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Editorial: Christopher Marte and Allie Ryan for City Council

Voters will head to the polls today to cast their ballots in what are expected to be low-turnout Democratic primary elections. Due to redistricting, City Council elections are being held this year for two-year terms in office instead of the usual four-year terms.

The two Downtown races for City Council — in Districts 1 and 2 — definitely have some similarities. District 1 includes Lower Manhattan, Chinatown and Soho. District 2 takes in the East Village, a bit of the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village over to Sixth Avenue, plus Gramercy and stretches up to Kips Bay.

The similarities are that, in each race, there is a candidate that is very attuned and responsive to the wishes and concerns of the community. And, after all, our politicians are supposed to be representatives — as in, representatives of the people.

In District 1, that candidate is Christopher Marte, who was first elected two years ago. Whether it’s fighting to save the Elizabeth Street Garden, to include more affordable housing in the 5 World Trade Center project or to oppose the Soho/Noho zoning that most residents emphatically did not support, Marte has had the community’s back. Unlike some other councilmembers, he sides with community members in their opposition to a “one size fits all” permanent Open Restaurants (outdoor dining) program. He wants to slow down app-delivery e-bike delivery guys to keep the streets safer. And he wants to adaptively reuse The Tombs (Manhattan Detention Complex) instead of demolishing it to pave the way for the disruptive construction of a new “megajail.” Marte has been an outspoken opponent of developing massive residential towers on the Two Bridges waterfront. He stood with park activists who protested the destruction of East River Park for a coastal resiliency project.

Basically, Marte has been right on most issues. His opponents, though, have been hammering him for supporting defunding the police back in 2020, in the aftermath of the protests over George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota. But Marte hasn’t made defunding a central part of his reelection platform. And, clearly, he’s a politician who strives to be in line with his constituents. The defund movement went too far, some would say, to the point that it seriously alienated voters. Understandably, Marte seems to have tried to distance himself from those prior comments.

Susan Lee, seemingly his strongest opponent, has made safety and quality education her two top issues. No one can fault her for emphasizing safety. The wave of anti-Asian violence that not too long ago gripped the city, and which was spurred on by the shamefully irresponsible Trump, was truly horrifying. As for academic excellence, it’s vitally important to Asian families. It’s a bedrock value of the culture and also a proven path to advancement for immigrant families.

Lee made a name for herself recently by opposing a homeless drop-in shelter by Housing Works at a former hotel at Grand and Bowery. Chinatown residents and businesses were united against the shelter, crying that the neighborhood is oversaturated with them. Ultimately, Community Board 2 backed them up and the shelter plan fell through. The hotel is now being used by migrants who are claiming asylum.

Basically, in some ways, Lee might be seen to be trying to “pull a Zeldin” versus Marte. That is, to hope to defeat him by playing up a perceived misstep on police and crime. Yet, as we said, Marte is physically present and actively engaged on issues all over the district, standing with residents on the matters that they care most strongly about. And that’s precisely why he continues to have so much support. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Lee, whose strongest base is in Chinatown, can draw support from throughout the district.

One more knock against Lee is that she previously was a staffer and campaign worker for former District 1 Councilmember Margaret Chin, who pushed through the Soho/Noho rezoning, singlehandedly, without any community notification or review, slated a housing project for the Elizabeth Street Garden and pushed through the Soho business improvement district (BID), again, to the chagrin of local residents.

In short, Marte worked hard for years to win his Council seat, has created great relationships with the community throughout the district and is simply on the same page with them. He deserves reelection.

This next endorsement is tough, in some ways, and it certainly won’t win us any points with the local political establishment.

We’ve literally seen Carlina Rivera grow up from a young teen to a very impressive woman, becoming a hero to many in her community. Her story of growing up on the Lower East Side, the daughter of a single mother, and rising to represent her community in the City Council is inspiring. Not surprisingly, she was one of the frontrunners in the District 10 congressional race last year.

But we feel, in her ambition and in her certainty of her belief in the causes that she champions, Rivera has not always worked with all segments of the community as well as she could. Instead, in her determination to show she can “get stuff done,” she has alienated some voters. The most glaring example of this is on East River Park and the East Side Coastal Resiliency project. Look, we know it’s a very complicated — and critically important — issue. We don’t ever want East Siders living near the river to have to go through the hardships again that they suffered from the flooding of Hurricane Sandy, a “perfect storm,” nearly 11 years ago.

