11:54 am Mar. 7, 2013
Three out of the four Democratic candidates for Manhattan borough presidents met at a candidate forum at Pace University in Lower Manhattan this morning.
The one candidate who was missing was Councilman Robert Jackson of Harlem. A spokesman said Jackson was on a pre-scheduled humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republican, leading a team of doctors there. The spokesman said the campaign had asked the event's organizers, the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association, to reschedule today's event.
That Jackson is on a trip to that country is an acknowledgement of the changing demographics in his part of upper Manhattan, where the number of Dominican residents is growing, as the number of African-Americans are not.
(That has led to some tension between Jackson, who is African-American, and a couple of elected officials uptown, most recently when he practically jumped out of his seat when he thought he wasn't duly recognized by Bill Thompson at a Washington Heights mayoral forum.)
Jackson has said previously that he has an advantage in the race, because he's the only male and only black candidate from upper Manhattan, running against a field comprised of three women who come from other parts of the borough. ("When I say do the math, you know what I'm talking about," he told me in February 2012.)
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin of Manhattan's East Side, one of Jackson's opponents, took a strong stance against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to rezone the area around Grand Central Terminal, saying the mayor appeared to be rushing the process.
"This is moving way too fast," she said. "This is going on Mayor Bloomberg's timetable, which is not the right timetable."
Former Community Board 1 chairwoman Julie Menin, the only non-elected official running for the borough president position, touted her experience in helping lower Manhattan recover from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and most recently, from Hurricane Sandy.
Menin said her home and the restaurant she owned were "destroyed" in the attacks, and that is what got her involved in public service and said lower Manhattan "is the only area in the city experience job growth."
Later, she said, "During the days right after Sandy, my power went out like everyone else's in Lower Manhattan. I assembled a group of 300 volunteers. We knocked on 9,000 doors in three days, providing food, water, blankets, batteries, whatever was needed."
Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents parts of the Upper West Side, stood out from the crowd for her pessimism on congestion pricing, which she supports in theory: "I don't think it's ever going to happen [because] it has to go through Albany," she said.
Brewer also said putting tolls on the East River Bridges "is not going to happen."
Those are two initiatives that the Bloomberg administration pushed but ultimately abandoned in the face of opposition. "I do think, however, we need to have some other discussion, if it's not going to politically happen, how to fund the M.T.A.," Brewer said.
Brewer said there needed to be a greater discussion about improving mass transit options that benefit all five boroughs, and the growing number of commuters who travel into the city each day.
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