A better choice for District 1: Jenifer Rajkumar

Jenifer Rajkumar

Jenifer Rajkumar

Four years ago Margaret Chin told us she would have said no to the deals to get beloved schools like P.S. 234 decades ago, and Spruce Street School more recently, because the community was giving away too much to corporations and developers and didn’t get enough affordable housing.

It raised our eyebrows, but we endorsed her for City Council, in part, because she made it clear that she was not against new schools, but she would use tough negotiating tactics to get the best deal for Downtown. Now a councilmember, she has said yes to worse deals then the ones she criticized and we are disappointed that she has not lived up to her promise. She does not deserve to be reelected.

When it’s time to negotiate, Chin “goes into the room…closes the door, makes the deal and shuts the people out.”

Jenifer Rajkumar, Chin’s opponent in the First District City Council Democratic primary, said that when Rajkumar announced her campaign a few months ago. Not all of her criticisms are valid, but that one is spot on.

It is true that Chin spends an extraordinary amount of time meeting with community groups and others to get their views on particular proposals, but she does not include leaders when the real talks start. This approach has alienated constituents in the Village and elsewhere over several projects, including the New York University expansion.

In a talking point published in The Villager, she promised not to back a business improvement district in Soho unless it had “substantial support,” including from Community Board 2. She ended up supporting the BID saying the proposal was altered in response to neighbors’ concerns, but there was no clear indication that community opposition had changed.

Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader living in Battery Park City and a civil rights attorney, has been an active presence in Lower Manhattan. Her record is not as strong and long as we’d like, and she has not convinced us that she will definitely be a good councilmember, but her intelligence, her communication skills and her diligence give us hope. We think she deserves a chance.

One of the most disturbing things about this campaign is that the real estate industry and others that make up the Jobs for New York PAC have tilted the field for Chin with frequent mailings on her behalf. The city’s model campaign finance system has been compromised by the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

While Chin doesn’t control this independent real estate money, she is the clear beneficiary, and if she wins, she will have strong incentive to keep satisfying developers, particularly since she would be able to run for re-election one more time.

If Rajkumar wins, her incentive would be to provide good representation to the people of Lower Manhattan to ensure her own re-election — the way democracy is supposed to work.

To be clear, we are not saying Chin does not work for her community. Her successfully winning 50 percent affordable housing at SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area), for one, was a major victory for her and the community. We recognize her many years of advocacy for affordable housing, immigrant rights and ballot access — and we hope that work continues, win or lose. But the Real Estate Board of New York is clearly happy with her first term, and if Chin wins, she would be taking a political risk if she opposed them.

At the South Street Seaport, she passively accepted a false city argument that two land use reviews known as ULURPs couldn’t be discussed in tandem, when in fact the city did exactly that nine years ago in Tribeca in a deal that led to a new community center and more school space. She defended the city’s decision to redact a key section of an agreement in which the Seaport’s developer, Howard Hughes Corp., outlined its intention to build a large hotel and residences in the neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine that more community needs could not have been met had Chin been more forceful negotiating the Pier 17 deal at the Seaport.

She has not been an effective representative for the community. We have not just heard this from a few activists from a few neighborhoods; we’ve also heard the same thing privately from community leaders and others who have nothing against her.

The only way to get better representation is to vote people out when they fall short. If Rajkumar doesn’t do a good job, she’s not likely to be able to stay in office for another term.

But we think Rajkumar has what it takes to be a good councilmember. The Villager endorses Jenifer Rajkumar in the Sept. 10 primary.

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36 Responses to A better choice for District 1: Jenifer Rajkumar

  1. Village Resident

    Thank goodness! Go Jenifer! Chin did us in, and Jenifer is our hope for the future. The Villager is exactly right. Jenifer has the intelligence, diligence, and ability that we need. She is energetic and I personally believe that we are only beginning to see the great things Jenifer has to offer.

  2. Excellent. Let's all come together now and make sure Rajkumar crosses the finish line to victory. We need someone in there elected by the people, not by the real estate industry.

  3. Stanford Law Grad. Civil Rights Lawyer. Community activist. Sounds good to me. Rajkumar's a potential game changer. As for Chin, I have no words to express my disappointment with Chin's 4 years. Just no words.

