Rajkumar readies to announce challenge to Chin

Downtown Express file photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer Jenifer Rajkumar singing last September for her neighbors at the annual Battery Park City block party.

Downtown Express file photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Jenifer Rajkumar singing last September for her neighbors at the annual Battery Park City block party.

BY JOSH ROGERS  | Saying Lower Manhattan needs “a stronger, more active voice on the City Council,” Jenifer Rajkumar is about to formally announce her bid to unseat Margaret Chin in this year’s Democratic primary.

“When major developers come to the South Street Seaport, or to Greenwich Village, or to the Lower East Side, and we are deciding how the land will be used, I will always represent one thing and one thing only — the people that elected me, not any outside interests,” Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader and Battery Park City resident, said in a statement to Downtown Express.

In two short phone interviews March 18, she said she had not decided on an announcement date, but she left little doubt it would be coming soon. She now has a few paid consultants, and according to a campaign press release, a final decision was “days away.”

She declined to say much more before her announcement.

Rajkumar, 30, is an attorney with Sanford Heisler L.L.P. She surprised, if not shocked, Downtown political observers in 2011 when she defeated the longtime incumbent district leader, Linda Belfer.

Since then, Rajkumar has been an active presence Downtown, attending community board meetings and neighborhood events, and she’s a regular at her home political club, Downtown Independent Democrats.

She did not directly criticize Chin but did say she favored “bottom up democracy.”

Chin’s opponents have criticized her for not consulting enough with community members on issues like New York University’s development plans or on the creation of a business improvement district in Soho. It’s a charge Chin and her supporters dismiss as baseless.

Before the issue was even raised in a short phone interview Tuesday, Chin, 58, said one of her proudest accomplishments was getting a plan approved for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area after it was stalled for decades.

“The whole community was able to come together to find a solution,” she said, adding that 50 percent of the apartments, 500, would be for low- and middle-income tenants.

“I am proud of my record in the City Council and I am very confident the people in the district will vote for me overwhelmingly,” she said.

She scoffed at Rajkumar’s veiled criticisms, saying “what have you done?”

Both candidates say they have just about raised the $168,000 spending limit they will have this year, when you factor in the expected matching funds.

Rajkumar, who has only been raising money for about two months, raised nearly $30,000 in the latest filing (including a karaoke fundraiser), bringing her total to just under $67,000. Chin took in $12,695 in her latest numbers bringing her up to $109,585.

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18 Responses to Rajkumar readies to announce challenge to Chin

  1. "What have you done?"
    This is generally used by people with mediocre achievements at best. There has been so much promised and so little delivered by our current council member. Historic Building turned over to foreign bank in Bowery who flipped it for a handsome profit. Bulldozer in downtown park to make way for NYU expansion that will change neighborhood for ever. SOHOBID, Chinatown BID – are examples of Taxation with misrepresentation.
    Yes Ms. Chin your opponent has not done any of those things.

  2. Downtown Observer

    Downtown deserves better than Margaret Chin. From the Soho BID, to flip flops on landmarks, to her confused response on Occupy Wall Street, Chin is out of touch with her constituents. But worse, she's just plain incompetent. Her constituent services operation is a mess, her office is run by bozo college kids, and she has no clout. Is Chin helping us build more schools? Is she winning us dollars to invest in our parks and public spaces? Is she protecting us from unscrupulous developers?

    I don't know much about Rajkumar, but we can't do much worse than Chin.

  3. Independent Thinker

    Council Member Chin has worked tirelessly for her community. Unlike most electeds, she doesn't act along party lines and instead addresses each issue looking for solutions and working toward compromise – a word that most of the bleeding liberals currently in office can't comprehend. Chin has secured significant funding for parks and culture (like the Seaport and Police Museums), championed the beautiful renovations to the east river waterfront esplanade, helped modify HH's plans to develop pier 17 to include 2 new food markets and to allow the current lease holders to remain through the summer in an effort to recoup the losses from hurricane sandy. If Rajkumar were elected, there would be no development and no compromise and the progress in our great community would stall

    • Nah. If Rajkumar were elected, the deals would just be smarter and better for our community. Time to say bye to Chin.

  4. Let’s really look at Chin’s record and follow her money trail.

    Campaign Finance records show where her true allegiance lies = the almighty dollar and shadowy Chinatown operations.

    Chin has taken $1670 from the notorious Fung Wah Bus Company and its employees, which the community has been trying to shut down for years due to its complete disrespect for the traffic and pollution laws.

    It was this company whose egregious safety record resulted in the death of fifteen people in 2011.
    Additionally, the NY Times reported on the violence, even a murder, associated with these rogue bus companies and their”cut-throat wars”.

    These are the kind of people whom Chin takes money from!

    But there is even more skullduggery:

    Employees and executives of First American International Bank gave Chin donations totaling just about $6,000.

    This is the bank that owns 135 Bowery, an old Federal building built in 1817, one of the oldest buildings in NYC, an architectural gem that Chin helped get landmarked as an Individual Landmark, an honor reserved for few buildings in our city.

