Volume 16 • Issue 16 | September 16 - 22, 2003


Gerson cruises to win in Council primary

By Josh Rogers

Councilmember Alan Gerson at a recent appearance in Battery Park at a Thai festival.

Downtown Express file photo by Elisabeth Robert

Councilmember Alan Gerson won a landslide victory in the Democratic primary to defend his seat last Tuesday, defeating challenger Pete Gleason 81 percent to 19, based on Board of Election returns from 100 percent of the election districts.

Gerson won 5,909 votes to Gleason’s 1,411 and did far better than he did two years ago when he won the open-seat, seven-candidate primary with 21 percent or 3,310 votes.

“It’s a great victory for the coalition, the new movement we’re putting together,” Gerson, who represents the First District in Lower Manhattan, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not so much the numbers. We won in every part of this district.”

Leo Glickman, Gerson’s campaign manager, said Gerson won every neighborhood by a wide margin, finishing particularly strong in Chinatown and Tribeca. He said Gleason had his best showing in the Lower East Side, but Gerson won there, too.

The district includes all of the neighborhoods surrounding the World Trade Center site as well as Chinatown, Soho, Noho, the Seaport, part of the Lower East Side and the central part of the Village.

Gleason, an attorney and an ex-firefighter, sounding upbeat on the phone, said the night he lost: “I went in. I gave him a fight and I didn’t win.”

He said he “absolutely” would endorse Gerson in the November general election against Republican Seth Elliott, a financial executive who lives in Battery Park City. “I’m a Democrat, he’s a Democrat…. I wish him lots of luck.”

It was a far cry from the campaign, in which Gleason repeatedly criticized Gerson for being indecisive and also accused Gerson of violating election laws. Gleason called Gerson Wednesday to concede and offer his endorsement.

Gerson, on election night, said “I would welcome his endorsement.”

A Board of Election official said the numbers released Tuesday night would not be declared official until the voting booths are rechecked and absentee ballots are counted by the end of this week.

Throughout the campaign, Gerson pledged to continue his fight to preserve affordable housing and to make sure that the needs of residents are considered as plans to rebuild Lower Manhattan continue.

If Gerson wins the general election for a two year-term, he will be allowed to run for one more four-year term in 2005 under the term limits law.

Turnout was very low around the district, matching the sparse turnout all over the city. Visits to normally bustling sites like the Puffin Room in Soho, and P.S. 234 and Independence Plaza in Tribeca showed few if any voters. Poll workers typically outnumbered the number of voters in the room, assuming there were any. In the active 2001 primary for the open First Council seat, which coincided with the mayoral primary, over 15,000 people voted for Council. This time, with City Council the highest seat on the ballot, less than half, 7,320, voted.

John Way, a middle-aged social worker leaving the Puffin Room, said he always made it a point to vote. Way, perhaps representative, perhaps not, was not enthusiastic about Gerson, but said he voted for the incumbent because he didn’t think Gleason’s attack had any substance, and he didn’t think Gerson had done anything wrong.

“I think he’s done an adequate job,” Way said of Gerson. “I think the other guy raised straw issues that didn’t exist…. There’s no evidence that [Gerson] has been a big problem. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Way said he also voted in the Civil Court judge’s race, but since he knew little about the candidates, he didn’t want to say whom he voted for or how he decided.

“I don’t want to say what my method was because I am not that proud of it,” Way said.



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