Tag Archive | "Mayoral Election"

Bloomberg Parties On

Bloomberg gives his victory speech at midnight, after a very close election. Photo by Leslie Minora

Bloomberg gives his victory speech at midnight, after a very close election. Photo by Leslie Minora

by Leslie Minora and Matthew Huisman

Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated a surprisingly close win over his rival William Thompson for a third term Tuesday night at the lavish Metropolitan Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Bloomberg narrowly edged out Thompson by only 50,000 votes, with more votes going to his challenger than polls had predicted. Unofficial results showed the mayor won by a 51 to 46 percent margin, with a light turnout of more than 1.1 million New Yorkers going to the polls. In his victory speech, Bloomberg tried to put uncertain voters’ minds at ease. "Conventional wisdom says that historically third terms haven’t been too successful," Bloomberg said from the ballroom stage. "We’ve spent the past eight years defying conventional wisdom.” He added, “If you think you've seen progress over the past eight years, I've got news for you. You ain't seen nothing yet." The mayoral victory party was a carefully choreographed and obviously expensive event at the Sheraton on 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue, an appropriate finale to his record $90 million bid for re-election. Waiters in starchy suits served mini-burgers, mini-hot dogs, and chicken fingers on silver platters, while the open bar kept the guests supplied with Brooklyn Lager—all in keeping with the New York food theme. There was even Amstel Light for the financial investment crowd and mini-veggie burgers for the non-meat eaters. It was a people-pleasing event that catered to a crowd very diverse in age, background, and profession. One retired construction worker originally from Ecuador, Alberto Pedro Savinovich, 86, who has worked for all three of the Bloomberg campaigns, said this party was the nicest of all.
Bloomberg supporters chanted "four more years" throughout the night. Photo by Leslie Minora

Bloomberg supporters chanted "four more years" throughout the night. Photo by Leslie Minora

The ballroom walls were covered in blue with star shapes reflected by lighting. Accents of red and white completed the patriotic theme. Jumbo screens in each corner set on a loop showing Bloomberg high-fiving and smiling at people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. New Yorkers filled the soccer field-sized room as a full band played crowd favorites like "Celebration" and "We Are Family". Speakers took the stage periodically, drawing larger and larger crowds as the evening progressed. Like fans waiting for the headliner of a concert, supporters anxiously awaited the arrival of their rock-star mayor. Positions near the lectern were highly coveted by both press and party-goers. Elbows were thrown and spots were saved as the night drew on. At about midnight, Jimmy Fallon, host of “Late Night,” introduced the newly reelected mayor to screaming supporters. In his 20-minute speech, Bloomberg promised to create more jobs and small businesses, improve schools and make New York City more environmentally friendly. Bloomberg also said that while the entire country is suffering from the recession, New York City is doing its best to recover quickly. "We have come so far in these past years by staying united, and that’s how we’ll climb out of this national recession--together," Bloomberg said. "I think he's a uniter, not a divider, said Scott Weinberg, 28, who is a bus boy and a registered Democrat. "This is the guy that's really going to bring the city together." Throughout the party, supporters stressed their personal reasons for attending. "For right now, he has proven that he is the best man for the job," said Carmel Geoghean, 27, who works in advertising. "He knows what New York needs." One Bloomberg supporter summed up the celebration: “This is probably the hottest party in New York City tonight,” said Mark Robinson, 45, a campaign volunteer.
Reporting contributed by Alex Abu Ata

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Where Was Ruben Diaz Jr.?

by Jose Leyva

Ruben Diaz Jr. at William Thompson Jr.'s party last night. The borough president cancelled his plans to stump for Thompson at the last minute, appearing only to speak at the evening's event. Photo by Connor Boals

Ruben Diaz Jr. at William Thompson Jr.'s party last night. The borough president cancelled his plans to stump for Thompson at the last minute, appearing only to speak at the evening's event. Photo by Connor Boals

