Rajkumar’s running against Chin; Vows to be pro-community

Photo by Josh Rogers Jenifer Rajkumar formally kicked off her City Council campaign on the City Hall steps on Sunday.

Photo by Josh Rogers
Jenifer Rajkumar formally kicked off her City Council campaign on the City Hall steps on Sunday.

BY JOSH ROGERS  |  City Council candidate Jenifer Rajkumar made her formal announcement Sunday, accusing opponent Margaret Chin of listening more to big developers than the people of Lower Manhattan.

“Under this top-down approach, the councilmember goes into the room with a real-estate or outside interest, closes the door, makes the deal and shuts the people out,” Rajukmar said of Chin, the incumbent, who is also running in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.

Rajkumar, 30, a Dem-ocratic district leader and attorney who moved to Battery Park City in 2010, chose the most common New York City location for a campaign announcement, City Hall, for an uncommon reason.

“It is at this very spot that I decided to run for Council,” Rajkumar (pronounced rahj-KOO-mar), said April 7. Last July, she and other opponents of New York University’s expansion project were not allowed to stay in the Council Chambers for the vote in which Chin and all but one of her colleagues approved the plan.

“We were kicked out of City Hall that day,” Rajkumar said. “We were not listened to and the Council nearly unanimously voted in favor of the gargantuan expansion into the Village.”

Chin did win concessions from N.Y.U., reducing the size of two of the proposed buildings by more than half, but many in the Village said the project was still out of scale for the neighborhood.

Rajkumar, who did not mention Chin’s name Sunday, also criticized the councilmember’s vote three weeks ago to approve the redevelopment of the Pier 17 mall in the South Street Seaport.

“We wanted to preserve the historic Seaport district, ensure its future in the face of large development and preserve a world-class food market,” Rajkumar said.

Chin and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn got the Seaport developer, Howard Hughes Corp., and the city to agree to two locally sourced permanent food markets of more than 10,000 square feet nearby, but Rajkumar said the markets would be too small.

It was only after the Council approved the plan that the city released the unredacted portion of its agreement outlining the Hughes firm’s intention also to build a large hotel and apartment building in the neighborhood.

A few weeks prior to the Council vote, Rajkumar did not offer specifics on what her Pier 17 strategy would be if she were representing the district. But on Tuesday she said that the land-use application was a missed opportunity to get more concessions on the rest of the developer’s plans.

She said she learned “tough negotiating skills” as a civil rights attorney representing individuals against large corporations.

In response, Chin’s campaign spokesperson, Austin Finan, issued a statement saying the city’s uniform land use review procedure, known as ULURP, is “transparent and inclusive,” with numerous reviews and many public hearings.

“Ms. Rajkumar clearly does not understand this simple concept or she is purposely trying to mislead voters for political gain,” Finan added. “Both scenarios are troubling and indicate that she either lacks the experience or the integrity to hold public office. Councilmember Chin has always valued and listened to the concerns of her constituents. No one is ever shut out or turned away from her office, and that is a policy she will continue to uphold when she is re-elected.”

Rajkumar is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford Law School.

If elected, Rajkumar said she would employ “bottom-up leadership” in which community members would be included in negotiations. She would also let constituents vote on how to spend discretionary money set aside for the district.

“I am the girl always on your corner, the district leader asking, ‘What can I do for you in the neighborhood?’” she said at City Hall.

The First Council District, one of the most diverse economically, includes Wall St., Chinatown, the Seaport,  Battery Park City, Tribeca and Soho, as well as parts of the Village and the Lower East Side.

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34 Responses to Rajkumar’s running against Chin; Vows to be pro-community

  1. Follow The Money

    After the last couple weeks, any candidate who pushes for participatory budgeting and brings us into the process by which our city funds are spent gets my vote. Thank you Jenifer for your leadership on this issue!

