Showing the love for Jon Geballe, center, after his win in last week’s County Committee election for district leader were, from left, Brad Hoylman, Keen Berger, Deborah Glick and Tony Hoffman.
GEBALLE WINS ROUND 1: After all the buildup, the district leader election at last Thursday’s convention of the local County Committee for the 64th Assembly District, Part A, turned out to be a blowout. Jon Geballe, former president of Village Independent Democrats, won with 55 votes to Arthur Schwartz’s four and Deley Gazinelli’s two. Schwartz is hoping to recapture the district leadership, which Brad Hoylman took over from him six years ago. “We knew that we were going to win, but we didn’t know it would be by this much,” Tony Hoffman, current V.I.D. president, said after last week’s vote. Geballe was backed by Hoylman and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler also threw in his endorsement just hours before the election. However, Schwartz vowed to run in the upcoming primary election, no matter what. But he’ll be facing an organized opposition, just as he did in last week’s County Committee election, which was held to fill the seat until the primary. “We’ve been working on this ever since Brad resigned” as district leader to become state senator, Hoffman noted. “I don’t think Arthur’s mailings — without any support from elected officials, without any grassroots support — can beat our grassroots support.” While Schwartz was able to rebound from losing the district leadership to knock off incumbent State Committeeman Larry Moss six years ago, Hoffman scoffed that was only because Moss ran a limp campaign. Geballe, in his allotted three minutes of comments to the County Committee before the vote, pointedly remarked that, if elected, he would stand with Glick to “protect the waterfront” from overdevelopment — referring to proposals for residential housing at Pier 40 being pushed by the local youth sports leagues and the Hudson River Park Trust. Noted Hoffman, “Arthur has a very different vision of the waterfront than the activists do — he supports development. Arthur’s and Deborah’s vision of the waterfront are 180 degrees opposite. The V.I.D. and most of the people in the West Village support Deborah Glick’s vision of the waterfront.” Of the four people who voted for Schwartz, one was notably Rich Caccappolo, a former president of Greenwich Village Little League who recently took over from Schwartz as chairperson of Community Board 2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee. Also on the waterfront, Hoffman added that Geballe is one of the pro-bono attorneys fighting the Spectra gas pipeline at Gansevoort Peninsula. “Basically, there was an extremely well-organized effort,” Schwartz conceded after his pummeling. “Tony Hoffman is a very good organizer — he was a district leader for 10 years. He had all his ducks lined up. My hat’s off to him.” He also accused Hoylman and District Leader Keen Berger of packing the County Committee with “friends.” Speaking of Berger, Schwartz intimated that she may face a challenge. “I may have a female candidate,” he noted. “I can’t say yet. But I would say that having two straight district leaders would be inappropriate for the Village.” Geballe, Berger and Schwartz are all straight. Hoylman, Berger’s former co-district leader, is openly gay. Hmm, would Schwartz enlist his former co-district leader, Aubrey Lees, with whom he publicly feuded ferociously? “Yeah, right!” he laughed at our suggestion. We told Schwartz that Hoffman guaranteed their grassroots effort will trounce him, and it sounded like the longtime waterfront activist bristled a bit. “O.K., and my response to Tony is when he ran for Assembly he came in fourth with his grassroots effort, against Deborah Glick in 1990,” he noted, “which is why he disappeared for 20 years. Now, he says he’s back.” Schwartz said he’s running on his record of activism in the community, and that his record beats Geballe’s by a long shot. As for the waterfront, Schwartz said, frankly, he doesn’t believe there’s that much opposition out there to the residential plan — save for the same few activists from decades ago who turn up at meetings on the issue, like Ben Green and Marcy Benstock. For her part, Berger is happy Geballe won. “I am very excited to be working with Jonathan,” she said. “I am so glad that I have a district leader that I will be able to consider a partner in this difficult Assembly district.” To Schwartz’s threat to run a lesbian against her, Berger replied, “I believe that I am a good district leader for everyone — that’s my goal. I do represent everyone, of every sexual orientation, of every age, of every economic background. To choose someone specifically because of these particular qualities — it’s just not what the Village needs.” When we spoke to the winner, Geballe, this week, he reiterated his strong position on the waterfront. “I will be standing with Deborah,” he said, “and like Deborah, I feel that residential development on the waterfront is not the way to go for the community. The Pier 40 Champions plan — to the extent that it has residential on the waterfront — is not the way to go. The Durst plan, for adaptive reuse and mixed use, seems to be much more the way the community should be going,” he added, referring to the office space-and-retail plan, without residential housing, for Pier 40 being promoted by developer Douglas Durst. “I certainly want the kids to have enough field space,” Geballe said. “But putting residential on the waterfront ignores the fact that we’ve had two hurricanes in two years.” Ironically, while it was Maria Passannante-Derr who nominated Schwartz for district leader at the County Committee election, the president of the Village Reform Democratic Club, Schwartz’s home club, didn’t vote for him, and, in fact, most V.R.D.C. members also went for Geballe. Asked to explain that discrepancy, Derr told us, “I nominated Arthur Schwartz to remind people that he has a progressive record of community advocacy. However, we disagree on his pro-residential development of the waterfront. I voted for Jon Geballe because, he has stated, on several occasions, that he is committed to park development options other than residential.”