Volume 74, Number 41 | February 16 - 22, 2005

Vote early and vote Ferrer: V.I.D. endorses for mayor

Gifford Miller C. Virginia Fields Anthony Weiner

By Lincoln Anderson

The first New York City Democratic club to endorse a candidate for mayor in this year’s race, Village Independent Democrats Thursday night threw its support behind Fernando Ferrer.

In the first round of voting at V.I.D., Ferrer got 26 votes, Gifford Miller 12, Anthony Weiner four and C. Virginia Fields one. Since no candidate won more than 50 percent, there was a runoff between the top two vote-getters, with Ferrer winning 26 votes, Miller 12 and seven club members voting “no endorsement.”

Before the members cast their ballots, the four candidates each gave short speeches, followed by a question-and-answer session. They sounded similar themes on such topics as gay marriage and the proposed West Side stadium and two criticized Mayor Bloomberg for having a “top-down approach” to running the city.

Ferrer, 54, former longtime Bronx borough president, recently resigned as president of the progressive Drum Major Institute think tank to run for election.

He called Bloomberg’s plan for the stadium “the mother of misplaced priorities.” Referring to Cablevision’s recent offer of $600 million for the Long Island rail yards, the proposed Jets and Olympic stadium site, Ferrer took some credit for inspiring it.

“I’m glad Cablevision reads the papers — because it was several days before that I backed a public bidding process [for the property],” he said. He encouraged more bidders, stating, “By the way — all these people who believe in the marketplace — let the marketplace decide! You can’t have it both ways…. Do it openly, honestly and transparently, above all,” he urged.

Ferrer said he supports same-sex marriage, adding, “We didn’t have to appeal it.” Saying he wanted to prevent dashed hopes and confusion, Bloomberg had the city’s Law Department appeal Judge Doris Ling-Cohan’s recent ruling in support of same-sex marriage.

“This is really the final frontier of human rights for the L.G.B.T. community,” Ferrer said of gay marriage, “so let’s get this done now.”

Given that Bloomberg hosted the Republican National Convention, some are seeing New York City’s mayoral race as a referendum on President Bush’s reelection.

“This is going to be a tough campaign, a national campaign,” Ferrer told V.I.D. “He’s going to have $100 million. But if I’ve got you, I like those odds.”

Miller, the 35-year-old City Council speaker, who represents the Upper East Side, also couched the election in national terms.

“We don’t need a red-state mayor in a blue state,” he declared.

“As mayor, I would issue marriage licenses today — not tomorrow,” Miller said on gay marriage. “I don’t just say it, I spent my career working for it,” he added, noting that the Council, under his leadership, passed the Equal Benefits Law over Bloomberg’s veto. Under this law, the city pays domestic partnership benefits to employees of companies it contracts wit

On affordable housing, Miller said he would work to preserve what already exists, devote more funds and fight for inclusionary zoning, such as the 3,400 affordable units recently included in the West Chelsea rezoning.
“We accomplished that,” Miller noted. “We have a crisis and we’re going to be addressing it.”
Miller knocked the mayor’s “top-down, centralized approach” to education, which he said is “driving people out of the system.” He scoffed that there are now individuals whose job is to check that teachers’ bulletin boards are regulation size.
“Focus on the fundamentals, smaller classes, better teachers, after-school programs,” Miller stressed. “The mayor focuses on 17 [troubled] schools — a joke.”
As for Bloomberg’s West Side plans, Miller said it’s time to “stop a stadium that doesn’t make sense.”
Weiner, 41, a former councilmember and staffer for Chuck Schumer, won his congressional seat after Schumer became senator. Weiner ridiculed the mayor as being like “Ricardo Montalban welcoming people to New York during the Republican National Convention.” Meanwhile, he accused Bloomberg of not fighting strongly enough for federal post-9/11 funds.
Weiner noted that although his Brooklyn/Queens district is fairly conservative, he’s been open about his support for gay marriage, and continued to win election.
Written questions were selected at random; Weiner was asked what he thought of all the new “glass-tower” development springing up in the Far West Village.
“We have to start thinking about what we want our communities to look like….” he said. “We have to make sure the nightclubs in the Meat Market don’t get a giant co-op nearby — or there’s not going to be a place for the nightclubs.”
Fields, 59, in her second four-year term as borough president, and prior to that a member of Harlem’s Community Board 10 for 10 years, said the mayor has not been inclusive enough.
“We do need a change,” she said. “We have a top-down mayor as head of our government who does not include all of us in making decisions.”
She said a step in the right direction would be to create a council of borough presidents, under which the five borough presidents would share information from their community boards and communities.
“We would not be in a position on the West Side of Manhattan of having a stadium — which I do not support — if we had this inclusion,” Fields said. She said she supports building affordable housing on the Hudson Yards site.