  4. I have to say, this is one the very few elections in my lifetime that makes me want voice my support and actively get involved for Jenifer. I don't consider myself very political, but in my 40 years of voting this happens to one of those rare instances. Everyone, you have to meet Jenifer and you have to vote for her. The Villager knows it, I know it, my neighbors know it, and for everyone else in my community who doesn't, I vow to speak to as many of them as I can. We need Jenifer. Lets all come together and bring change to our community. JENIFER RAJKUMAR FOR CITY COUNCIL, VOTE SEPTEMBER 10TH!!!!

  5. Round The Rosie

    A candidate winning with grassroots support instead of being carried on the backs of big real estate? Sounds good to me. Jenifer 4 Council!

  6. Can think of nothing better than the center The Village getting what they deserve – a braggard blowhard with NO experience, NO job history, NO negotiative experience, no management experience and who lied about a supposed nonprofit she formed.

    Certainly hope that voters in The Villagers larger drawing area…an area that the editorial board spent scant time in consulting… will bring sanity to the final outcome in this primary.

    • At the age of 30, a Law degree from any college let alone Stanford Law would be enough to make 99.999 of people happy. Set aside – District Leader, Board of WCF, Founder of W-SPIN and position at prestigious law firm.
      You must be a one of 0.001 % who always sees glass half full and is always angry.
      Are you part of Jobs3NY or REBNY ?

  7. Mommy..Mommy. When I grow up I will become council member so that I can help rich real estate developers so that after I leave the council I have a good high paying job waiting for me.

  8. Talk about spin. The spin to seek revenge on Margaret Chin has been cutthroat and frankly, I'm surprised at The Villager and Downtown Express for falling, hook, line and sinker. Sure all people make a few mistakes but the fact that someone who considers herself a "civil rights" attorney, Jennifer sure dishes out insults and accusations, most of which not hold up in court. Pay some dues first – do SOMETHING – ANYTHING – and then ask to sit in such an important seat. And such behavior! Wow. What exactly is Ms. Rajkumar proud of? Aside from showing up and saying she spoke here and there – what the heck has she DONE????? Does anyone who feels like it get to represent lower Manhattan in City Council? Don't they have to have some kind of real track record? The hype and sometimes out and out lies are despicable and what kind of representative would we have? I don't trust people who have done nothing and lie to suddenly turn around and then do a job with integrity. Voting for a person who is not qualified just to prove a point is beyond foolish. And putting someone up for office to seek revenge is archaic. Just don't vote.

    • At the age of 30, a Law degree from any college let alone Stanford Law would be enough to make 99.999 of people happy. Set aside – District Leader, Board of WCF, Founder of W-SPIN and position at prestigious law firm.

    • Let us compare apples with apples and not indulge in baseless rhetoric. We can only compare candidates by what they accomplished by age 30.
      Margaret Chin- 1.Graduated from City college.2. Probably teaching at Laguardia Community college in adult education . 3. Founding member Asian Americans for Equality Group. – That is it.

      Jenifer Rajkumar- 1. Graduated with double major from University of Pennsylvania. 2. Graduated from Stanford Law School 2. Worked at Civil rights Law firm. 3. Worked at National Women Law center.3. Served on the board of WIN, (Washington, DC), 4. District Leader 65C. 5. Served on the board of WCF. 6. Founding member of W-spin ( start up Non profit).

      But Dear Guest you are not interested in Facts.

  9. Yes she has been cut throat in representing her developer friends and cutting throat of the constituents.

  10. Margaret Chin held no elected office before she became City Councilmember. In 2009 I thought that would make her more likely to stand up for average New Yorkers, but her inexperience and lack of negotiating skills has caused her to do the bidding of Speaker Quinn and moneyed interests. Chin gave away PUBLIC PARK land to NYU, did not protect the South Street Seaport Museum from the Hughes Corporation undervalued contract, and more, to the detriment of her constituents.

    Chin has brazenly lied to constituents time and time again. Chin has demonstrated that she is in developers' pockets. Hence the startling $100,000+ PAC money from the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY).

