Angry debate between Chin & Rajkumar

BY HEATHER DUBIN | Sparks flew as City Councilmember Margaret Chin and challenger Jenifer Rajkumar, candidates in the race for the City Council’s First District, clashed in a debate last Thursday. sponsored by NYC Community Media, publishers of Downtown Express and The Villager.

About 170 spectators — with an even show of support for both candidates — packed the room. The crowd was extremely vocal during the 90-minute debate and somewhat antagonistic with each side rooting loudly for their candidate. Both women are running in the Democratic primary election on Sept. 10 for the Lower Manhattan council seat.

Downtown Express photos by Don Mathisen City Councilmember Margaret Chin, left, and her opponent Jenifer Rajkumar.

Downtown Express photos by Don Mathisen
City Councilmember Margaret Chin, left, and her opponent Jenifer Rajkumar.


Hot topics of the debate included land use, specifically New York University and the South Street Seaport, and campaign financing. Chin claimed her opponent lacks political experience and spews misinformation, while Rajkumar knocked Chin as the candidate of big real estate, based on her support from the Real Estate Board of New York.

The candidates referenced their immigrant pasts, and were proud of their accomplishments. Chin, who grew up in District 1, recalled her journey to the United States 50 years ago, and marveled that she is a first term city councilmember today; Rajkumar, who was born here, has dedicated her life to social justice, and is a civil rights attorney.

Later in the evening, Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader from Battery Park City, acknowledged the very notion of opportunity. “This is progress seeing a South Asian American and a Chinese-American running for an office. When does that happen?” she asked. Rajkumar pointed out that we live in the Obama era, where people vote on issues and strong representation.

While Chin and Rajkumar give land use top priority, their perspectives vary.

Chin has been involved with several land use development projects during her four-year term, and looks to Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) as a boon for affordable housing. On a site that has been vacant for over 45 years, Chin was able to help secure 50 percent permanent affordable housing, which accounts for 500 units.

“Because of the community coming together — [former] site tenants, organizations, housing, and community boards working together with the city, we were able to come together and craft a compromise,” Chin said.

But Rajkumar was critical of Chin’s ability to work well with the community, and accused her of serving real estate interests rather than her own constituents.

In terms of SPURA, Rajkumar wrote an op-ed article in The Lo-Down and blasted elected officials for not doing enough for future residents. She advocates for 100 percent affordable housing in the development, and said people displaced from their homes 50 years ago for SPURA, are thankful for her position.

Chin criticized Rajkumar for not attending SPURA meetings. “How can you write an article criticizing the work people did for three years to come together for a historic compromise?” Chin asked in an angry tone.

Rajkumar said it was not her job to attend SPURA meetings, and instead listed all the community meetings she has attended, including the Battery Park City Community Emergency Response Team, where she is the government relations director. “You are not, I am,” shouted Ninfa Segarra, former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, who stood up at the debate to say this. The crowd grew wild and began to yell out questions to the candidates.

In regards to N.Y.U. 2031, and the South Street Seaport, Rajkumar was more directly involved in those land use projects, and said Chin has let real estate developers do whatever they want.

Rajkumar, who was lead council on discrimination cases with large companies, said Chin is a bad negotiator.

“It was a historical moment when Chin approved a 2 million square-foot expansion into Greenwich Village,” Rajkumar said. Rajkumar said Chin approved the city’s uniform land use review procedure against the unanimous vote of Community Board 2 and almost every resident in the Village who wanted to protect the character of the neighborhood.

Chin’s rebuttal was to declare Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s support for the plan. She also said the expansion was scaled down more than 25 percent, and there were many years of meetings on the project.

Rajkumar also took Chin to task for helping developer Howard Hughes Corp. move forward with plans at the South Street Seaport.

“She [Chin] hid a letter of intent from Howard Hughes where he said, ‘We intend to build luxury hotels and market-rate apartments.’ How can you not let that information be public?” Rajkumar questioned.

Finally, issues of campaign financing fired up the crowd and brought some to their feet, yet again. Rajkumar said REBNY is supporting Chin as a reward for putting real estate interests first. “They’re pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into this race to buy this council seat for Councilmember Chin,” Rajkumar said.

