Volume 74, Number 39 | February 2 - 8, 2005

Greenwich Village district leader ready to reengage

By Ed Gold

Periodic reports of the political demise of Democratic District Leader Arthur Schwartz have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, Schwartz is alive and well and is ready to reenter the fray.

His absence from the local scene was due primarily to personal family considerations, none of which will be discussed here.

For much of the past year he has been living outside his district leadership domain in the 66th Assembly District, Part A, including residences in Chelsea and the East Village. But shortly, he expects to return to his renovated brownstone on W. 11th St. and pick up politically where he left off.

He does indeed have a few interesting observations to make:

* He intends to seek reelection as district leader. And he intends to endorse Keen Berger, of the Village Independent Democrats club, for the other district leader slot, assuming she’s seeking reelection. He asserts that they currently have a good working relationship as co-district leaders.

* He’s very sure that LaMAPPA — Lower Manhattan Alliance for Progressive Political Action — which was a political vehicle for him, Councilmember Chris Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane, is now part of history. Like the dodo.

“Chris,” he states, “is concentrating on seeking the City Council speakership. Tom talked about running for borough president, but he may now find the Senate more interesting since the Democrats have closed the numbers gap between themselves and the Republicans.”

* He would frankly like to rejoin V.I.D. if the club membership would endorse him. He says he had talked to former V.I.D. President Chad Marlow about rejoining the club and said he would support the club’s political endorsements if the club endorsed him.

But he has no confidence that the club will endorse him.

“Some of the older ladies in the club are against me,” he says, “and I don’t think Deborah” — Assemblymember Deborah Glick — “will ever forgive me for supporting the Hudson River Park Act.”

* He is anxious to belong to a political club and would approach Village Reform Democratic Club if V.I.D. turned him down.

* He has some views on this year’s contests: He hasn’t taken a position on the mayoralty race yet, but he notes that Fred Ferrer, who lost to Mark Green in the last Democratic mayoralty primary, has strong labor support. Schwºartz is counsel for several labor unions. He is endorsing Councilmember Margarita Lopez, a longtime friend and political ally, for borough president; and Rosie Mendez to take Lopez’s seat on the Council.

On community involvement, he says he is still concerned about the Hudson River Park, as well as other parks, playgrounds and other children’s issues in his district.

He pats himself on the back on several projects:

“On Pier 40 we actually got more recreational space than we could have expected, and there will be additional park space on the top level. The Abingdon Park renovation was very gratifying, and the community is likely to get the parking lot at Clarkson and Hudson Sts. as additional recreational space.

“And let’s face it; the only developed park space in the Hudson River Park is in our community.”
Some projects are still awaiting action:

“We need to get the Sanitation trucks off the Gansevoort Peninsula since that site should be an important part of the Hudson River Park,” he says. “Also the dog run near Pier 40 should be enlarged. At Bleecker Park we need to redo the sitting area and close it at night.”

Another park that interests him, surprisingly, is Tompkins Sq. Park on the East Side. Schwartz contends that the west side of the park lies within Part A of the 66th A.D., which he represents. He’s been living in the East Village, visits the park on a regular basis, and has become enamored of it.

“It is a magnificent park,” he says enthusiastically, “but it’s mostly empty and I’d like to explore what we can do about that.”

Schwartz, ever the lawyer, sees possibilities in making “arrangements” on community input. As a member of Community Board 2, he would have liked to have been assigned to the Waterfront and Parks committees, where he had experience and continued interest, but was turned down.

In retrospect, he suggests there should have been a different scenario last year in the selection of a new chairperson, which saw Jim Smith win an election over Brad Hoylman.

“Actually, Smith shouldn’t have been opposed,” Schwartz now believes. “I think we could have gotten Brad on a unity slate for vice chairperson, and I think we could have negotiated with Smith for some of the key committee assignments.”

He also has a beef about territorial maneuvers in the 66th A.D. He says a change was made in the lines dividing Parts A and B in the 66th A.D, due to “engineering” by then Councilmember and District Leader Kathryn Freed — now a Municipal Court judge — “who arranged for her club, the Downtown Independent Democrats, to have added to their part a central portion of the Village, including Washington Sq. Park up to Eighth St.” He feels that arrangement hurts Greenwich Village interests. Exuding confidence and warming to his proposed new activism, Schwartz says: “I don’t expect a contest for the district leadership.”

He is probably right. In any case, he’s certainly back.

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