Jarrett Murphy

Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez addresses the crowd. The other candidates at the table are Diana Ayala at left, Daby Carreras in the middle and Tamika Mapp at right.

It seems unlikely that this is the year a Republican wins the City Council seat representing East Harlem, where Democrats enjoy a nearly 18 to 1 registration advantage.

It would take a very special candidate to beat those odds, and Wednesday night’s candidate forum indicated that no groundswell is building for Daby Carreras, who’ll hold the Republican, Libertarian and “Stop De Blasio” ballot lines come November. The crowd turned on Carreras early, heckling him as he denounced the minimum wage, backed charter schools and repeatedly blamed the city’s problems on officials’ failure to follow contract law. It got so bad by the end that even Carreras’s reference to support he says he enjoys from Cheech Marin went, one might say, up in smoke.

That leaves three contenders in the race to succeed three-term Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito—all of them Democrats, meaning the race will effectively end on September 12, primary day. One is Diana Ayala, Mark-Viverito’s deputy chief of staff and hand-picked successor, who also has the Working Families Party line and who offers continuity in the district. Robert J. Rodriguez, an establishment Assemblyman who has more money in the bank than Ayala and an endorsement from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, is Ayala’s chief rival. Tamika Mapp, a business owner, is running to the left of the other two Democrats.

Both Ayala and Rodriguez brought a cheering section to the forum at DREAM, a charter school on 2nd Avenue. By the evening’s end, Mapp received her share of the applause, too, especially after she used her closing statement to attack the voting record of Rodriguez, who has already surrendered the mic for the evening. (Video and audio are below.)

Much of the debate focused on important issues where disagreement among the Democrats was hard to detect: Everyone supports regulating the mold remediation industry and reducing asthma. The Democrats each expressed some misgivings about charter schools, but no one opposed them outright.

The biggest issue in the district, by far, is the city’s proposed rezoning of East Harlem. While Mark-Viverito will cast the deciding vote on that proposal before she leaves office, her choices are likely to impact the race to succeed her—in particular, the prospects for Ayala, who when asked to grade the incumbent gave her an A and couldn’t identify anything she’d do differently from her boss. (Rodriguez gave Mark-Viverito a B/B- while Mapp and Carreras gave Ds.)

Watch the forum
Asked for her position on the rezoning, Ayala said, “The rezoning is a very complex process and a lot of us don’t understand the specifics of it and that’s the reality. It is a very scary time because we all feel threatened. I think the city’s proposal is very out of scale. I would like to see smaller buildings. I would like to see deeper affordability as part of the plan. I would like to see long-term affordability as part of the plan.” But she indicated that some rezoning is necessary: “Like it or not, development is happening all around us,” such that, “This is a conversation that needs to be had. That conversation is not an easy one but it’s part of what we are facing.”

Rodriguez, meanwhile, said “permanent affordability … needs to be part of this conversation” and called for mechanisms to protect small businesses from steep rent hikes. He voiced concerns about the scope of the city’s rezoning plan. “Where the infrastructure? Where’s the sanitation plan for this? Where’s the transportation plan? I think we have to look closely at the Neighborhood Plan, which spent a lot of work putting things together that are not in the current iteration of the city’s plan.” The Neighborhood Plan was created by a stakeholder group convened by Mark-Viverito; it calls for a more limited rezoning than does the administration.

For her part, Mapp said she supported the Movement for Justice’s 10-point plan, which does not involve a rezoning but instead emphasizes city outreach and code enforcement to protect tenants and prevent displacement. Mapp also said she wanted to activate vacant space to house the homeless.

Carreras, who expressed many concerns about dense development, gave a wide-ranging answer when asked about the rezoning. “This is El Barrio. The mayor and really the current leadership is just pushing toward rezoning every single day. We do not need community jails. 90 shelters? I’m sorry, that’s not rent stabilization, that’s not affordability. You say out of scale? We’re given more shelters. That’s living just for that day.” He has circulated a petition demanding that the neighborhood never be rezoned.

The candidates also had interesting takes on gentrification and its pros and cons. Rodriguez stressed the rights of incumbent residents to stay, but added: “We have to make sure we don’t close off the opportunity for new people to come because of fear. There is a fine line between talking about ‘gentrification’ and it being a code word for ‘We don’t want those people in our community.’ We are an open community. That said, we should be able to stay here.”

Mapp was less welcoming. “When people move in they have to adapt to the culture. I welcome them. But they cannot come in here and start changing things. That I do not welcome.” Ayala expressed a similar sentiment.

Carreras, however, charted his own course. “What gentrification are we talking about? Are we talking about more homeless, more shelters, more community jails? I’m looking for people to move up,” he said. He added, “If you move the minimum wage up higher you’re going to make more unemployment.” The crowd indicated displeasure.

