District 1 Candidate Lineup

Key issues involve COVID recovery, development and affordable housing

05 Jan 2021 | 01:27

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is running. So is Maya Wiley, a past aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio and an MSNBC contributor. Director Spike Lee appeared in candidate Ray McGuire’s announcement video.

With all the bluster of a crowded and star-studded mayoral race, it’s easy to forget that New York City has other elections coming up, including but not limited to seats for City Council.

District 1, which covers lower Manhattan, is up for grabs. The winning candidate will replace term-limited Council Member Margaret Chin. Contenders will have to tackle a wide set of issues ranging from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic to proposed development projects. A look at the lineup:

Gigi Li

As Chin’s chief of staff, Gigi Li is well positioned to take her boss’s place.

An immigrant from Hong Kong, Li moved to New York City at a young age. Once settled, she earned a B.A. from Smith College and a Master’s of Science in Social Work from Columbia, with a focus on policy.

After graduate school, Li worked for the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition. And in 2009, she was appointed to Manhattan’s Community Board 3.

Li laid out a list of per policy postions in a Gotham Gazette interview. She supports the Haven Green affordable housing project along with the new jail tower that Chin approved. Li also told the outlet that she specifically opposes the megatowers that are part of the Two Bridges development plan.

Jenny Lam-Low

Like Li, Jenny Lam-Low moved to New York from China at a young age. Her professional career originated in the banking industry — she oversaw charitable giving for JP Morgan.

Lam-Low currently serves as the Director of Administrative Services Division at the New York City Council’s Office of Speaker Corey Johnson.

In terms of policy, she supports a lawsuit by the City Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer against the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP) over the question of whether or not the building of multiple skyscrapers is classified as a “minor” modification.

Maud Maron

Maud Maron is a public defender and president of Community Education Council 2.

In her interview with Gotham Gazette, Maron cited affordable housing as a key issue for her campaign. She also wants to help small businesses affected by the pandemic through loans. Among other plans on her priory list: the creation of more parks and preparation for the next superstorm.

Christopher Marte

He’s been in the electoral game before. Christopher Marte, a former financial analyst who helps run a political training organization, ran for Chin’s seat in 2017. He lost by 222 votes.

When it comes to salient downtown issues, he has stated he plans to develop and pass community-based rezoning plans. He also wants to create neighborhood plans that expand affordability. He attributes the policy positions to his working class family, with Lower East Side origins.

Denny Salas

Denny Salas’ campaign is rooted in “The American Dream.” The phrase appears several times on his campaign website. It is personal for him. He moved to New York from the Dominican Republic in the 1970s.

Professionally, he was a stockbroker. After the 2008 recession and the election of Barack Obama he moved into Democratic party politics.

His policy proposals include the elimination of exclusionary zoning, public/private career mentorship programs and small business grants.

What’s at Stake

The City Council is “New York City’s legislature,” said Richard Briffault, the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School, in an interview with Our Town. Members “can have an impact on the mayor to carry out his or her agenda.”

“City Council is involved in making the city budget; it’s involved in land use decisions — things like zoning and housing; it’s involved in policy issues across the board,” Briffault said.

In terms of what he’s looking out for in this year’s races, Briffault has one bottom line: “How New York copes with the COVID pandemic and how it comes out of it.”