    Jenifer Rajkumar is an Ivy-league educated UPenn (phi beta kappa) and Stanford Law School (summa cum laude) graduate, a civil rights attorney and the elected Downtown District Leader. As a civil rights attorney, Jenifer has experience in negotiating with powerful corporations and government for regular and disenfranchised people.

    Chin represents moneyed interests and Rajkumar represents people. We need a City Councilmember who will represent, we, the people.

    • Anyone who knows Margaret's history knows she was a strong activist for at least 30 years in lower Manhattan.She did not hold an office but she was in the streets, always fighting for the rights of the people. Believe what you will. You're being fooled for a few personal agendas.

      • If we assume that you are right, and Chin has been fighting in the streets this whole time, how did that work out for us??? Look at what our neighborhood has turned into – bars and drunks everywhere, univerisities and students over-running everything, big flashy hotels displacing local residents, and developers turning our neighbors into 24-hour playgrounds for tourists. What about us? Who's rights did Chin fight for? Why didn't Chin do anything for the voters who live here?

  11. I've never gotten involved in politics before, but I've been so disappointed in Chin that I'm now a volunteer for Jenifer Rajkumar. Others should get to know her – she's a very smart person. Chin is not a bad person, but she does not deserve to be re-elected. But for change to happen we have to do more than just vote Rajkumar; we have to tell our neighbors and friends in the area to get out and vote for Jenifer. Don't let others just pull a lever because is says encumbent next to it. Please, Vote Rajkumar!

  12. Rajkumar has never litigated a single case – civil rights or anything else; has never been present in a NYC negotiation nor can she produce any proof that she has successfully negotiated anything at all; has served less than 2 years as a District Leader, INTERNED at several Law Firms – outside NY; founded a bogus, unregistered nonprofit. BTW sitting on a Board is a voluntary position and have you check the recent activity of WIN?; they have been dormant for several years.

    Has anyone asked to see her tax return? Check her profile on LinkedIn, she hasn't held ANY position – intern, otherwise for more than a year – that kind of says something ! Check her listing on Martindale-Hubbel; she isn't even associated with a law firm. So, unless she has some powerful special interests who will be pulling her strings somewhere in the background (maybe the entity that has been supporting her all these years) and managing her City Council office (in the background) just how successful do you think she's going to be at convincing anyone to do anything…including her fellow City Councilmembers.

    This endorsement is absurd. Shame on The Villager for doing so little background checking on this one.

    • Downtown Truth

      This is the kind of crap that emanates from a desperate and losing cause. Jenifer IS counsel to a prestigious law firm (see Martindale). She HAS litigated cases (trying a case is different, so stop the nonsense). She founded a nonprofit to help underprivileged women. She beat a 28 yr incumbent soundly in the last election. As for negotiating and convincing people, have you checked the stunning erosion of support for Chin in her own backyard, Chinatown? And you ask about her tax return??? That's pathetic. Maybe first we should check the REBNY returns for PAC money for Chin? Shame on YOU.

      • There is no law firm listed with her name on Martindale, just an address for an office. Lets see the cases she has litigated, then and if she hasn't tried any cases how's that supposed to make us feel any better about her untried skills. She came up with a name that could hypothetically help underprivileged women…but sadly there are no employees, there's no organization, there is no nonprofit. Now, where is that tax return?

    • Also I found you are wrong about a few more things. Rajkumar did not "INTERN" at law firms. She was fully employed by a civil rights law firm, and then was later fully employed by a presitigious DC based policy organization focusing on women's policy. To take this young woman's achievements and claim that they do not belong to her is just… wrong. Please stick to the facts.

      And by the way, what college did Margaret Chin go to? Oh, community college? What cases did Margaret Chin litigate? Oh, that's right, she's not even a lawyer. Give me a break.

