Johnson and Rajkumar win V.I.D.’s backing for Council

corey and yetta

Corey Johnson, left, won V.I.D.’s endorsement over Yetta Kurland, right.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  In a very competitive endorsement vote for the upcoming City Council District 3 (Greenwich Village/Chelsea) primary election, the storied Village Independent Democrats club gave their nod to Corey Johnson over Yetta Kurland last Thursday.

In the first round of voting, Johnson got 26 votes to Kurland’s 22; a third candidate who recently entered the race, Alexander Meadows, got 7 votes, and there were also 3 “no endorsement.”

Under the progressive club’s rules, because Johnson didn’t win a simple majority (50 percent plus 1), a runoff was then held. Ultimately, Johnson picked up significantly more voters than Kurland in the runoff — 5 versus 1 — going on to win by 31 to 23, with 1 “no endorsement.” One club member later said the runoff showed that, although Kurland has a very loyal core following, she may not be able to expand her base as well as Johnson can.

In somewhat of an upset, in V.I.D.’s Council District 1 (Lower Manhattan) endorsement vote, District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar beat incumbent Councilmember Margaret Chin by 29 to 20, with 6 votes for “no endorsement.”

In the endorsement for Council District 2 (East Village), sitting Councilmember Rosie Mendez easily won the club’s support for a third term over opponent Richard Del Rio, by 50 votes to 2, with 3 “no endorsement.”

The candidates were each given six minutes to address the club, after which there were six minutes for questions and answers.

Kurland was asked about whether she owned a handgun, and said no. Jim Fouratt — a former ally of Kurland’s on the St. Vincent’s Hospital issue who subsequently fell out with her — didn’t feel she had addressed the question sufficiently.

Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar.

Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar.

“Answer the question!” Fouratt demanded, drawing a sharp rebuke from club president Tony Hoffmann.

Kurland is a civil rights attorney who formerly also owned an English language school. She has, in the past, variously said she needed the firearm as a “court officer” and also because she was designated to have it by her Hello World Language Center as part of its post-9/11 security protocol.

At the same time, Kurland has led gun-control vigils — after the Tucson shooting that left Congressmember Gabby Giffords critically injured and also after the more recent Newtown school mass shooting.

Meanwhile, two years ago, The New York Times, in an exposé on high-profile New Yorkers with gun permits, had “outed” Kurland as being a gun owner.

After the Newtown shooting, The Villager queried Kurland again about her gun, and she told the newspaper that she no longer had the weapon because she had left the school.

Kurland basically reiterated this statement to V.I.D. last Thursday night, saying that while she had been the “gun custodian” for her language school, she no longer has a gun.

Being designated the gun custodian was a responsibility she took “very responsibly,” she noted, though added, “It was not a position that I at all was interested in or took delight in.”

However, she added, “The welfare of hundreds of students who came into this country and were under our auspices is something that’s very serious.”

“It is unfortunate,” Kurland said, “that this issue has been used to try to undermine my candidacy and my work.”

She said the real issues include, among others, banning assault weapons, ensuring there are background checks for gun buyers and making sure weapons are kept out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Speaking after the vote, John Geballe, the club’s immediate past president, said Kurland “gave a good answer” on why she had had a gun. “She said, ‘Yes, I had a gun, but I stood with the people that were for gun control.’ ”

As for Johnson, Geballe said, “Corey was very solid in saying that there was going to be a sea change in government. There’s going to be a lot of new city councilmembers, a new mayor, a new comptroller. There will be 10 or 11 new councilmembers in Manhattan, plus five others.”


Incumbent Councilmember Margaret Chin.


One observer said, in his opinion, it was an “upset” that Johnson had beaten Kurland for the club’s support.

“I mean, she’s a woman, a civil rights attorney…,” he said, requesting anonymity.

But others said both Kurland and Johnson had come to the endorsement vote fully expecting to win.

In their comments before the club, both Chin and Rajkumar started out by referring to their immigrant roots. In Chin’s case, she said she recently marked her 50th anniversary of having landed in New York City without winter boots on a snowy day.

She said she had looked up at the City Council Chambers ceiling on that anniversary and, realizing how far she has come, said to herself, “This is what the American Dream is all about.”

Rajkumar noted her parents landed here with “$300, a suitcase and dreams.”

Chin said she has overseen four ULURP (uniform land-use review procedure) applications in the past year alone, with three of them being for major rezonings and development projects. Though noting “not everybody was happy with what happened” on the ULURP for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, she said she felt the right “delicate balance” had been achieved.

“It wasn’t 100 percent affordable housing, but we got 50/50,” she said. “On top of that, we got a school.”

She notably didn’t mention the ULURP for New York University’s 2031 expansion plan in the South Village.

Tom Connor, a member of the Greenwich House Senior Center, said, “Margaret has been there” for local seniors, assuring that their programs aren’t cut.

Surprisingly, there were no questions for Chin — something Hoffmann later chalked up to it having been late in the meeting, so “people were tired.”

In her remarks, Rajkumar, who recently announced her campaign against Chin, said, “I’m here to stand up for my community.” As for why she decided to run, she said, “What I saw was there was a representative not listening to the people.”

She said the N.Y.U. 2031 plan approved by Chin and the City Council was a threat to “our homes — to Greenwich Village” that would make the area look like “Midtown Manhattan.” Rajkumar lives in Battery Park City.

