Volume 22, Number 30 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 4 - 10, 2009
What’s in a political name? New club is finding out
By Josh Rogers
The new political club splintering from Downtown Independent Democrats had its first meeting Monday night and just over two dozen potential members showed up.
The gathering at Independence Plaza was run by David Reck, a Democratic district leader from Hudson Square, and Bill Love, a Battery Park City resident and Community Board 1 member.
They and almost everyone in the faction that is looking to leave D.I.D. supported Councilmember Alan Gerson in his unsuccessful reelection campaign this year. They also have criticized the club’s leadership and say there has been too much fighting in D.I.D., which endorsed one of Gerson’s opponents.
The new group does not have a name yet and will likely send around an internal email vote of possible monikers.
Love said he wants something that includes “Lower Manhattan,” possibly Lower Manhattan Democrats or Lower Manhattan Progressive Democrats. Bruce Ehrmann, a Tribecan and C.B. 1 member, said he had been giving names a lot of thought and he thinks “Democratic Organization” should be in the name to make it clear the club is living in the present.
“I want us to be ‘DO,’ let them be ‘DID,’” he said. He asked if they could leave out a reference to geography, but the consensus was no. L.M.DO was then floated. “Five Points” was also suggested, although Reck pointed out that this historical neighborhood name refers to the area around present day Chinatown, east of where most of the attendees live. Someone said the name’s meaning could be updated to mean five neighborhoods, although the club’s area covers more neighborhoods than that.
Like D.I.D., the new club will include the 64th and 66th Assembly Districts, covering Battery Park City, Tribeca, Soho, Noho, Hudson Square, parts of the Village, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, the Seaport and the Financial District.
Love said since the area is so big and has a growing population, there is enough room for both clubs. He said he hoped to move forward and end much of the negativity involved with endorsement and other disputes. Attendees did try and focus on the future but some also criticized their old club.
Ehrmann said D.I.D. reminded him of a “cult of personality like Maoism….It’s run like an ultra-left, late ‘60s organization.” He later said he was in fact a former member of Students for a Democratic Society, but thought the radical ‘60s group got bad at the end.
District leader Linda Belfer, also chairperson of C.B. 1’s B.P.C. Committee, said everyone in the room was an American citizen, a clear jab at D.I.D. club president Sean Sweeney, who is not.
When told of the comment, Sweeney said it harkened back to the “Know-Nothing” party of 150 years ago.
“It’s sad that sentiment is still around in Lower Manhattan,” he said.
He said the “cult of personality” comment is also ridiculous since he has already said he will step down as president next year after a five-year run. Gerson promised not to overturn term limits in the City Council, and then reversed himself and ran for reelection. “I keep my word, not like their hero,” he said in a telephone interview.
Political clubs are not as powerful as they were decades ago, but they can be influential in local elections. D.I.D. helped Daniel Squadron unseat longtime incumbent State Sen. Martin Connor last year, and this year may have played a role in Gerson’s defeat. Margaret Chin beat Gerson — who had previously won the club’s endorsement — as well as D.I.D.’s candidate, Pete Gleason.
The club had contentious meetings for their endorsements this summer and their club elections last year. In both cases, there was uncertainty and arguments over who was eligible to vote.
D.I.D. has about 200 members and Sweeney thinks things will settle down now that the people unhappy with the club are leaving. “These are the ones who are causing the fighting,” he said. “Now they’re gone….
“You think Bill Love and David Reck are going to get along,” Sweeney asked before chuckling.
Diane Lapson, I.P.N.’s tenant leader, said she was “heartbroken” over how D.I.D. has changed, and she hoped there would be less arguing in the new club.
Several officers of C.B. 1 and 2 came to the first meeting, including much of C.B. 1’s Executive Committee. Some of the notable attendees included C.B. 1 leaders like Catherine McVay Hughes, the board’s vice chairperson, Jeff Galloway and Pat Moore, who also challenged Sweeney for president last year; as well as John Dellaportas of the Save West Street Coalition; and two former Gerson staffers, Robin Forst, also a former C.B. 1 member who works for the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, and Avi Turkel, who ran for district leader this year.
The new group is starting to write its bylaws and hopes to have them approved with its new name at its next meeting sometime in January.
It’s not clear who the first president will be. Love plans to eventually move to Virginia to take care of his elderly mother and thinks someone younger should be the first leader. Reck said as a district leader, he will already be on the Executive Committee and he did not sound interested in running for any club positions.