  13. Austin,
    Give it up and get back trying to salvage the down-spiraling campaign of your employee, Margaret Chin.

  14. I too am troubled by the Villager’s endorsement.
    While I’ve disagreed with a number of Council member Chin’s decisions – vocally at City Council meetings and to her directly- she works hard, listens to her constituents, and then hammers out the best deal possible. And no, you don’t hammer out deals with a crowd – nothing would get done -witness our Congress. And yes, some of these deals are not ideal. In this current real-world political climate with the wealthy of this town (world) having full command over the resources of our city, with privatization of every government department looming and greed and profit motive going at full tilt, you cannot pretend or lead people in the pretense that you will magically make it all better. It is unconscionable to promote such deception to the communities of this city – not now, not in this time. The real work of organizing never happens from political offices – that’s our work. Chin is a close to an ally for working people as we are likely to get. And we won’t like every decision.

    As to Rajkumar, she began to lose me in her editorial on Seward Park when she schooled us on how she would have gotten 100% affordable housing –dishing the years and years of hard work by scores of community groups and the community board in one fell swoop. Having no real information or hands-on experience of what it meant to organize to affect the kinds of compromises that got us an unheard of 50% affordable housing. One could almost forgive her for that if it was only blundering naiveté – it’s good to put out big goals. But it was revelatory that she also pretended to have started a not-for-profit for disadvantaged girls when she’d done no such thing. Using the hardships of struggling young girls as a prop for one’s ambitions – how do you walk back from that?

    The problem with Rajkumar as a candidate is precisely this: she pretends she can get castles-in-the-sky (no matter who the deceit might hurt) but hasn’t learned how to get her hands dirty digging the foundation. Such disingenuousness does her no service if she ever wishes to seek a serious office.
    Graduating from an owning class institution and being a lawyer isn’t the same thing as knowing how to roll up your sleeves and do the unglamorous, give-and-take job of a community worker. It isn’t writing a tidy brief with the "sides" very clear. It’s the messiness of mixing it up with people and staying standing. I do believe Chin has these qualities.

  15. KW, Be real.
    Voters get one chance after 4 years to decide. Chin came home with a report card "F". You want to justify it by saying " teacher was biased" or " test was too hard " or " Dog ate her home work".
    At the end of the day facts are what they are.
    You can give her a 2nd chance by hiring her privately but do not ask us to take that risk.

    • Ah…maybe this is the problem. It isn't homework, she isn't a teacher and we are not in school. She's a council member, a politician who has to interface with the political reality of NYC: a city of severe and egregious economic inequality. More than any other time in our history. The 1% isn't just a slogan, it's what has happened. Struggling with that, fighting within that reality is what a council member has to do. This is a bigger fight than my wants or yours, not easily won. I don't care how you individually vote.

      And I'm quite real. As proof of that you'll note I'm the only one who uses their "real" name in this thread. I stand behind what I said. Spin that anyway you like.

  16. Jenifer is certainly better looking than Chin.

  17. Colleen Patterson

    Ms. Webster,

    Instead of belittling a female David battling a real estate Goliath, with vague comments like, Chin is "a politician who has to interface with the political reality of NYC", please specifically address Chin's:
    Sell out to NYU
    Sell out to Hughes Corp at the Seaport
    Sell out of 135 Bowery to campaign contributors
    Sell out of Chinatown to a BID of Chinatown business, bank and real-estate interests
    Sell out of SoHo to a BID backed by the real estate industry
    Sell out of OWS movement to the 1%
    Sell out of our neighborhoods to the nightlife industry

  18. Hey, Margaret, you might want to check out the Quinn endorsement article. Your good friend Christine Quinn has thrown you under the bus for the NYU 2031 Expansion Plan.

    • Sisterhood is Powerful:

      "As for the Council’s approval of New York University’s 2031 expansion plan on its South Village superblocks, Quinn, in this case, we feel, yes, definitely must shoulder some responsibility for this unpopular decision. However, she and her supporters say the onus rests on Councilmember Margaret Chin, in whose district the superblocks are located.

      One Quinn ally fatalistically told us, “Big institutions get more of what they want.” But N.Y.U. got way too much. In the end, the City Council approved nearly 2 million square feet of development. The decision is being challenged in court, though, and the plan may yet be scaled back."