Chin suggested Rajkumar look at her campaign finance record, and questioned where the funding was. Rajkumar had asked Chin to disavow the outside real estate Political Action Committee support in a previous debate, but Chin said there was nothing she could do, and she did not want the funding.

A lightening round of questions by moderators Josh Rogers and Lincoln Anderson, editors of Downtown Express and The Villager, brought some levity to the debate. Chin is for the Yankees; Rajkumar likes the Mets. When Rogers asked for a positive adjective to describe their opponent, Rajkumar said, “I love the colors that she wears,” (both candidates had on different shades of pink) and “Female,” was Chin’s answer.


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11 Responses to Angry debate between Chin & Rajkumar

  1. Downtowner who knows

    GO Chin! Jenifer Rajkumar is an empty shell is not qualified to be a community board member, let alone an elected official.

    • uninvited guest

      Regrettably, I mistakenly hit the + button on this comment when I meant to hit the – button.

      But while I'm here, let's talk about the word "qualified' for a minute. Chin is qualified, if by qualified one means experienced with giving away District 1 a piece at a time to big Real Estate Developers, shutting out the pleas of District 1 constituents, and ignoring Community Board 2's unanimous vote against NYU 2031.

      As a District 1 constituent for 34 years, I am more than ready for Jenifer's fresh approach. She listens to us, and she stands united with us on the issues that matter to us most. (Her decision to run was born on July 25, 2012 when she was thrown out of City Hall alongside a hundred opponents of NYU 2031.)

      I am tired of enduring Chin's policies that are almost universally hostile to the public, except for the occasional crust she tosses when she thinks it will translate into political capital for her. I do not believe I have ever seen a more nakedly self-serving politician than Chin.

      Look at how many people in Chinatown, small business owners, independent property owners, restaurant workers, are fed up with Chin. Does that not say something?

      District 1 deserves better. Jenifer Rajkumar is the true progressive candidate in this election who will do better by us, of that I am certain.

      Vote for Jenifer, and before you get to the polling station on September 10th spread the word that Jenifer is our change in the making!

  2. I was at that debate, and I'll tell ya first hand, Chin flat out won. She had the facts and the counterpoints. Rajkumar couldn't take the heat in the kitchen!

    • Chin had the facts? Margaret, is that you?

      Chin couldn’t name a novel she liked! LMAO

      She couldn’t honestly say a “yes” or a “no” to whether she supports the SoHo BID.

      Let me guess. You were one of those Chin thugs in the back of the room, shouting Rajkumar down?

  3. Follow the Dollaz

    Margaret Chin got caught with her pants down on Lulu's, defended Citizens United as the law of the land, and couldn't name her favorite novel. Literally, could not name a novel. Even when pressed. Vote Jenifer Rajkumar on September 10 if you want a City Council Member who reads.

    And ya know, who actually works with community groups.

    Or who doesn't sell her neighborhood out to big real estate just in hopes that they'll finance her re-election campaign.

  4. I was at the debate too and, If I'm hiring one of these ladies to be my negotiator, my representative in the City Council, I'm voting for Jenifer. She showed the ability to both be kind and be fair, to disagree with someone without acting smug about it.

  5. "Chin suggested Rajkumar look at her campaign finance record, and questioned where the funding was. Rajkumar had asked Chin to disavow the outside real estate Political Action Committee support in a previous debate, but Chin said there was nothing she could do, and she did not want the funding."

    I don't recall her ever saying she didn't want the funds. In fact, when she was asked to denounce their support, she said yet again, 'there's nothing I can do about it."

    And let's be real, REBNY wouldn't be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Margaret's reelection if they didn't have proof that it's a good investment for their interests.

  6. RabbiBibiGoldstein

    Rajku is spicy!

  7. MenachemAbromowitz

    Rajkumar is hotter than Vindaloo!!!

  8. If land use has been one of Chin's responsibilities for the past 4 years, then how come new schools have not been incorporated into any of her negotiations. Why now after the DOE has confirmed that a new school is necessary downtown is she making it one of her priorities.

    • Why? Because, unfortunately for all of us who live Downtown, Chin is a TERRIBLE Negotiator. Besides bad deals for her constituents, what has Chin ACHIEVED? She claims to have created classrooms & housing, but that's all just words on paper and she has not gotten any built.

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