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City — dealing with public-private partnerships — plus as a special assistant to the mayor and a senior policy analyst. She did stints as chief of staff at the Lower Eastside Girls Club and interim director of its new Center for Wellbeing & Happiness on Avenue D. She’s currently director of programs at the Fifth Avenue Committee in Park Slope. She previously was Rivera’s deputy campaign manager. She currently chairs the C.B. 3 Cannabis Licensing Committee.

“I’ve been a nonprofit leader, a public health professional and a public servant since the beginning of my career,” Batchu said. “Now, I hope to take that professional expertise — knowing the actual logistical steps it takes to generate change — and translate it for the much-needed benefit of my community.”

Last August, the New York Post did a splashy article on Batchu and the newly single de Blasio — noting he was twice her age — taking a stroll together in Soho. Batchu told The Village Sun she was seeking career advice, including about running for office.

“It was a very sexist article — but I was not surprised,” she said, adding the outlet did not call her for comment, as it had the former mayor. Asked what de Blasio told her about her political aspirations, she said, “I think he thinks I have the policy mind and the heart.”

While Rivera is a native Lower East Sider, Epstein, who is a former C.B. 3 chairperson, has lived in the East Village 28 years, Gordillo for 10 and Ryan 20 years. Batchu has lived in District 2 for seven years, though not all of that in the East Village, with some time also in Greenwich Village and Kips Bay. Gordillo, Batchu and Epstein are all staunchly progressive, while Ryan is a bit more moderate on some issues.

“My political philosophy is to listen to and serve the needs of the constituents — not to serve my career or an ideological stance or a fashionable trend,” Ryan said.

Allie Ryan, left, with Juan Pagan, came to show support at a rally to save the Morton Williams supermarket last September. Both have previously sought political office on the East Side. Ryan has not yet said if she plans to run for City Council District 2 in 2025. (Photo by The Village Sun)

(The Village Sun will be following up with reports on the candidates’ specific policy positions.)

Showing some early political strength for Gordillo, a number of influential local politicos were at her launch event, at the Francis Kite Club, on Avenue C, including Mar Fitzgerald and David Siffert, two former presidents of Village Independent Democrats, a Greenwich Village-based political club; Michael Farrin, a former state committeeman and longtime CoDA member; Susan Stetzer, the veteran C.B. 3 district manager; Paul Rangel, a former C.B. 3 chairperson; Meghan Joye, a prominent East Village bar owner and former C.B. 3 member; and Mammad Mahmoodi and Sasha Allenby, both of EVLoves NYC, a group that provides meals for the food insecure.

However, there also was an elephant in the room at Gordillo’s launch — or, more aptly, a donkey since this is a Democratic primary: namely, Epstein. No one interviewed had a bad word to say about the assemblymember, but the unspoken feeling seemed to be that the situation was unclear and the decision difficult.

As one person put it, before making their endorsements, “Some people want to wait” to see if Epstein jumps into the race.

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, who represents Manhattan’s East Side, including the Lower East Side and East Village, spoke at an event honoring Chino García of CHARAS/El Bohio in 2022. (Photo by Bonnie Rosenstock)

However, Fitzgerald, with a sense of finality, said she had made her decision to go with Gordillo and wasn’t looking back. Siffert, though, looking conflicted, would not reveal publicly who he was supporting, saying to check his social media channels for clues.

Stetzer was co-chairperson of CoDA before she became C.B. 3 district manager 20 years ago. Yet, she never comments publicly on politics due to her position as the top staffer for C.B. 3. Asked about the uncertainty hanging over the District 2 race and how things might pan out, she only offered, “I have learned in the last several years: Don’t have any expectations.”

Gordillo, for her part, when asked about Epstein possibly entering the fray at some point, later said, “Harvey has been a great partner in the Assembly and we need his continued advocacy to achieve our shared goals of housing reform. I’m happy to see our Democratic process at work and can’t speak to others’ intentions, but am excited to talk to voters about my experience and my enthusiasm to represent them in the Council.”

In addition, there is some chatter about a rumor that Rivera and Epstein actually might do a sort of “swap,” in which Epstein runs to succeed her in the City Council, opening up his seat, so that Rivera can then run for it.

However, asked for comment on that, Rivera said, “I have not spoken to Harvey about my or his political future, not at all. So, no, we have absolutely not discussed any of the seats within our districts. Sorry, your intel is bad.”

Frank Gonzalez, an East Village realtor and activist who tried to run for district leader last year but was knocked off the ballot by a CoDA challenge to his petition signatures (by District Leader Paul Newell), recently said he had heard about the potential “seat flip” scenario.

“Not sure. Just rumors — by a lot of people of the community,” he said. “Definitely Harvey for City Council but not sure about Carlina for state Assembly — unless she has a house and lives in Albany,” he quipped.

Three years ago, Arthur Schwartz, a Greenwich Village district leader, ran for City Council in the West Side’s District 3. But after redistricting, he now finds himself living in District 2. He said Epstein called him to ask if he was thinking of running for the East Side seat this time around. He’s not.

“Harvey’s definitely running [for City Council],” Schwartz said. “He’s actively assessing his support. And then Carlina gets a position to run for. I don’t think it’s a deal. I think he just wants to spend time with his wife.

“There’s no heir apparent” for the District 2 seat, as Schwartz sees it.

He pointed out that Epstein notably did not endorse the councilmember when she ran for Congress two years ago, saying, “I think it created some tension.”

Some think Rivera plans to run for Congress again, possibly for Jerry Nadler’s District 12, should he step down. So, the thinking then goes, the Assembly seat could be “a placeholder” to keep her in the political spotlight.

Batchu said she and Gordillo — and also Epstein, should he run — have “collegial” relationships with each other.

“It’s going to be up to the people to rank their favorites,” she said. “I’m happy to have ranked choice [voting] in the race.”


  1. Anyone but Gordillo Anyone but Gordillo March 5, 2024

    Gordillo is nothing but a corrupt agent of Susan Stetzer. She has accomplished nothing as chair of CB3 other then successfully backing Stetzer’s agenda and pushing out members who are actually useful and know what they are doing.

  2. Andy Andy March 2, 2024

    Our community deserves better than more CODA and God forbid Carolina gets a higher office.

    • savenycjobs savenycjobs March 4, 2024

      Andy, when will records matter? Enough of the endorsements and political chess games. Rivera’s record has been hidden from voters since she’s been in office. As for the reason why the community deserves better than more CODA, and “God forbid” Rivera gets a higher office, this is all that’s needed:

  3. small business congress small business congress March 2, 2024

    Any candidate with the political will and courage to stand up to the real estate lobby REBNY is good. Any candidate willing to commit to be a strong voice for small business owners’ rights is better. Any candidate willing to demand small business owners be given rights when their leases expire is great! Rights are desperately needed to stop the closings of long-established businesses willing and able to pay reasonable rents. What candidate is willing to offend their big campaign donors or political endorsement potentials by standing on the side of the local mom-and-pop owners? Who is he best chance to save the American Dream for their business owners and their workers?

    • ItsEarly ItsEarly March 2, 2024

      Sounds like a perfect description of Allie Ryan (who doesn’t even have big donors to offend :-).

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