That said, there was so much confusion and lack of available information about E.S.C.R. and the changes it went through. We know Rivera did not want “just a concrete wall” to be built along the river — which now appears to be a possibility for the Greenwich Village waterfront across town — because she told us as much when the de Blasio administration abruptly scrapped the community-consensus plan that called for stopping inland flooding mainly by creating berms along the F.D.R. Drive. The same unpopular approach of razing a park only to rebuild it higher is also now playing out at Wagner Park by the Battery, similarly causing great pain and frustration for residents over there.

Rivera also strongly advocated for the Soho/Noho rezoning, touting its ability to create affordable housing that would, ideally, attract a more diverse group of residents — although affordable housing is allotted on a lottery system. She actually was a more forceful advocate for the rezoning than Chin when it came to public testimony.

Rivera also got off to a rocky start during her first term in office when Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (now Village Preservation), accused her of reneging on an alleged pledge to push the city to rezone the area south of Union Square in return for her support for the rezoning of the Tech Hub site, which is in her district. Rivera, for her part, denies Berman’s version of events. And it is certainly true that as an incoming freshperson councilmember back then, she didn’t wield a lot of clout at City Hall yet. But we respect Berman’s opinion and what he says carries a lot of weight.

To return to the park conflict, one of the worst things about it was it became racially divisive — and that mostly came from Rivera’s side, from some of her supporters. Yes, it’s true, the E.S.C.R. opponents were and are definitely majority white. They admit it. Ian David Knife, a tree stump artist from Zimbabwe, wasn’t the only one to urge the project’s opponents to try to draw into their fold Black and brown residents from the nearby Housing Authority complexes bordering the park. Meanwhile, a prominent Rivera supporter who tweeted that the E.S.C.R. foes were racist last year told us why he said it. He said it was because of what one of the resiliency project foes allegedly told him as she was angling to talk to Assemblymember Harvey Epstein while Epstein was monitoring police trying to clear out a homeless encampment from “Anarchy Row” on E. Ninth Street. “It doesn’t matter,” the park activist allegedly retorted, in frustration, of the ongoing struggle over the high-profile encampment, as she was having difficulty getting a word in to Epstein at that moment. In addition, a rally for the E.S.C.R. plan late in the game by Rivera supporters had a definite edge — some of the speakers were clearly indignant at the project opponents for daring to speak out against E.S.C.R.

Admittedly, homeless encampments can be moved. But the destruction of a large park on the scale of East River Park is not immediately reversible. It will take some years after it’s rebuilt, for the park to resemble what it took more than 80 years of incremental growth to achieve. And it was beautiful park, with a glorious tree canopy, in parts. Rivera, for her part, has said the East Side deserves a rebuilt park as nice as Hudson River Park on the West Side. We get it — but it won’t happen overnight, and meanwhile the community will be deprived for years of a key amenity.

At the end of the day, many felt there were better alternatives to create coastal resiliency than E.S.C.R. — alternatives that didn’t entail destroying the entire park.

We also are not a big fan of the group Open New York, which we agree is essentially an “astroturf” group shilling for Big Real Estate. ONY has once again endorsed Rivera for reelection, as it did last year when she ran for Congress. ONY and its minions were talking for years about opening Soho up to new development. They finally got their wish under de Blasio. Again, however, the race card was played — and this time it was even more out of line. To call elderly artist residents racist — individuals who pioneered a residential neighborhood where one did not previously exist, and many of whom never attained wealth — is pretty despicable.

All that said, of course, Rivera has done a lot of good work in the Council. She’s a leader on criminal-justice reform, closing Rikers Island and ending solitary confinement. She prides herself on being on the leading edge of changes that are transforming our city — such as Open Streets and Open Restaurants — though not all constituents are happy with these evolutions of the cityscape. Part of her support for the Tech Hub was because it contains a computer training center that district residents can use to advance their career development. She’s a champion of rent regulation and also of the “deliveristas” — though, again, not all residents use the e-bike delivery workers and many feel that too many of them ride unsafely. She is committed to working for public housing tenants, on whose support at election time she can usually count — although we hear there are some cracks in the ranks this time around.

