News Column

A Mayor for All New Yorkers?

September 2001

By Alexandra Salas Rojas, HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine

The candidate greets voters at this year's Puerto Rican Day parade.
The candidate greets voters at this year's Puerto Rican Day parade.

Fernando Ferrer announces his bid to run the Big Apple.

After 14 years as Bronx Borough President, Fernando Ferrer has established a track record for transforming a decayed and neglected area into a model of urban economic revival. Now he hopes to extend this legacy to the entire city of New York if he becomes its next mayor on November 6.

One of the first Hispanic mayoral candidates in the city's history, Mr. Ferrer doesn't market his ethnicity as a way to capture more votes. Rather, his campaign aims to unify constituencies by tugging at the heartstrings of all New Yorkers.

"City Hall too often has exploited our differences rather than honoring our diversity, leaving large numbers of New Yorkers alienated and angry and doubting their place in the priorities of our city," he says. "I'm running for mayor to give voice and hope to those who have been shut out, shut down, marginalized, and demonized for the last eight years."

Poll results released by the Hispanic Federation, a membership organization of 69 health and human services agencies in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, show Mr. Ferrer as the indisputable leader of the region's Hispanic community. Support for his mayoral bid among Hispanics runs at 63 percent. The combined take for his Democratic opponents -- Public Advocate Mark Green, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone -- amounts to only 21 percent of the Hispanic vote.

So what's Mr. Ferrer's business plan for the Big Apple?
-- Work to keep manufacturers in the city by helping them find affordable space. Currently, manufacturing provides about 230,000 jobs.
-- Address rising real estate costs, zoning problems, and illegal conversions. He also plans to build 150,000 housing units for low- and middle-income residents.
-- Provide industry-specific support to the city's economic sectors.
-- Initiate mass transit and infrastructure improvements.
-- Redirect existing and new revenues to education. This would reverse Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's Personal Income Tax surcharge and dedicate it to expanding after-school programs.

As for his chances of winning the election, campaign manager Ellie Jurado says "overall he's doing well, running second in most of the polls." A recent NY1 poll forecasting general election match-ups shows Mr. Ferrer attracting 54 percent of the vote against Republican candidate Michael Bloomberg. Another poll conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion found that among registered voters citywide, Mr. Ferrer garnered a 48 percent favorable rating.

Adds Ms. Jurado: "He has a long history with leaders across the city and has a broad base of support. They include State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, Crown Heights political action community leaders, orthodox Jewish leaders, and a number of white supporters such as [former vice-presidential candidate] Geraldine Ferraro and [Manhattan Borough President] Ruth Messinger."

The campaign slogan of "A Mayor for All New Yorkers" points to what Ms. Jurado calls the challenge of "being the Latino candidate and being held to a different standard." Mr. Ferrer, emphasizing how his policies will help everyone, talks about healing wounds and improving police-community relations. "He has a strong record of economic development -- working with small business owners, bodegueros [small retailers], helping them find real estate, for example," she says.

One such effort engineered by Mr. Ferrer was a $50 million lending authority program by the Small Business Administration, the only one of its kind in New York City to make low-cost, fixed-rate loans to small businesses. Since 1990, the Bronx has generated $2.5 billion in new construction. Now Mr. Ferrer promises to do for New York what he's done for the Bronx.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine

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