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. was nowhere to be seen on election day. He voted quietly before 6:30 a.m. at P.S. 93 in Soundview. Election workers and school employees at the voting site said Diaz arrived early and left quickly, as if in a rush. "He was one of the first voters,” said Diane Jones, a Republican poll worker at the P.S. 93 election site. “He said he came early because he had to take one of his children to Catholic school." Then, instead of stumping for William Thompson, the Democratic mayoral candidate he had endorsed early in the race, Diaz slipped from view. One of his only campaign statements appeared on his Facebook page on the eve of the election: “Don't forget to vote for me, Billy Thompson and the democratic ticket! On Tues. Nov. 3rd from 6am-9pm!!!!! Bring a friend!!!!!” The former city comptroller, Thompson, had to wait until 10:30 that evening to hear from Diaz at his election party at the Hilton Hotel Towers in mid-town Manhattan. By that point, Diaz had himself won re-election as borough president by a 73 percent margin, and early results pointed to an expected defeat to incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg by an unexpectedly close margin for Thompson in his bid for mayor. In his three-minute speech last night, an excited Diaz said change was needed in City Hall. "The Bronx needs a friend,” said Diaz. “Millionaire corporations are getting all the money, they are getting all the profits, and they are not doing business for the people. They are not paying wages, they are not giving benefits to the workers." Once on the podium, Diaz triggered some of the most excited applause of the evening. He talked about the Yankees’ domination in the World Series, the economic inequity of the city’s residents, and Bloomberg's indifference to the Bronx. "There are thousands of Democrats who understood that to be a true Democrat, we had to reach out and help our brothers and sisters out. We together never ever sold out," said Diaz, to a cheering crowd of about 300 people. Several Bronx Democrats expressed support for Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s next bid for borough  president, but were skeptical about changes in quality of life under another Bloomberg term. Inspite of the borough president’s absence on election day, Bronx voters went for Thompson on election day by a greater margin than any other borough (61 percent for Thompson, 37 percent for Bloomberg). Unofficial results pointed to a 51 percent Bloomberg win citywide, to 46 percent of the vote for Thompson. "I think Rubencito is trying, and I have to give him credit for that. But he needs more help, and I think that with Bill Thompson in office, a change might occur," said Beverly Dumpheys, a 34-year-old social worker living in Grand Concourse, earlier in the day. When asked at the Hilton party about a continuing relationship with Mayor Bloomberg, Diaz said, “I don' want to think about that." Diaz was set to fly to Puerto Rico the morning after the election to moderate a workshop on economic development at a five-day Hispanic legislative conference, called Somos el Futoro (We are the Future), according to his communications director, John Desio.

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Thompson Concedes, After a Last-Minute Surge of Hope

By Connor Boals and Maia Efrem

Comptroller William Thompson, Jr. announces his defeat to his supporters at the New York Hilton Hotel and Towers Tuesday evening. Photo by Connor Boals

Comptroller William Thompson Jr. announces his defeat to his supporters at the New York Hilton Hotel and Towers Tuesday evening. Photo by Connor Boals

As the early polling results came in, the supporters of Democratic mayoral candidate William Thompson Jr., believed they were going to witness the upset of the most expensive campaign in New York City’s history. They almost did. At 9:30 p.m., the air was electric. Hundreds of supporters were gathered inside the third floor Trianon lounge of the New York Hilton Hotel and Towers in midtown Manhattan. At 9:51 p.m., with nine percent reporting, Thompson was only one percent behind his opponent Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It was still anyone’s race. Strangers hugged, fists were raised and even a few tears were shed. “I believe we have victory,” said the Rev. J.T. Causer from Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Thompson supporters celebrate early poll results that put Mayor Bloomberg only one percent ahead of Thompson. Photo by Connor Boals

Thompson supporters celebrate early poll results that put Mayor Bloomberg only one percent ahead. Photo by Connor Boals

Others, like Sybyl Silverstein, an education consultant from Floral Park, Queens, maintained a “cautious compassion” as the pundits had almost unanimously predicted Bloomberg in a landslide. Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem acted as master of ceremonies for the evening. He and a string of labor leaders and borough politicians delivered rousing chants of “eight is enough!” and “We can’t be bought!” at an ear-blasting volume. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. dominated the stage and announced the Bronx votes had gone to Thompson. "In the city of New York, while there was a billionaire who wanted to buy the election, there were thousands of people who would not sell out," said Diaz,  as he pumped a fist in the air. As the results trickled in, Bloomberg crept ahead, but only by four percent with 17 percent reporting. Gov. David Paterson waited by the stage for almost half an hour as other politicians gave short inspirational speeches to the crowd. The tiny stage was swelling with a who’s who of the city’s Democratic leaders. After a short stump speech from the Rev. Al Sharpton, he took the stage with a tone of seriousness. "I would like to thank Thompson for keeping the dream alive for those who are told 'no' but believe 'yes,' " he told the cheering crowd. With praise came reproach as well. "Too many Democrats stayed home today,” he said. “And too many Democrats who should have stayed home were tantalized away."
Thompson supporters watch the poll results being reported. Bloomberg's one percent gap eventually expanded and Thompson conceded the race at 11:40 p.m. Photo by Connor Boals

Thompson supporters watch the poll results being reported. Bloomberg's one percent gap eventually expanded and Thompson conceded the race at 11:40 p.m. Photo by Connor Boals