So, while we like Rivera and are impressed by her political abilities, which are impressive, we are not endorsing her. Former Council Speaker Christine Quinn comes to mind, in a way. She was another talented, ambitious politician — but a groundswell of local voters felt Quinn had taken her focus off her own Greenwich Village/Chelsea district as she set her eyes on higher office — in her case, mayor. Fairly or not, residents held Quinn accountable for the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital — which was sinking under massive debt.

Meanwhile, “cargo bike mom” candidate Allie Ryan embodies the same sort of community-centric commitment and focus as Marte. Unlike Rivera, who clearly has her eyes set on loftier goals than the City Council, Ryan simply wants to serve on the City Council. Period. She wants to represent the local community, wants to represent the voters and their positions, whether that’s on East River Park and East Side Coastal Resiliency, Open Restaurants, Open Streets or the problem of high-speed e-bikes and motorcycles using bike lanes that were created for human-powered vehicles. She’s concerned about the state of Tompkins Square Park, about the litter in it, the drug needles she says she and her kids find in it — and feels that the current focus on the Avenue B Open Street should be shifted onto Tompkins Square Park. Ryan is a firm believer in academic merit, which she says caused her to take her daughters out of local public school, feeling their education was suffering under changes instituted under de Blasio. Some have attacked her for being part of the education-advocacy group PLACE NYC — which is focused on upholding academic standards — but Ryan, in fact, left the group when her kids left public school.

Over all, Ryan embodies the same qualities we like in Marte: If elected, she would make it a priority to listen to and reflect the positions of her residents — not streamroll projects and policies over them against their wishes. It’s time for a change in District 2. We endorse Allie Ryan.

Vote Christopher Marte for City Council in District 1 and Allie Ryan for City Council in District 2 on Tues., June 27.


  1. East Village Resident East Village Resident June 28, 2023

    So about 8,000 folks voted in District 2. I’m really impressed Allie got 40% — I didn’t think in my wildest dream she could. To get the next 10% a candidate would need big bucks and backing of political clubs, of which she had none. However best showing ever in our neighborhood against the powers that be.

    • Sarah Ferguson Sarah Ferguson June 28, 2023

      Actually, I’m not afraid to say my son was also “saturated” with books on Black and Native American history in his public middle school in the East Village. During 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, he learned virtually nothing but slavery. They spent 1 day on the Cold War, 1 day on the war in Ukraine… Every day I asked my son what he was learning about in school, and just about every day he said, “slavery”. Of course I want my son to learn about slavery, its terrible wrongs and its ongoing legacy. But not to the exclusion of all else! At a certain point, it becomes counterproductive –the kids tune out. Or they become hyper-racialized and polarized, which is what is happening across the country. In the name of progressive education and values, we are in fact provoking more racial divisiveness. Everything is seen through the lens of race. We are dividing people. Sorry, but that’s not healthy for society. We are a multiracial city in a multiracial country. Our kids deserve to learn the full breadth of U.S. and global history, to learn about the slavery that is still going on now with the Uyghurs, etc. They also need to learn about WWII and Vietnam, or the terrible brinkmanship going on now in Ukraine. They need to learn more about the climate — and of course math and how to compose an essay. We need more balance in the classroom and less ideology!

  2. PatJA PatJA June 27, 2023

    Thank you for your thoughtful, thorough assessment of these candidates.

  3. Marilyn Stevenson Marilyn Stevenson June 27, 2023

    Carlina is a “champion of rent regulation?” In what universe?

    Supporting NYCHA tenants? Maybe years ago, but now she supports RAD/PACT, which we saw just this past week, is central to demolition and displacement of 2,000 NYCHA tenants in Chelsea. That’s supporting public housing, right?

  4. Marilyn Stevenson Marilyn Stevenson June 27, 2023

    “Rivera, for her part, has said the East Side deserves a rebuilt park as nice as Hudson River Park on the West Side.” And you get it? Except for a few spots, along most of its length, Hudson River Park is mostly a two-lane bicycle path. not much else (piers don’t count).

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