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Pulling rank: District 1 Council candidates try to game the vote; Charges fly over big real estate’s influence on race

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Thurs., June 22, 3:30 p.m.: Candidates — and their supporters — in the District 1 City Council race are strategizing on how best to use — or not use — ranked-choice voting to win.

Two of the contenders, Susan Lee and Ursila Jung, recently cross-endorsed each other, urging voters to rank them first and second on their ballots in the June 27 Democratic primary election, early voting for which started June 17 and runs through June 25.

Lee and Jung’s scheme is clearly a move to try to beat the election’s front-runner, incumbent Councilmember Christopher Marte.

“Lower Manhattan needs an experienced, grassroots leader who will work with her colleagues and community leaders to put public safety, education and working families first,” Lee said.

“District 1 needs a new councilmember committed to transparency and accountability in serving her constituents. Ursila and I agree on many issues, such as public safety and quality of life issues. She’s a strong education advocate. I urge you to rank me No. 1 and Ursila No. 2.”

“Public safety is deteriorating, our schools are failing our children, and our neighbors are being priced out of the district, all while our current councilmember pats himself on the back just for showing up,” Jung declared. “I urge you to rank me No. 1 and Susan No. 2.”

Meanwhile, countering Lee and Jung’s tactic, the Soho Alliance is urging voters to fill in the oval for one candidate, Marte — and no one else.

In an e-mail blast to its list on Saturday, the Soho Alliance warned that Lee is backed by “real estate speculators,” adding that Marte “has served Soho very well since taking office in 2021.”

“The two have formed an alliance to manipulate the ranked-choice voting system,” the Alliance charged of Lee and Jung. “[They] are urging voters to ‘bullet vote.’ That is: Vote for both of them but not at all for Marte, not even as a third-choice preference. This cynical strategy, of course, would deny Marte receiving any votes in this tight race.

“Let’s counter Lee and Jung’s cynical election ploy and turn the tables on them,” the e-mail urged. “When it is time to rank your choice for City Council, vote for only one candidate, Christopher Marte, and deny these two opportunists the edge they seek.”

Association with the group PLACE NYC was a lightning rod in the recent community school board election. Two candidates in the District 1 City Council race have the group’s backing.

The Soho Alliance further charges that Lee’s campaign is being “partially funded by a PAC financed by real estate speculators out of Brooklyn” who are seeking to build a $3 billion gambling casino and hotel across from the Coney Island boardwalk.

This “consortium,” according to the Alliance is led by Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, and Legends, “a global sports and entertainment behemoth.”

“So why is a PAC of Brooklyn real estate speculators and casino operators donating so heavily to Susan Lee in Lower Manhattan?” the Alliance’s e-mail asked. “What do they expect in return?”

However, Bob Liff, a campaign spokesperson for Lee, retorted that the Soho Alliance’s accusation “explicitly untrue.”

“It’s unfair,” he said. “Go through her [campaign finance] filings.”

The accusation was initially made by Marte during a NY1 candidates debate. In response, Lee said none of the cited entities had given to her campaign — but Marte said that they could do so later in the race.

“Yeah, and the Mets win the World Series. … This is not Watergate, this is not the Russia…,” he scoffed, his voice trailing off. “This is having a significant effect on her campaign,” he said of the pro-developer tag.

PACs must disclose their expenditures — yet only when they actually make some. It’s not clear if this PAC has done much of a spend on the current races — at least not yet.

“They may have done something in the 9th District,” Liff noted, though adding, “but everyone’s jumping into that Harlem race.”

In light of that fact, Sean Sweeney, the Soho Alliance’s director, asked Lee to “provide the list” of attendees at a May 24 fundraiser held by People Enhancing New York, at which Lee was one of the candidates being supported — plus to fork over the names of others who didn’t physically attend the event but contributed funds.

Liff said that’s impossible.

“The nature of PACs is that they are independent and you can’t coordinate [with political campaigns],” Liff noted.

John Seravalli, a communications director and account representative at Reputation Management, first tweeted about big real estate connections’ to the May 24 “super-PAC” candidates fundraiser. Seravalli’s tweet was, in turn, retweeted by Jeff Coltin, a political reporter at City & State.

Coltin tweeted that the super-PAC was “planning to spend” on Lee, Councilmember Justin Brannan and the others named on the fundraiser invite.

The fourth candidate in the District 1 race is Pooi Stewart.

Meanwhile, Lee and Jung are also slamming Marte for not immediately firing a staffer, Steven Wong, after accusations emerged that he had berated and cursed out, using misogynistic language, Lotus Chau, a longtime local reporter for Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper. Wong, who is Chinese-American, formerly worked for ex-Councilmember Chin.