At 11:40 p.m., Thompson, his wife and his daughter approached the podium. He was met with vigorous applause. “A few minutes ago, I called Mayor Bloomberg to congratulate him on his victory,” he said. A wave of boos swept forward, overwhelming Thompson, who calmly asked for order. “Tonight the votes are not in our favor,” he said. “But we still have so much to be proud of. This campaign was about standing strong.” Monica Hankins, an office manager from Story Avenue in the Bronx said she felt Bloomberg's term limit was one of the key issues in the election. At the end of the four years, she wanted the question of reversing the three-term limit to be put to the voters. "I feel like Bloomberg disrespected us," she said. "It feels like a dictatorship now." Another Bronx resident from Pelham Parkway, Aisha Ahmed, said she was "disgusted" by the results. "We live in a rich country where a mayor just spent $100 million on a campaign but people still sleep outside of churches,"  said Ahmed, the president of a medical consulting company. Although the mayor’s seat didn’t go to the Democrats, spirits were high over the election of Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “The Democratic Party had some tremendous gains tonight, the people rejected the politics of Mayor Bloomberg,” said Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx borough president and 2005 mayoral candidate. “I think he’s going to have a rough four years.”

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Leading Up to the Election

By Mamta Badkar

Last fall, the city council gave Mayor Bloomberg the green light to campaign for a third term as mayor, reversing the two-term limit voters in New York City had favored in two previous referendum.  But if post primary polls are any indication, the voters seem poised to forgive him for ignoring their wishes. Bloomberg reasoned that his success record over the last eight years would trump voters’ preference for term limits. “The voters have a choice,” said Bloomberg at the Oct. 13 debate against his Democratic rival, William Thompson. “If that’s their issue on Nov. 3,  they can express themselves.” In a special run-up-to-the-election series, Bronx Ink reporters ask the question: what has Bloomberg done for the Bronx? At best, our reporters found a mixed record in the nation’s poorest congressional district. Food banks are running out of emergency supplies in the Bronx, at the same time more Green Cart vendors have set-up shop in a bid to promote a healthy lifestyle. Some Bronx residents enjoy the results of the $1.1 billion the mayor pumped into city parks, while others in the shadow of the new Yankee Stadium have lost out, for now.  As for the homeless? Their numbers have increased by 45 percent since the mayor took office. Our coverage takes a look at some of his contenders, including the only Bronx-based candidate on the ballot -- Frances Villar, 26, single mother of two, running on the Socialist ticket with $19,000 in her campaign war chest. Look for Bronx Ink reporters on election day, asking voters at the precincts what they care about.

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The Bronx questions Bloomberg’s plans for jobs

by Mamta Badkar and Connor Boals

Kwasi Akyeampong, member of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance tying prayers cards to a fence outside the Armory. Related Companies says their proposed development will bring 1,200 jobs to the Bronx. Photo by Mamta Badkar

Kwasi Akyeampong, a member of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, ties prayer cards to a fence outside the armory. Related Companies says its proposed development will bring 1,200 jobs to the Bronx. Photo by Mamta Badkar

