Volume 16 • Issue 14 | September 2 - 8, 2003


Vote for Gerson on Sept. 9

Did you happen to notice there will be a Democratic primary for City Council Sept. 9? In the weeks before Lower Manhattan was attacked in 2001, there was a vigorous seven-candidate City Council campaign and many Downtowners’ mailboxes were filled with political literature nearly every day. This time around the two-candidate Council primary Downtown has received much less attention.

Councilmember Alan Gerson, who won the open seat two years ago, now faces Peter Gleason, an attorney and former firefighter who lives in Tribeca. This page endorsed Gerson the last time he ran, and although we can’t say Gerson has met all of our expectations, he is without a doubt the better candidate and clearly deserves his party’s nomination. We would have liked to have seen a stronger opponent emerge, if for no other reason than to give voters more of a choice, but one reason why none of his opponents decided to take him on again is he has done a good job.

The First Council District is probably the most economically diverse district in the city. Gerson has done well representing the entire district, which surrounds the World Trade Center site and includes Battery Park City, Chinatown, the Financial District, Little Italy, the Seaport, Soho, Tribeca, and parts of the Lower East Side and the Village.

On important issues like preserving and advocating for more affordable housing, paying attention to the needs of residents’ as Lower Manhattan is rebuilt and working to protect people from dangerous amounts of diesel fuel stored in high-tech buildings, Gerson has showed leadership.

Although Gleason has attacked Gerson on the diesel issue, it is probably the area where Gerson has shined the most. He is probably the person most responsible for bringing to light the fact that telecom buildings like 60 Hudson St. in Tribeca pose potential risks to the neighborhood. Gleason says Gerson hasn’t solved the complicated problem yet. The issue of diesel storage came to light less than a year ago, and we commend Gerson for his work with Neighbors Against NOISE, Community Board 1 and other local officials to press the city to figure out the safest way to handle the problem and to meet with residents.

Many of Gleason’s attacks are trivial, irresponsible or mistaken. For example, we do not care at all about the authenticity of the Chinese name Gerson has chosen for the ballot box and we’d like to know who in Chinatown does. We suspect Gerson’s Chinatown votes will prove how silly this argument was.

Some of Gleason’s criticisms are valid. Gerson has a tendency to become so immersed in the nuance of an issue that constituents are not always clear on precisely what his position is. The West St. tunnel, the location of the tour bus garage for the World Trade Center memorial, and whether or not to toll the East River tolls are three examples.

Gleason is correct that Gerson did not use the pulpit of the councilmember representing the people surrounding the World Trade Center site to draw more focus on the needs of residents. Gerson has gotten better in this area and we’ve noticed him becoming a more effective legislator in his second year in his office. Is there a freshmen legislator anywhere in the world who came to office representing a community that suffered so much devastation so suddenly? Perhaps, but not anywhere close to New York City.

We were disappointed to see Gerson use his power to recommend community board appointments to get enough votes to prevent Brad Hoylman from becoming Community Board 2 chairperson. There is nothing ethically wrong with doing this, but the problem is Hoylman looked like the better candidate and Gerson appeared to be worried about a potential rival. Hoylman, after all, ran a strong campaign against Gerson in 2001.

Gleason has not shown he has thought through the issues well and he has given us no reason to recommend a change in the Council. We will consider the Republican candidate, Seth Elliott, before the November general election. Downtown Express endorses Alan Gerson in the Democratic primary for City Council.


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