Hear the candidates’ closing statements:

9 thoughts on “E. Harlem Council Hopefuls Weigh In on Rezoning, a Huge Issue on Which They Won’t Vote

  1. Another leading headline, huh? The fact that CD8 NYC Council candidates “won’t vote” on rezoning does not make the issue any less valid for a debate. We still need to hear exactly where they stand on rezoning, and what their strategy would be, once in office, to address, if not overturn, the City’s “misguided” (at best) massive upcoming plans for low-income communities of color like East Harlem. Gotta say, was very distressed to hear (once again) the issue of “homelessness” described solely as a “safety” issue and such blatant stereotyping and cruel disregard for poor people. Also, too much of the forum was wasted with outlandish, off-topic nonsense. Let’s step up the level of discussion during the next round, shall we?

    • The fact that City Limits webcast the event and devoted the bulk of the article to describing the candidates’ positions on the rezoning could be read to suggest that we, too, believe those are very important. But if a narrative of mistreatment by the media–by ALL media–is your thing, then by all means, interpret the headline as uncharitably as you like.

  2. Thank you to all the candidates for coming out and facing your neighbors. Extra special thanks to Tamika Mapp for being truthful and direct and unafraid to speak your truth.

  3. Daby Carreras is the only sensible candidate in this race!!! It’s high time that we elect Conservative Republican Patriots like Daby to public office across the city, state and the whole country to pass common sense Conservative legislation that even most moderate and mainstream Democrats will come to thank us for in the long run as it will also benefit them!!!

    • Thank You.

      My focus for the forum was on four core issues:
      1. Crime
      2. Schools
      3. Homelessness and welfare
      4. Mayor De Blasio’s mismanagement.

      I think that De Blasio would rather hand out money rather than help people to get jobs, the only permanent solution to the problem of poverty. I am suspicious that De Blasio wants to increase the property tax, which is now capped by statute and is low compared to other jurisdictions. As the City has admitted, non-property tax revenues are flat, notwithstanding the expanding economy, making an increase in property taxes a tempting target. We should put the question directly to Mayor Bill De Blasio, and make him deny any intent to raise them.

      Homelessness: I sort the homeless into two categories: those in shelters, and those on the street. Regarding shelters system, the average daily attendance count has risen by 20% since De Blasio took office, from about 50,000 to nearly 60,000. If you add in specialized shelters like those for people suffering from AIDS, LGBT, domestic violence, etc., the number could rise to +70,000. It is clear a significant increase in shelter population occurred on De Blasio’s watch. Now after he tried other remedies and failed, Instead of outreach to get people into programs. De Blasio now says the answer is just to build more shelters, his plan is firm “ +90 shelters and community jails”, never fixing the homeless issue. And then closing Rikers Island to build a new MEGA DEVELOPMENT… Instead of outreach to get people into programs and other forms of help. This could damage him politically– obviously there will be a reverberation from neighborhoods about putting shelters in their communities;
      Now Regarding the street homeless, the City takes a yearly census, usually in the winter, the number of street homeless is up 39%.

      Welfare. Though there are many forms of aid (food stamps, housing assistance, etc.), I want to concentrated on cash welfare. Pointing out that the number receiving cash assistance under De Blasio is inconsistent with economic trends: Typically, as the economy improves and there are fewer unemployed (as has occurred the last four years), cash assistance declines. But, unlike any other time since 2005, the number of cash recipients under De Blasio actually went up. In contrast, federal assistance (SNAP) did go down over the same period. This suggests that the City’s cash assistance increases are caused by deliberate policy changes unrelated to the economy, and is consistent with My view that De Blasio would rather hand out money than help people find work. Moreover, De Blasio has changed the consequences for cash recipients not meeting work requirements: They have been shifted from being in sanction—meaning possible loss of benefits—to being “in engagement process,” which allows benefits to continue uninterrupted. The number of recipients “in process” has doubled from 9,000 to over 18,000 under Mayor De Blasio. “In sanction’ has essentially been eliminated.

  4. Pingback: The Politics Of The Harlem River Divide In The 8th Council District - Harlem World Magazine

  5. Editor’s note: The commentator is not Marina Ortiz of East Harlem Preservation.

    Daby Carreras is the Best Reasonable Candidate for City Council of E.Harlem Council.
    Daby Carreras coming from the Working Class Family with Agendas in Mind to Dedicate his life on making a Superior Change Greatest Improvements for the Community.
    Daby Carreras Effective Planings are :
    1. Crimes

    2. Safety

    3. Schools

    4. Homelessness

    5. Welfare

    6. Jobs Developments

    7. Improving Livelihoods for all Citizens

    8. Improvements in Elderly living

    9. Support to Single Parents

    10.Improving Community’s Social
    11. Present Mayoral Mismanagement

    It is time for Patriotic Candidate like Daby Carreras who knows the realities living of the low income Citizens.

    Daby Carreras is willing to dedicate his Life to Improve Condition of Living of the Citizens he is so Deeply Cares about .

    It is time for Effective New Changes to Make Communities Prosper and it is Time for us the Citizens to Voice Out and Choose a Candidate who truly cares.

    Vote for Daby Carreras a Candidate from Working Class Family and who has a True Plan for Prosperous Future of Great E. Harlem of New York !

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