  19. As someone who certainly has been " in the fight" many times over Chinatown issues ranging from transportation to commerce to quality of life and safety, I can honestly say that Margaret Chin has dropped the ball.
    To use just a single example (and there are many more) Chin and her staff and Council supporters promised the Chinatown property owners that 1) there would be extensive oversight of the Chinatown B.I.D by the councilmember and the Council, as well as the City, and that 2) they would "find a mechanism" to include B.I.D. opposition property owner's positions on the B.I.D. board. What happened? 1) Myself and Asian American Legal Defense and Education FUnd AALDEF had to threaten a lawsuit to get the B.I.D., The City Of New York, The Dept. of Small Bus., to ADMIT the B.I.D. illegally charged property owners B.I.D. fees prior to their legal existence ! 2) Several prominent property owners applied for positions on the B.I.D. board (myself included) but were denied a "place at the table" . Their election process itself is under tight scrutiny by Chinatown lawyers at this moment.
    Since it's not anyone else's money but the small businesses and small property owner's it may seem insignificant to you, HOWEVER, what other financial funny-business is going to take place in the future, if we continue with this level of apathy?
    Margaret Chin's close ties to the B.I.D.'s financial supporter and official bank First American International Bank, the owner of the now-demolished 135 Bowery, is a shining example of poor logic and flip-flopping that should be raising a red flag in even the most staunch Chin supporter.
    SPeaking of "how do you walk back from that"? @ Kaye Webster I would ask you the very same thing.
    You have singular issues you want to raise in comparison between Chin and Rajkumar, but conveniently neglect the ILLEGAL financial improprieties that took place under Margaret's so-called oversight of the pseudo private public company that is the Chinatown B.I.D. who has a budget of $1.3 million of property owner's money. Money which is controlled by the very bank responsible for the tear down of a formerly land-marked building.
    Perhaps the supporters of Chin are unwilling to admit that decades of social work is not enough to be effective from the Council seat. I for one see Rajmkumar's youth and so-called inexperience in Chinatown as a fresh start, ready to hear issues without the decades of accumulated special interest baggage. – Jan Lee

  20. I got a mailing from Rajkumar that stated that the NYU building project was a "land-grab". NYU can't grab the land it already owns. I would have expected better from a candidate who touts her Ivy League degrees as proof that she's capable of leading.

    • You are right, Saul. But NYU needs 3 parcels of land that are owned by the City, and although they are controled by DOT, they have been considered park space for decades. For NYU to build its gigantic eye-sores, they must have those 3 parcels, and are definitely grabbing them from the taxpaying residents. You are either uneducated on this matter or just trying to twist the facts. Feel free to do your homework and get back to us.

  21. Connect the Dots

    In response to Saul: Simply put, NYU has been given our public land – park land. Which the City Council has no right to do, only the State can alienate public land. This is an argument that is part of the lawsuit filed by many community groups which is ongoing.

    The land that NYU does own – that was given to them when they almost went bankrupt the first time – had deed restrictions that were put in place specifically mandating open space to preserve light and air between high buildings. They have now overturned those deed restrictions put in place specifically so what they are doing would never happen. A travesty that will be written about long after we are gone.

    • Actually you should check your facts. Judge ruled in April 2013 that the areas were never designated as parkland. I'd hardly call a dog run parkland. The issue here is also Rajkumar's background and credibility which are pretty poor. I agree with other commentators above that point out that her charity doesn't exist, doesn't raise funds, etc. and her other claims about meetings she's never attended. I don't agree with all of Chin's votes but on balance I think she's done a fair job. Like others, I don't think Rajkumar deserves the endorsement of the Villager.

      • oh comon on, Rajkumar started a charitable organization for her future work. It is just a shell that she hasn't gotten off the ground yet. There is nothing mysterious about it, and she does not hide the fact that she has yet to begin work on it. People do this all the time, so that they have an incorporated entity to later develop. You can't even make a mountain out of this mole hill.

        It's not personal, it's just the Chin does not have the skill set required to stand up to over-develoopment and the real estate interests that are over-taking our neighborhood. And Chin said at the debate that she has no interest in seeking further office; she's about to retire; whereas Rajkumar will be around to help this district for a long time to come – with term limits now the law this is very important.

  22. Jenifer Rajkumar is for true representation of her many varied constituents throughout Council District 1 and will be a refreshing change from the flip-flopping and mendacity of the last four years.

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