“The incident was recorded and resulted in an ethics inquiry by the New York City Council, but it took a month for Marte to remove him from the public payroll,” Lee and Jung fumed.

Wong ultimately resigned.

In a statement on March 19, Marte said, “Today, I have received new information regarding my employee, Steven Wong, and his interaction with Lotus Chau, a reporter at Sing Tao Daily. In addition to Mr. Wong’s voice memo that Ms. Chau sent to the Office of the General Council, there were three additional voice memos that were not submitted to the General Counsel when they requested evidence. I do not know what they contain or why they were not included. When I immediately contacted Mr. Wong to find out more, he said he regrets his actions and is now offering his resignation, which I have accepted. I hope this decision can bring healing to those who were hurt by his actions.”

For her part, Councilmember Kathryn Freed — who strongly supports Marte’s reelection — told The Village Sun she didn’t understand why the councilmember didn’t just can Wong sooner, and that she felt he would have been within his rights to do so.

In addition, both Lee and Jung have been endorsed by PLACE NYC (Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education), along with The New Majority, Eleanor’s Legacy, the Citizens Union and Asian Wave Alliance. PLACE NYC supports, among other things, keeping the Specialized High School Admission Test and expansion of Gifted and Talented programs and accelerated-curriculum options. The group was founded, in part, to oppose former Mayor de Blasio’s effort to revamp the admissions process for specialized high schools. PLACE NYC also opposes critical race theory being taught in schools, as well as what they call excessive classroom discussions about racial justice versus teaching education fundamentals.

Marte’s long list of endorsements includes the Downtown Independent Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, Grand Street Democrats, New Downtown Democrats, Village Reform Democratic Club, Tenants PAC, Streets PAC, United Federation of Teachers, New York League of Conservation Voters and half a dozen unions representing building trades, supermarkets and eduction.

In another Downtown race, the Soho Alliance is supporting challenger Allie Ryan over Councilmember Carlina Rivera in District 2 (Noho, the East Village, part of Greenwich Village, Gramercy and Kips Bay).

Rivera was former Councilmember Margaret Chin’s “cohort in the upzoning of Soho/Noho/Chinatown in 2021,” plus supported the demolition of East River Park for a coastal-resiliency project, the Alliance said, charging that Rivera is pro-development. On the other hand, the Alliance positively described Ryan as a “community activist and environmentalist.”

Downtown Independent Democrats — whose home turf is Soho, although they do cover a wider area — did not endorse in the District 2 race. Ryan’s past association with Place NYC when she was previously a public school parent was an issue for some D.I.D. members. After Ryans’ daughters transferred to a local private school, Ryan ended her membership with Place NYC, which focuses on public schools.


  1. Lisa Lisa June 21, 2023

    I think Chris Marte is a good person and diligent representative.
    But I also agree with many of Susan Lee’s concerns.

    As for Big Real Estate, rest assured that nearly every NYC elected official and even many “progressive” entities are inevitably connected to Big Real Estate one way or another.
    For example bicycle lobby Transportation Alternatives is connected to Real Estate interests.

  2. I.......m I.......m June 20, 2023


    • Keri F Keri F June 20, 2023

      Susan Lee has taken zero dollars from real estate. That is a fact! I urge you to look at her CFB filings.

      • chercher l'argent chercher l'argent June 21, 2023

        We can parse “taken “ or “given” all day, but Lee was certainly “given” lots of money from real estate developers.

        Since she did not refuse this real-estate money – as many candidates do – Lee has “taken” the money.

        Either way, her campaign is being propped up by real-estate speculators.

        Here is the fundraising flyer for her form super PAC, “People Enhancing New York” which really should be called “Developers Enhancing Their Own Pockets”

        • Mort Mort June 22, 2023

          If you possessed the agency to visit the official NYC Independent Expenditures Portal, you would see that “People Enhancing New York” has not spent a single cent in support of Susan Lee. The independent expenditure is publicly available information. As is the list of donors (not seeing the names of any developers I recognize)

          As of today (5 days before the primary), the only IEs spending in District One were DID and PBA, and neither are supporting Susan Lee.

          While I find Susan’s anti-congestion pricing stance abhorrent, and will likely be voting once again for Chris, the constant lies and slander coming from DID and SoHo NBIMBYs are not a good look.

          Stay informed,

          • chercher l'argent chercher l'argent June 22, 2023

            If you possessed the agency, you would know that PACs have 24-hours to report any campaign mailings.

            Just because the People Enhancing New York, LLC PAC is not listed on the web site today indicates nothing.

