Jenifer Rajkumar singing last September for her neighbors at the annual Battery Park City block party. File photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
BY JOSH ROGERS | Saying Lower Manhattan needs “a stronger, more active voice on the City Council,” Jenifer Rajkumar is about to formally announce her bid to unseat Margaret Chin in this year’s Democratic primary.
“When major developers come to the South Street Seaport, or to Greenwich Village, or to the Lower East Side, and we are deciding how the land will be used, I will always represent one thing and one thing only — the people that elected me, not any outside interests,” Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader and Battery Park City resident, said in a statement.
In two short phone interviews on Mon., March 18, she said she had not decided on an announcement date, but she left little doubt it would be coming soon. She now has a few paid consultants, and according to a campaign press release, a final decision was “days away.”
She declined to say much more before her announcement.
Rajkumar, 30, is an attorney with Sanford Heisler L.L.P. She surprised, if not shocked, Lower Manhattan political observers in 2011 when she defeated the area’s longtime incumbent district leader, Linda Belfer.
Since then, Rajkumar has been an active presence Downtown, attending community board meetings and neighborhood events, and she’s a regular at her home political club, Downtown Independent Democrats.
She did not directly criticize Chin but did say she favored “bottom-up democracy.”
Chin’s opponents have criticized her for not consulting enough with community members on issues like New York University’s 2031 development plans or on the creation of a business improvement district in Soho. It’s a charge Chin and her supporters dismiss as baseless.
Before the issue was even raised in a short phone interview on Tuesday, Chin, 58, said one of her proudest accomplishments was getting a plan approved for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area after it was stalled for decades.
“The whole community was able to come together to find a solution,” she said, adding that 50 percent of the apartments, or 500 total, would be for low- and middle-income tenants.
“I am proud of my record in the City Council and I am very confident the people in the district will vote for me overwhelmingly,” she said.
She scoffed at Rajkumar’s veiled criticisms, saying, “What have you done?”
Both candidates say they have just about raised the $168,000 spending limit they will have this year, once the expected matching funds are factored in.
Rajkumar, who has only been raising money for about two months, reported hauling in nearly $30,000 in the latest filing (including a karaoke fundraiser), bringing her total to just under $67,000. Chin took in $12,695 in her latest numbers bringing her up to $109,585.