    • Very Impressed

      Jenifer Rajkumar was fabulous on her announcement on Sunday. WOW! I especially liked when she spoke in 4 languages for a diverse district, and she kept it positive (unlike Chin, who is already making personal attacks). Jenifer has been a breath of fresh air as our District Leader. I like her much better than Chin, who has been selling out and doesn't stand up for us. Let's seize this opportunity to put in a fresh, smart, energetic leader who will stand up for our community.

      Also, check out Jenifer Rajkumar in the NY Times yesterday. What a great candidate we have in Jenifer:

      • I have the feeling this is probably the only time I'll hear the Gilded Age brought up in a 2013 campaign piece :)

  2. Battery Park Tony

    At the kick off on Sunday, one of the speakers talked about how, with St. Vincent's closed, Jenifer worked hard and organized to restore direct bus service from the west side of our District to the hospitals on the east side. She heard what we needed, and without a staff or an office, organized to make it happen. That's the kind of leadership we need in the City Council!

  3. Joan Rosenstein

    I don't mean to sound negative, but I have a hard time taking Mr. Finan's statement about Rajkumar and Chin just weeks after it was revealed that Council Member Chin has known about Howard Hughes Corp's plans for the Seaport for the past two years and kept her constituents in the dark. Sorry.

    • Agreed. First Chin pulls the wool over our eyes at the Seaport, keeping the developer's secret plan from the people for years, and ignoring hundreds of community members who came to council to testify about the plan… And now she expects us to believe her statement that she's "transparent and inclusive?" Please. Vote Rajkumar this year.

  4. Fight 4 Seward Park

    When Jenifer stood up for 100% affordable housing in Seward Park, that's when she got my vote because that's what my parents were promised when they were kicked out of their homes decades ago.

  5. Great photo Josh and there's even more great pic's here: http://eastvillage.thelocal.nytimes.com/2013/04/1…. When I look at the pictures from Jenifer's announcement, I can't help but smile. All races, classes, ages– trying to make sure that everyone's voice is being heard in our City Council. I wish Jenifer the best of luck! And we're off!

    • Just read this article. Check out her answer on the NYCHA infill plan These are the kinds of tough questions we have to ask!

      Specifically, looking at the N.Y.C.H.A. infill development program that has been proposed, I think there’s real concerns and real fears in the community about what’s going to happen to them and their open space – their playgrounds, and parking lots – that the infill development will get rid of. This will greatly impact the quality of life for these residents and it’s a very serious concern.

      I really think we need to look very carefully at this N.Y.C.H.A. infill development proposal and we need to ask tough questions and hold N.Y.C.H.A. accountable. For example, two weeks ago the federal housing authority slammed N.Y.C.H.A. for sitting on top of $1 billion since 2010, all while N.Y.C.H.A. is saying that they have to lease land to raise more money for repairs. But what about the $1 billion from 2010? It could be that N.Y.C.H.A. has the money. We have to make sure this plan is the best thing for the community.

  6. Margaret Chin has had our back for over 20 years and continues to go to the mat for us again and again, whether as an elected official or no. What has Jenifer done? Seriously.

    • Are you joking?? Chin has NOT had our back. Chin represents developers, not her constituents. She has done a terrible job. She doesn't have our backs, she STABS us in the back!! Jenifer Rajkumar, on the other hand, always stood with us, from the anti-NYU expansion, to the Seaport, to our fight against the SoHo BID, to standing up for working families in SPURA. She's a civil rights lawyer. With very impressive credentials. And she showed real passion at her announcement speech. I'm going for Rajkumar.

      • Ms. Chin lead the rejection of the LPC's historic landmarking of 135 Bowery – a beautiful federal style building that survived the Civil War among other challenges. You can't ever get that kind of history back. Do you know how hard the local community worked to get the LPC to make such a designation? That is unconscionable! And all because Chin's BID fund raiser owns the building (and now he's selling the property for big developer bucks!). Chin's a nice woman, but that was the final straw for me. Go Jenifer!!! You've got my vote.