            There are six days left. Get ready for those mailings to arrive soon, right before the big election day. Then you will see the LLC listed.

            Furthermore, do you really expect the public to believe that People Enhancing New York, LLC threw a fundraiser for Susan Lee with her name prominently displayed and won’t spend a dime of that money on her campaign?

            Let’s get real. Would Ms. Lee or her campaign spokesperson care to reveal who attended the fundraiser? What’s to hide?

            Doing so would not violate the Campaign Finance Board’s prohibition on “coordination” between a campaign and a candidate.

            Where’s the coordination for a candidate to reveal to the voters who gave money at the fundraiser?

            Instead it would be an exercise in transparency by not hiding her donors’ names behind the cloud of an anonymous LLC.

  3. Amina Ali Amina Ali June 20, 2023

    Chris Marte is the only candidate not taking money from real estate. One of our biggest problems is keeping and developing affordable housing. It’s pretty obvious.

  4. Steve David Steve David June 19, 2023

    Chris Marte changes his position based on what’s going to get the most votes — and straight-up lies. Literally anyone is better than him.

    Here’s two examples:

    Defund the Police. Flip Flop. 2021 = Yes. Now = No.

    Back in 2021, Chris said, “I was the first candidate to support defunding the police,” he said, “especially by a billion [dollars], at the very least.” (See

    Now, once there was backlash and it became politically difficult in Chinatown, he changed his position. Now, he does not want to “defund the police.” (See

    Mayor Adams & the Jail. Lies.

    Back in 2021, Chris said that he convinced Mayor Adams to stop the Chinatown jail.

    Chris said: “Let me tell you what happened this past Friday. I met with the mayor and his leadership team, and made the case not to build a jail in Chinatown. There were people on that call that want the jail to happen,” Marte said.

    “But we won the mayor over to our side,” Marte claimed to applause, the Village Sun reported. (See

    Now, obviously, that’s not true. Mayor Adams never said he wasn’t going to build the jail — and the jail is going up.

    ** Chris Marte is another politican who’ll say anything to win. He has no principled positions. He just does what he thinks will get him reelected

  5. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus June 19, 2023

    I am the last certified artist living in a JLWQA building, and after 48 years, I have been sued by the owners of the illegal apartment next door, in a Partitiion case in the Southern District of New York. The person who sued us was a clerk in that court, and the federal judge, who considers the clearly fraudulent Certificate of Occupancy to be a record of ownership, rarther than my lease or stock certificate, has orded us into a forced sale.

    I wasn’t affluent when I got here, and in fact I was living in an old car with a broken winsdshield. I scraped and sanded every square inch of my place, and now, at the age of seventy, my family and I will be leaving in an even older car!

    We have been swindled out of our home, and this injustice is well known in our area, but the only politiican who actually called to see if anything can be done for us was Chris Marte.

    I was happy to vote for Chris Marte, and I believe he cares about everyone in this community.

    • Stephen Stephen June 20, 2023

      Did he do anything about it?

  6. Lynn Lynn June 19, 2023

    It is interesting to see more-affluent white residents stand with Chris. I think we will see nonwhite residents vote overwhelmingly for Susan Lee. Crime is a big issue for many communities, and our current councilmember chose to stay in the Progressive Caucus (wants to further defund the nypd).

  7. M M June 19, 2023

    Of course Soho, the whitest and most affluent part of the district, goes for Chris. Must be nice to not have any actual problems.

    Meanwhile, overall crime in Precinct 5 (Chinatown) is up 21 percent.

    • JF Hyer JF Hyer June 20, 2023

      Oh good Lord.

    • Carl Rosenstein Carl Rosenstein June 25, 2023

      No problems?

      63 SoHo stores were robbed and vandalized in the BLM “peaceful protests” in 2020. There was zero police presence for 3 nights and the looting continued throughout the area.

      Property taxes have gone up 120% in 9 years driving out longtime artist residents (“whites”), who with their sweat equity, created a new community in the 1970s. There were no quotas to pioneer an abandoned building then either. It all happened organically. SoHo has also been a stronghold of residents who came of age supporting all of the “rights” movements, as well as vehemently opposing the truly racist Vietnam War. It has always been a progressive community.

      As for your racist hogwash, during the 12-year term of CCP-connected Councilmember Margaret Chin, SoHo received absolutely zero attention other than her support of Big Real Estate’s crooked establishment of a BID, against the wishes of the residential “(white”) community, and still the City is trying to destroy the Elizabeth St Garden.

      As for Christopher Marte, I’ve called his office twice and was answered by willing and able staff who helped clear up a ridiculous summons against our building by DEP and to contact Parks to open up Petrossino Park on time in the morning.

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