    However, once the international Chinese bankers found out that their building had landmarks protection, it put pressure on Chin to reverse her prior effort.
    Incredibly, Chin pushed the Council to revoke the landmark designation that she had championed just one year earlier, resulting in the old building’s demolition by the bank to put up a commercial structure.

    Chin’s actions not only demolished am architectural treasure, but destroyed a piece of American history. Do you think overseas Chinese bankers and their puppet, Chin, care much about America’s heritage?

    Also, Daisy Lau, who clearly is related to the bank’s executive, Patrick Lau, as they are both in Hartsdale, gave $500, so there may be some ADDITIONAL HIDDEN donations from them.

    Follow the money!

  5. Downtowner Who Cares

    For years, we got nowhere with public affordable housing going up on the Lower East Side. Councilmember Chin was a key player in moving Seward Park affordable housing into reality. She is a huge supporter of our downtown schools, ball fields, community issues. Comments about money from "Chinese" bankers for the first Asian-American city councilperson representing an area largely comprised of ethnic Chinese smacks of racism. Ms Chin was Deputy Executive Director for Asian Americans for Equality for years (unlike Ms. Rajkumar who only recently found employment). One would expect Asian-American support and feel proud of it. But her past funding also had support from FiDi and Tribeca and will again.

    • “Comments about money from “Chinese” bankers for the first Asian-American city councilperson representing an area largely comprised of ethnic Chinese smacks of racism.”

      To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: “Crying RACISM is the last refuge of a Scoundrel.”

      The fact that the bank’s website vividly promotes its Chinese identity and that we reference that fact makes us racists? If anyone is pandering to race, it is clearly the bank.

      As expected, when the defenders of the indefensible have no defense, they immediately resort to invectives completely off-point as a way to deflect the people from learning the truth.

      Secondly, the fact that Chin is the first or the hundredth Asian candidate is completely irrelevant, again, something to deflect from the real facts presented about her.

      Thirdly, the district is not “largely” Asian. Again, you play fast and loose with the facts.

      Lastly, if you think Chin had any thing to do with getting SPURA moving you are woefully misinformed. It was Sheldon Silver who was blocking it for years and his decision to finally support SPURA was the catalyst, despite what Chin’s minions proclaim vacuously.

      And if you want to bring in Chin’s past, why have you neglected to mention her leadership role in a Maoist group, the Communist Workers Party – the forerunner of AAFE – which leadership role resulted in the murder of several of her followers in the 1980s.

      Or is it “racist” to criticize Maoists?

    • “First American International Bank (恆通銀行) is an overseas Chinese bank in the United States.”

    • Lest the readers be fooled by the bank’s name, please refer to the first sentence of the bank’s Wiki page:

      “First American International Bank (恆通銀行) is an overseas Chinese bank in the United States.”

      Again I ask, “Do you think overseas Chinese bankers and their puppet, Chin, care much about America’s heritage?”

  6. Concerned in the LES

    Chin is mediocre at best, a complete sell out at worst. Chin's basically a photo popper. She'll show up in the photo, but do little else. In Rajkumar, we have a chance for real quality: Ivy league pedigree, impressive legal and policy experience, and a history of commitment to fighting for the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. Time for a change. I've had enough of Chin's shoddy deals and awful "compromises."

    • Could not agree with you more.
      Did you see her picture yesterday shmoozing with Hughes corp. lobbyist in this paper.
      Ms Chin, have you no shame ?

  7. Downtown Pioneer

    Rajkumar has done nothing for the downtown community.. She is nothing but a mouthpiece who has nothing to show for her record. Chin has a record that shows she stands up for the community, makes hard choices, and brings people together and gets to a compromise. It is clear there is anger over NYU, but that project needed leadership and compromise to achieve some resolution. City Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the Greenwich Village area, supported and sought to implement, many of the changes for which local community groups advocated. Pushed for more open space, dedicating more of the new construction to academics and shrinking the block-long “zipper building. This is just one example of her leadership. While others may hide from difficult decisions Chin takes them on and the community is the better for it. We lived through many years of incompetent council members representing us. Let's not go back to that.

  8. You don’t live in Greenwich Village, do you?
    Because, if you did, you would not be writing that.

    I defy you to name one person – just one person – in Greenwich Village who supports what Margaret Chin did with NYU.
    Go on, name one.

    Do you know that she gave away guarantees that Borough President Stringer enacted?

    For example, NYU promised to provide a school for the children.
    Chin let NYU wiggle out of that promise.
    Now there is no school for our kids as part of the NYU project thanks to Chin.
    Do you support that?

    Stringer also got NYU not to stage construction on the park strips.
    Chin gave that back to NYU as well.
    So, now for the next twenty years our parkland will be a construction zone.
    You support that too?

    Chin didn’t shrink the Zipper building.
    She merely moved the massing from Bleecker Street to Houston Street, like a 3-card monte dealer shuffles the cards on the table to confuse the suckers on Broadway.

    Chin showed no “leadership or compromise” with NYU.
    She didn’t even handle the negotiations.
    She let an inexperienced staffer do that.

    Chin let NYU have the whole enchilada – then some extra on the side.

  9. I am voting for Jenifer Rajkumar this year. Chin is bad for the community.

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