For nearly 80 years, the Stella D’Oro cookie factory in the northwest corner of the Bronx filled the air over the Major Deegan Expressway with the delicious scent of its trademark biscotti, breadsticks and Swiss Fudge cookies baking in the oven. Then on Oct. 9, the aroma vanished. The Kingsbridge factory closed its doors on that day and its 150 remaining workers were out of a job. The brand had been purchased by Lance, Inc., a North Carolina snack manufacturer. The new owner intends to move the brand, its products and the machinery--but not its Bronx workers--to a non-union factory in Ashland, Ohio. “Stella D’Oro is like a landmark in the Bronx,” said Mike Filipou, who had worked as a lead mechanic in the factory for 14 years. “You know, it’s like Yankee Stadium.” On the last day, a group of about 75 former Stella D’Oro employees, community supporters and labor activists marched in a circle outside the empty factory, chanting in unison with pickets raised. Most of their signs were directed at the bakery’s former owner, North Carolina-based Brynwood Partners, the new owner Lance, Inc. and one of Brynwood’s investors, Goldman Sachs. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not escape their wrath. “Hey Bloomberg, thanks a lot. Bronx unemployment and poverty soaring. Keep Stella in the Bronx,” read several white signs with bold black letters held aloft in the circle. “Businesses have to make a profit,” said Jonathan Tasini, a labor activist, who is running against Democratic incumbent Kristen Gillibrand for US Senate in 2010. “But we also have to value the community and value the workers that make this company work.” A good job has been a hard find for quite some time in the Bronx. With unemployment in the borough reaching 13.3 percent in September, Bronxites are looking to the mayor for answers to unemployment in the coming election. In October, 2003, a year and a half after Bloomberg took office, Bronx unemployment was at 10.7 percent, according to the Comptroller's office. In January, 2006, as the rest of the city saw an average unemployment of of 4.1 percent, the Bronx was 5.5 percent. "Despite the national economic downturn, which continues to make for trying times for many New Yorkers, our efforts to place people in jobs are paying off in record numbers,” said Bloomberg. “Eight years ago, the city’s workforce centers were placing New Yorkers in roughly 500 jobs a year. This year, we placed them in more than 6,800 – just in the last three months." Bloomberg’s approach to Bronx unemployment and poverty falls under his Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan, his comprehensive strategy to bring New York City through the economic downturn as fast as possible. The Mayor’s office said the plan focuses on creating jobs for New Yorkers today, implementing a long-term vision for growing the city’s economy, and building affordable, attractive neighborhoods in every borough. Specifically in the Bronx, the Mayor’s office said the city has helped place 4,526 people in jobs in the first nine months of 2009. Some 200 of these jobs were filled at the new Home Depot at the Gateway Center on River Avenue in the neighborhood of Morrisania. But some residents have written the mayor off. “He has no interest in doing anything for the Bronx,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a founding member of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance and member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. “He has done nothing.” Part of the plan is the implementation of the multi-agency South Bronx Initiative, which the mayor’s office says will spur $3 billion in public and private investment, create thousands of construction and permanent jobs and develop more than 8,000 units of housing. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Oct. 26 put Bloomberg well ahead of former City Comptroller William Thompson, in all five boroughs. In the Bronx, he leads 50 percent to 33 percent among likely voters. “It’s been shaping up all along, and now the new numbers say it looks like a Bloomberg blow-out,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
About 500 community members gathered outside the Kingsbridge Armory on Sunday, October 25 to call for living wages at the proposed retail development at the Kingsbridge Armory. Photo by Mamta Badkar

About 200 community members gathered outside the Kingsbridge Armory on Oct. 25 to call for living wages at the proposed retail development at the Kingsbridge Armory. Photo by Mamta Badkar

At St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church on the corner of University Avenue and Fordham Road, hundreds of Bronxites gathered to voice their opposition after the City Planning Commission voted 8 to 4 to approve Related Companies’ redevelopment plan to convert the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall that will appeal to shoppers across all the boroughs. The castle-like structure has been sitting vacant on West Kingsbridge Road near Jerome Avenue since 1996. The city has spent $30 million restoring the armory which is being offered to Related for $5 million. Combined with the tax breaks it’s being afforded, this translates to about $40 million in subsidies for Related. The community's concerns have centered on this distribution of money, which many community members say is inequitable. Residents like those gathered at Tolentine that evening say they could conceivably find jobs in the Armory, but their salaries will not pay enough for them to shop in its stores. Protesters focused on the developer’s promises to create 1,200 jobs – jobs, the community advocates said, will be part-time, paying poverty-level wages with no benefits. But not everyone in the community shares the concern. The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York recently withdrew its support of the protest and came out in favor of redevelopment. The common sentiment in the auditorium was that the Democratic mayoral challenger, William Thompson, would be better at creating jobs in the Bronx. Mayor Bloomberg supported Related’s bid to create more low-income jobs, not sustainable work, said Pilgrim-Hunter. “Thompson will deliver for us what Bloomberg refuses to acknowledge,” she said. Even if Related’s opponents muster votes to block the project, the city council would need a two-thirds majority to override the mayor's seemingly inevitable veto. Bloomberg says this is an opportunity to bring thousands of jobs to the Bronx at a time when it needs it the most. "The armory has been closed to the public for decades, but now we have an enormous opportunity to revitalize it as a hub of activity and jobs in the West Bronx," he said."We don't want to let that opportunity - or any more time - pass by without progress." But some residents think this progress targets a select few. “Bloomberg prides himself on development but at what cost?” asked Kwasi Akyeampong, a  member of Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance. “People who benefit are his rich billionaire buddies. [Thompson’s] stand is consistent with ours. We want someone who will represent this community,” he said. Thompson, who has consistently backed the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance’s demands, took the podium at Tolentine.  “The election is nine days away,” he told the energized crowd. “If we come out and fight for what is right, I will be the mayor of New York. This will not move forward.” Pilgrim-Hunter doesn't think that the plan is in the best interest of the Bronx. “His five-borough gentrification has made place for the rich. That isn’t the blueprint for our community. We hope the city council has heard us today,” she said. “Today was proof that the Bronx will not vote for Mayor Bloomberg.” The Bronx has seen some of Bloomberg's job creation initiatives come to fruition, but as the crowd marched to the Kingsbridge Armory chanting, “Whose armory? Our armory,” it was clear that the Bronx is still waiting for Bloomberg to show and prove.

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