Chad Marlow, V.I.D.’s immediate past president, said the club’s endorsement was closely watched by political observers because Downtown and the West Side are seen as areas up for grabs, where no candidate can claim to have a base. On the other hand, it’s thought Miller will do well on the East Side; Fields has a solid constituency in Upper Manhattan; Ferrer will no doubt get many votes in the Bronx; and Weiner is expected to appeal to voters in the boroughs.

Marlow, a strong Ferrer supporter, was one of the club members pushing for an early endorsement. He claimed V.I.D.’s kick-off endorsement could build momentum for Ferrer, like a presidential candidate’s winning the New Hampshire primary.

“That’s the price of leadership,” Marlow said. “A progressive, reform club should take the lead.”

The same night, Miller won the endorsement of the Lenox Hill Democratic Club on the Upper East Side. However, Marlow said Lenox Hill is Miller’s home club and that Miller moved up its endorsement to offset V.I.D.’s “coup.”

Nevertheless, Marlow said, it’s important for Democrats to get behind one candidate to avoid the divisiveness seen in 2001 between Ferrer and Mark Green.

“We just don’t need to have another bloody primary battle,” Marlow said.

Some club members, however, thought there should have been more discussion before the vote and others felt it was too early to endorse. Members were allowed to comment at the microphone as the vote occurred.

A leading V.I.D. member, Assemblymember Deborah Glick spoke for Ferrer.

“We can’t start solidifying early enough behind a candidate to get rid of Bloomberg,” she said. Glick had sent a letter to club members encouraging them to back for Ferrer.

Five or six members of V.I.D.’s executive committee also lobbied members by phone on Ferrer’s behalf. District Leader Keen Berger told The Villager such lobbying wasn’t unusual.

Tony Hoffman, a former Democratic district leader, who supports Miller, thought the endorsement premature. Yet, Hoffman said, Miller is the best candidate “because he’s been speaker of the City Council for the last three or four years and knows the territory.” He counseled others to vote “no endorsement” if they weren’t sure.

One woman said she couldn’t vote for Ferrer “because he took $27,000 from the Cigar Aficionado people — because that to me is marketing death.” The cigar magazine’s publisher got eight cigar companies to contribute to the campaign of Ferrer, who has subsequently been lobbied by anti-smoking groups to return the money.

Recalling the club’s 2001 endorsement of Green and the incendiary anti-Ferrer fliers the Green campaign distributed in Brooklyn, Jim Fouratt said, “We made a mistake last time…. Green stained our endorsement by the tactics he used.” It’s time for a Latino at the top of the ticket, he said.

Marlow, speaking for Ferrer, encouraged club members, “Let’s step up and take the lead for them — people who need help, not Park Ave. people.”

Talking afterwards, John Bredin, a teacher from Hoboken and a V.I.D. executive committee member, explained why he voted for Ferrer.

“Freddy Ferrer, he reminds me of Koch in a way. He’s got an authentic voice — I want this guy from the Bronx to knock out the billionaire mayor.”

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