Volume 79, Number 22 | November 04 - 10, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Bloomberg narrowly avoids upset, holding off Thompson

By Julie Shapiro and Lincoln Anderson

Despite outrage among many New Yorkers over last year’s extension of term limits and the fact that he spent a jaw-dropping $90 million on his re-election campaign, Mayor Mike Bloomberg squeaked out a victory on Tuesday against Bill Thompson. With more than 1 million votes cast, Bloomberg got almost 51 percent of the total and Thompson, 46 percent.

In local races, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Rosie Mendez easily won re-election, while Margaret Chin became the first Chinese-American to represent Chinatown in the City Council. All three faced token Republican opposition in their overwhelmingly Democratic districts, with each getting more than 80 percent of the vote.

In borough-wide contests, Scott Stringer was voted a second term as Manhattan borough president, while Cy Vance won for Manhattan district attorney.

In other citywide races, John Liu was elected comptroller and Bill de Blasio, public advocate.Although Tuesday’s turnout at local polls was higher than for the September primary, it still seemed relatively light.

At the voting site at The Door, on Broome St. on Soho’s western edge, a very informal exit poll around 7 p.m. had Bloomberg winning by 4 to 1.

Barry Rosenthal, 52, a doctor who lives at 505 Greenwich St., cast his ballot for Thompson.

“Because I’m tired of Bloomberg, and I think that he is too wealthy and too arrogant to be mayor any longer,” Rosenthal stated. “I think that this city, it’s gotten to the point that if you’re not wealthy, you can’t live here — and this is from somebody who’s fairly wealthy. I think that Thompson must be more in touch with the citizenry than Bloomberg. … I think, like most people, I voted for Thompson because I just don’t want Bloomberg — more than for anything Thompson has done in particular.”

Rosenthal said a big issue for him was the three-district Department of Sanitation “megagarage” planned for the west end of Spring St., down the block from his building. He said he was “very much opposed” to the city’s project and supports the community-alternative Hudson Rise plan.

But, unlike Rosenthal, the trickle of other voters at the site on election night were flicking the lever for Bloomberg.

“I just like him,” said one Soho woman who looked to be in early middle age and declined to give her name. Of Thompson, she said, “I don’t know that much about him. I just think Bloomberg’s done a good job,” she said. “I think he’s just able to understand the complicated structure of the city and finance.”

Asked who she backed for mayor, Champa Weinreb, said, “I’m a Democrat — but I voted for Bloomberg,” who ran on the Republican and Independence party lines. “He’s done a good job,” noted Weinreb, who said she is in the “business” field. “The other guy is basically unknown to me.”

Asked who they would support as they were on their way in through the door at The Door, a couple registered as independents, Ron Shapira and Betty Tse, were firmly on the same page.

“Mr. Mike,” stated Shapira, who works in finance, though is currently unemployed.

“Me too,” echoed Tse, a pharmaceutical sales rep.

“I think steady leadership in the next four years is needed, and I think the city is going to have some problems,” Shapira said of why the mayor inspired his confidence. “At this point in our particular history, it’s the better choice.”

Another woman exiting The Door said she also had gone for Bloomberg.

“I just like what he’s done so far — and I trust him,” said the woman, who declined to give her name and said she works in fashion.

After relatively high turnout in the primary and runoff elections earlier this fall in Chinatown, a strong showing was expected on Election Day. Two Chinese candidates likely drove voters to the polls there in September and may have contributed to the turnout Tuesday.

Not only did Chin become the first Chinese-American elected to represent Chinatown, but Liu is the first Chinese-American elected to citywide office.

Several voters at polling sites on Henry St. said Chin’s Chinese heritage was a factor in their vote.

“She’s the right person for this neighborhood,” said Bill LaPiana, 57, who has lived in Chinatown for 30 years. “The city’s great strength is everyone getting to participate. This neighborhood is long overdue.”

One white voter said he did not have a strong opinion on Chin but his Chinese neighbors spoke highly of her.

Another voter, Kenny Ho, 49, said Chin’s heritage was enough to win his vote. Asked why he picked her, he replied, “I have no idea, but she’s Chinese — I support her.”

The mayoral race was much higher than the Council race in the minds of the Chinatown voters who spoke to The Villager. Asked who they picked for mayor, many replied simply “not Bloomberg” or “anyone but Bloomberg.” Even those who said they voted for Thompson gave reasons that were anti-Bloomberg rather than pro-Thompson.

Michael Grossman, 44, opposed Bloomberg’s extension of term limits and the massive amount of money he poured into his campaign for a third term.

“That is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind for a democracy,” said Grossman, who voted at P.S. 130 on Baxter St. “Bloomberg is greedy and power hungry, and I think he’s a narcissist… . I don’t trust him.”

Grossman cast his vote for Thompson, but he did it with resignation.

“I don’t think he’s going to win,” Grossman said.

At P.S. 1 on Henry St., Ling Chen, 40, said in Chinese (her 13-year-old daughter translated) that she picked Thompson over Bloomberg because the mayor didn’t change anything in his eight years in office.

Some voters who picked Bloomberg said he had done a good job, but others sounded almost regretful that they did not like Thompson enough to vote for him.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to someone else — but not Thompson,” said Brian Tubman, 23, who picked Bloomberg. Tubman, an urban planning student at New York University, said he was dissuaded from Thompson by the pay-to-play allegations, in which it appeared Thompson received a below-market rate on his mortgage from a bank that was making money off of managing the city’s pension fund.

One of the most outspoken Thompson voters who spoke to The Villager in Chinatown actually came from outside the neighborhood. Paul Stingo, 49, lives in Brooklyn and teaches elementary school there, but he was on Henry St. Tuesday morning for a professional development workshop.

Stingo said Bloomberg had not improved the city schools since taking them over, and he criticized Bloomberg’s appointment of Joel Klein as chancellor, since Klein has no background in education. Stingo said the only reason test scores have gone up in the past eight years is because “the tests have been dumbed down.”

Bill Talen, a.k.a. Reverend Billy, the Green Party candidate for mayor, ran a campaign fueled by righteous activism, humor and street theater. He got close to 9,000 votes, about 0.81 percent of the total. In an Election Day posting on his Facebook page, he summed up his feelings on the race:

“I’m ending our campaign today by walking through the three Downtown parks, Washington Square, Union Square and Tompkins Square,” he wrote, in part. “I’ll carry my small electronic bullhorn without a permit, as I have throughout the campaign. I’ll talk to small groups of folks about how our voices carry, and how our voices don’t carry, in this strange $100 million PlayStation that Bloomberg’s turned our city into.

“And I’m glad I ran because I’ve been reminded that I’m not the only one still talking,” Talen continued. “There is a coalition of immigrants and artists, students and bloggers and parents in the boroughs — talking back against this expensive media wind.”

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