    • Mack the Knife

      " Margaret Chin has had our back "

      Yeah, at the deep end of her knife!

    • For Jen Rajkumar

      Chin goes to the mat for us? What alternate universe do you live in? After 3 years of unsuccessfully seeking her help to get the DOT to repaint a crosswalk, we in SoHo had to ask CB2 to pass a resolution. That kind of thing is usually a no brainer for a council member. We had to ask the Borough President to help us get the dangerous broken pedestrian crossings fixed. Seven hours of horns honking by Holland Tunnel traffic backed up all the way to Kenmare Street? Not a finger lifted to get us traffic agents. In at least one case I know of, Chin went out of her way to have the City Council issue a much more restaurant/bar-friendly sidewalk cafe permit than CB2 had negotiated with the applicant. The Board had listened to the pleas of the nightlife-beset community. Chin did not. What about 135 Bowery? She led everyone to believe she was for it, and then, at the 11th hour, on behalf of the owner, a subsidiary of a mainland Chinese Bank, Chin opposed the landmarking, claiming that First American National Bank would build affordable offices. Chin failed to get a legal commitment. 135 Bowery is now an empty lot, put up for sale by the bank for $8.5mm. Now the President of the bank, his wife and several officers are listed as having contributed a total of more than $6,000 to Chin in this current campaign. I could go on and on about Chins failures to "go to the mat". Rajkumar has made it her business to know this council district…all of it…and pledges to represent us…all of us… on the grassroots level. We haven’t seen that for quite some time. And we deserve that type of representation.

    • Seriously, your question smacks of the assumption that no incumbent should ever be challenged by a newcomer. The question is what WILL she do. We all know what Silver, Quinn and Chin have done, and what Glick hasn't. Quinn, Chin, cozy. Glick, simply ineffective. Silver? been in power far too long and it has become dirty. And Glick? After this long you'd think some power has been amassed for the district, instead we get scandal, and more of the same from our so-called progressives. Across the board, it's time for a downtown housecleaning. The old guard has either been subsumed by the powers that be, or has been left behind, become ineffective.

  7. 2013 Progressive

    Sounds like a breath of fresh air! You've got my vote Jenifer!

  8. Jenifer was fantastic on Sunday, a strong forceful voice for our community! We need someone like Jenifer, a civil rights attorney, who was on the winning side of some of our country's largest class action lawsuits to be our advocate–to make sure that our views and needs are met in Council negotiations. Jenifer is a tough negotiator and has my vote! We can't continue to be left in the dark, not knowing what our Council Member is going to do.

  9. From the Seaport to NYU to the BID to Seward Park, Jenifer has stood with us when our voices have been ignored by our government! I'm voting with Jenifer because I know she'll stand with us all the way!

  10. VillagerForJenifer

    “It is at this very spot that I decided to run for Council,” Rajkumar (pronounced rahj-KOO-mar), said April 7. Last July, she and other opponents of New York University’s expansion project were not allowed to stay in the Council Chambers for the vote in which Chin and all but one of her colleagues approved the plan.

    “We were kicked out of City Hall that day,” Rajkumar said. “We were not listened to and the Council nearly unanimously voted in favor of the gargantuan expansion into the Village.”


    Jenifer was kicked out of City Hall with us that day, has spoken out against the NYU plan, and attended every hearing with us. Jenifer was with us when others were not. Jenifer is with the Village, on the side of those of us that built this neighborhood, and I am with her. Jenifer in 2013!

  11. Chin has been on the wrong side of the voter too many times: Chinatown BID, NYU, South St. Seaport, SPURA, Broadway/Soho BID, NYCHA infill sell-off, over-development, landmark designations, and that's just off the top of my head.

    I never expected this from a former communist. Just on the facts, and those she has hide from us, Chin does not deserve another term.

