Volume 76, Number 5 | June 21 - 27 2006

Gay Pride
A special Villager supplement

Political contenders don’t want your vote — yet

By Ed Gold

Villager file photos
Andrew Berman, left, and Brad Hoylman are viewed as potential future City Council candidates in District 3, the seat now held by Speaker Chris Quinn.
Two of the brightest political prospects in the community, who give every indication that they would be interested in running for public office, are shy — even negative — about seeking the City Council seat now held by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose current term ends in 2009.

Andrew Berman, the ubiquitous executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Brad Hoylman, Democratic district leader and a former Council candidate in Lower Manhattan, appear completely dedicated to their current responsibilities and are even reluctant to talk about the Council race.

Villagers have been mentioning one or the other in recent months as likely candidates down the road, but both insist they’re focused on the community responsibilities they now have and have no thought at all of considering a race for any office at this time.

The Third Council District includes the West Village, Chelsea, Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen and parts of Soho and Murray Hill and is informally known as “the gay Council seat.” Like Quinn, the first lesbian Council speaker, both Hoylman and Berman are openly gay.

Hoylman, in fact, hopes there is no open Council seat at the end of Quinn’s current term.

“I’ve always thought the two-term limit was stupid and I hope councilmembers get the opportunity to run for another term. There’s no better candidate for Council speaker than Chris and it would a shame if she couldn’t serve another four years,” Hoylman said.

Hoylman ran for Council in the 1st Councilmanic District in 2001, coming in second in a field of seven, the winner being the incumbent, Alan Gerson.

Hoylman is still proud of his showing in that race, and particularly notes that he was endorsed by the The New York Times. Two issues he pushed were transportation and affordable housing and, he adds, “We had a well-organized campaign team.”

So he’s not disinterested in seeking public office in the future, but right now his plate is full and he’s “not interested in engaging in idle speculation.”

He works as general counsel for the nonprofit civic group Partnership for New York City.

In addition to his role as district leader, which he assumed last year, he serves as first vice chairperson of Community Board 2 and also chairs the board’s Traffic Committee. He is a past president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats political club.

His rise to district leader could have political implications in the future. He got the job through an interesting turn of events. Arthur Schwartz, the incumbent district leader, had announced he was running for re-election and appeared to have no opponent. But Schwartz’s two notable political allies, Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane, became disenchanted with him, and together with Assemblymember Deborah Glick, a power in Village Independent Democrats who has never been a big Schwartz fan, they announced support for Hoylman, in effect ending Schwartz’s district leadership.

Since the three elected officials are on good terms with Berman, they could be faced with a difficult choice if Berman and Hoylman should one day compete for public office.

Hoylman, by the way, gets high marks from Traffic Committee members and community activists, who credit him with keeping residents fully informed on testy traffic issues, of avoiding acrimony and working towards consensus on all sensitive issues.

As for Berman, he admits being “incredibly flattered” by Villagers and others who have suggested he would be an attractive City Council candidate. But he insists he won’t get involved in personal political activities for at least three years.

“And of course,” he adds, “the political picture would completely change if Council members had the opportunity of a four-year extension.”

Berman has also spent significant time in the political arena, having worked more than eight years for Duane — serving as Duane’s chief of staff for more than four years — both in the City Council and in Albany.

He has created an ever-expanding agenda for his organization on landmark and zoning issues, and can boast of recent important victories on Far West Village landmark designations and downzoning.

But he never seems to stop running from one challenge to another, now opposing a 250-foot hotel in the Meat Market and going after New York University expansion on many fronts in Greenwich Village, East Village and Noho.

He is a notable thorn in N.Y.U.’s side, telling the university in a Villager talking point column last year “it was deja vu all over again. You’re taking over our neighborhood,” a reference to N.Y.U.’s plan to build a dorm 26 stories high on E. 12th St. “More of our neighborhood becomes the university’s unofficial campus,” he added.

He has organized a respected staff, works to build up the society’s membership and get government grants, holds meetings concerning the N.Y.U. superblock between Bleecker and Houston Sts., deals with smaller issues like the Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, and gives preservation awards for various good deeds and preservation contributions, including the Abingdon Park renovation and the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill with its historic wall hangings.

Hoylman and Berman would probably be likely candidates in many City Council districts, but they’ll just have to be patient, because the timing isn’t right for them to make an early run in this neighborhood.

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