“And on the Seaport,” Rajkumar added, “the Council hid part of the development.”

She said one of her favorite sayings was by a law professor of hers who told her, “Courage is a muscle and needs to be used… . I’m going to be a person who has courage,” she said.

“I took a leap of faith,” Rajkumar said, of her decision to run. “And I ask you to take a leap of faith, too,” she told the club members. “Because I know we can do so much better.”

Dodge Landesman spoke for Rajkumar, saying she had “risked arrest” when she and scores of other local residents were tossed out of the City Council by Speaker Christine Quinn before last year’s vote on N.Y.U. 2031.

Afterward, asked about the club’s endorsement of the upstart Rajkumar over Chin, V.I.D. President Hoffmann simply commented, “It was N.Y.U.”

During her Q&A with club members, Mendez, when asked about the New York City Housing Authority’s infill development plan, said, “Personally, I don’t like the idea. There is a federal process that has to be put in place, and NYCHA is just steamrolling this along.”

Queried by Fouratt about what can be done to keep the Village from losing its supermarkets, Mendez said that Councilmember Robert Jackson has a bill pending that would implement some form of commercial rent control, but that it has “sat in the City Council for the past year.”

Speaking in support of endorsing Mendez were Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Brad Hoylman.

Glick said Mendez is a politician who has never lost “the connection” to her community.

Said Hoylman, “Rosie is an elected official who leads from the heart — and that is so valuable in this job.”

Del Rio is pastor of Abounding Grace Ministries, which has held worship services in P.S. / M.S. 34 on the Lower East Side for the past four years. Although the Department of Education wanted to put an end last year to religious groups using its school spaces for worship services, a district judge’s injunction is allowing the churches to continue the practice.

V.I.D. also endorsed Scott Stringer for comptroller and Cy Vance for re-election as Manhattan district attorney.

Click on the link below for a video from the V.I.D. endorsement meeting in which Yetta Kurland responds to a question about her having owned a handgun in New York City and shares her views on gun control in general.

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13 Responses to Johnson and Rajkumar win V.I.D.’s backing for Council

  1. That's right the Council hid part of the development. After years of Chin and Quinn, Rajkumar and Johnson are just the kind of transparent, forward-thinking progressives we need in the City Council! Best of luck to them both, if only I could vote for them both!

    • This election is the choice between business as usual and someone who will bring each our neighborhoods to the table. Congrats on the VID endorsement Jenifer! Onward and upward!

  2. Rosie's my girl! Let us know what we have to do to help get the commercial rent control bill through. We've got to hold on to our supermarkets.

  3. I'm not necessarily a fan of the model-look photos, but Rajkumar will definitely do a much better job that Chin. JR, you've got my vote, but how about trying some jeans and a t-shirt sometime? Go Jenifer!

    • haha. she's definitely not your average looking pol, but i agree that's besides the point. a smart and passionate community-driven leader, rajkumar will be great in the council, much better than chin.

  4. Chin and Quinn sold us out so many times and on so many important issues, when they could've become leaders instead of disappointments. I will happily vote for an alternative, especially after being sold down the river on the NYU Zipper building plan.

  5. Lora Tenenbaum

    I, too, support Jenifer Rajkumar. She is a young, personable and very bright civil rights attorney who has been an actively involved District Leader and who chose to run for Council when it was clear Margaret Chin consistently ignores the interests of much of her district. Its not only NYU, the Chinatown BID, the Chinatown BIDs expansion into SoHo, the SoHo-Broadway BID, the Seaport, or 135 Bowery. It is her inability to intercede with City agencies to do things as bread and butter as getting crosswalks repainted. It is her going out of her way to over-ride Community Board agreements with restauranteurs in order to give the restauranteurs better deals. It is promises that are never fulfilled. It is the $6000 in donations she got from the President of the bank that owned 135 Bowery (a subsidiary of a Mainland China bank), his wife and other bank officers, the money from Fung Wah Bus, and the $3000 from people associated with the Chinatown and SoHo BIDS. Chin should be ashamed. Rajkumar gets my support.

  6. Carl Rosenstein

    It's been a long disastrous four years with Chin for anyone whose last name is not LLC, Trust or Inc. And please, enough with the tear jerking immigrant stories, what does that have to do with policy decisions or qualifications?

  7. I was born with out clothes that must qualify me to be the President.

  8. I agree with Tony Hoffman. The vote for Jenifer Rahkumar was "about NYU" and the actions of the current councilwoman.

  9. "Hoffmann simply commented, “It was N.Y.U.”" – Hoffman is soooooo wrong!
    For me, it's all about 135 Bowery, but I know for others it's about the Chinatown BID, and for others it's about the SoHo BID, and the list goes on. It is sooo clearly not about one issue.
    Ms. Chin seems like a nice woman, but she just does not deserve to be re-elected.

  10. Eldon Michael Lowery

    Contrary to what a misinformed writer stated, The Villager's seasoned reporter Lincoln Anderson was, in fact, present at the VID candidate and endorsement meeting on April 11 at St. John's Lutheran Church meeting room. I know; he interviewed a friend of mine whose statements were printed in Mr. Anderson's informative, well-written and even-handed article. Moreover, three of the reasons that Corey Johnson and Jenifer Rajkumar won their endorsements from VID is that they are better and more believable candidates and both are refreshingly pleasant!

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