  12. Chin and Quinn both sold us out so badly. They both made it appear as if they were with us in trying to stop the NYU plan for La Guardia, the Zipper Building. They then BOTH rolled over and caved. It's hard to imagine they didn't profit in some fashion from their acquiescence to NYU and Sexton.

  13. Judith Chazen Walsh

    ULURP open and transparent?
    You are in the right job Mr.Finan!

    Ms. Chin needs to go – that is open and transparent

  14. Talking populism is enough sometimes for disappointed (rightly so, at times) constituents. I’d like to hear in-depth knowledge of what our communities have to thread in order to push back on hyper development during this luxury developers dream Mayoral administration. Not going to any meetings on SPURA before making a “statement” that displayed no picture of what it took to achieve a pretty good deal in this economic climate doesn’t reassure. It also diminishes the Community Board that worked their butts off to get it (and unanimously approved it).

    Laying out positions that guide us forward in human terms is important, we have to know what we're aiming for to create a just world. Attacking the person who has had to face them in real time with no acknowledgement of what it takes to get forward movement in a period of literally off-the-charts income inequality in the US – not so interesting.

    I think Ms. Rajkumar and supporters need to stop trying to read like PR script.

    • Chin the sell out

      You got it backwards Ms. Webster. Council Member Chin is the one who reads from "a PR script."

      Chin is good at 2 things:

      1. Making empty populist statements while all the while handing whole neighborhoods over to big developers and mayor bloomberg's populist agenda.
      2. Getting photo ops.

      Chin is a follower, not a leader. Why keep her in there, when we could vote in a real leader?

    • i think rajkumar was pretty thoughtful about SPURA.

  15. Terpsie Miller

    ABC = Anyone But Chin

  16. Rajkumar started living in this district in Battery Park City in year 2010. That is not enough time to know what your entire district wants. Plus, she is only 30 years old. I appreciate her enthusiasm, confidence, and tenacity.
    She was not in-depth in her PR speeches. I could have gone up there and run that by everyone. Blah, blah, blah….Any candidate can say the incumbent is working for the developers. Just because you were a law student does not make you a community advocate, nor someone that understands the needs of, especially, long time residents… I need to see something more…as well as proof of what she has done for this diverse district.

    • Chin the sell out

      Ms. Chin has offered up lower manhattan to the highest bidder and completely sold out to big developers. Ms. Chin is also completey absent in much of the west side of her district. Ms. Chin's only achievements are things that other people took the lead on, and she just followed and claims it as her own. Ms. Chin does *not* deserve re-election.

      Jenifer Rajkumar on the other hand is a civil rights lawyer who fights the tough fights. She is also active in local issues, as a district leader who was elected with an overwhelming 70% of the vote by people in both Battery Park City and the Lower East Side. I see Ms. Rajkumar everywhere. We should go with Ms. Rajkumar this year. She seems great, and frankly, anyone is better than Chin.

  17. Fine. I'll say it. They both STINK – just for different reasons.

  18. Christopher B.

    NYU got exactly what it wanted from Chin. Of course NYU threw in the kitchen sink and then said it granted concessions when its proposal was scaled back. Any developer knows to ask for more than it really wants. Chin just gave into everything. Why does NYU have to be any bigger than it already is? Why do huge universities have to be in large cities? Wouldn't it make more economical sense to have large universities in small college towns?

    • I agree. Somehow providing education at $50K per year (tuition, room and board, etc.) is somehow considered a great thing by NYU President Sexton and Mayor Bloomberg. NYU doesn't need to be any bigger than it already is. In fact, it is too large already.

  19. Looks like Margaret China might likely lose the election. On so many of the important issues: NYU expansion, the Soho BID, the Seaport development, and Greyhound (Yo) Bus at Seward Park, she chose the big guys rather than responding to the community. It's a mystery why she would do this – she started out as a community organizer, caring about the little guy in Chinatown

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