In the final hours of Election Day, Tony Gronowicz, 68, stood alone on the corner of East 81st Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan and handed out pamphlets to voters as they hurried down the street.
"Have you voted yet, sir? I'm running for mayor with the Green Party," he said to one resident.
"That's too bad. You're not gonna win," the man called as he rushed by. "I wish you would."
Gronowicz, an adjunct professor of history at Borough of Manhattan Community College, is no stranger to New York City politics. He ran unsuccessfully on the Green Party ticket for state assembly in 1996 and for mayor in 2005. He said does not have any illusions about his chances of winning this time around.
"We're not going to come out victorious. But we have been raising the issues and bringing people together who don't normally come together," Gronowicz said. "My goal is to build an independent alternative to the dominant parties, which are really two sides of the same coin."
Tom Siracuse, the Green Party candidate for City Council in district 6 on the Upper East Side, said that if Gronowicz took even 15 percent of the mayoral vote, party leadership would be happy. "We could consider that a great victory. Democrats and Republicans would take notice," Siracuse said.
Recent polls put Democrat Bill de Blasio in the lead for mayor over Republican Joseph Lhota by more than 40 percentage points. Support for Gronowicz, however, is not as easily quantifiable. Respondents to the latest Quinnipiac poll were asked to choose their favorite among de Blasio, Lhota, Independence Party candidate Adolfo Carrión, Jr. and "Someone Else."
But Gronowicz and other Green Party leaders said voters have been responding well to the party's message during campaign events. "People are ready for some basic changes, basic reforms, not business as usual as the two corporate parties have been conducting it," said John Reynolds, 68, the Green Party candidate for City Council district 11 in the northwest Bronx. "It's been a positive response, much more so than in previous years."
If elected, Gronowicz said he would create more affordable housing. "I would take over all the city properties that are abandoned and all the buildings that there are fines on and provide income-based housing," he said. Gronowicz said that while de Blasio has made this issue central to his campaign, de Blasio didn't do enough as a city councilman or as public advocate to improve housing in the city. "You've got to look at somebody's record, not his rhetoric," Gronowicz said.
Gronowicz added that he would bring attention to environmental issues, especially in his home borough, where he has lived since 2007. "There are many areas in the Bronx that are sitting on top of toxic waste facilities," he said. "The Bronx is completely ignored."
After the election, Gronowicz said he will return to teaching and activism. On Friday he will join a rally at City College protesting the suspension of two students after they led demonstrations against the dismantling of a campus student center in October. And while Gronowicz might not be the next mayor of New York City, he said he is ready for the Bloomberg era to be over.
"Bloomberg is the perfect example of the irresponsible exercise of wealth and power," he said. "Plus he has 12 houses. Nobody needs 12 houses."