Election Day was a big deal when I was a child. My parents loved politics. My father left for work very early, so voted at the end of the day. My mother prided herself on being one of the first in line in the morning. She’d bring me along to watch and it always felt exciting and important. It still does.
I’m a traditionalist about voting on Election Day. As a former political reporter, I’m very aware that last-minute events or surprises might influence outcomes. The low turnout in the last two mayoral elections shocked me. My reporting years taught me that individual politicians do make a difference. I think that’s been demonstrated very clearly here.
There was a steady stream of people at my polling place this morning. But not what you would call a crowd. Here’s hoping that isn’t indicative of the overall turnout. City primaries usually determine the winners in November as well. So the people emerging from our new ranked-choice voting will face a myriad of serious issues. How will New York emerge from the pandemic? Will we rely even more on allowing ever larger developments for affordable housing, transit improvements, and other crucial issues? Will any benefits reach all neighborhoods, or will developers target already dense areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn? Will developer-dependent programs actually deliver what is promised, or simply trample hard-fought zoning and landmark laws?
Recent economic studies have shown that preservation is good for the economy, tourism, local jobs, New York’s distinctive identity, and our quality of life.
Some Council races discussed maintaining livable neighborhoods and promoting community input on development. But it was muted. This was barely a blip at the mayoral level.
Roughly 95% of the City’s land, and 95% of subway stations, are outside historic districts. Some districts have been economic engines attracting local women and minority-owned stores and tech companies. Many historic districts reflect the diversity of the surrounding areas. But they could not have caused, and cannot solve, all the issues we face.
Preservationists have our own political campaign to run, inserting our issues into the wider discussion of how the City recovers and what a livable City requires. We can’t afford a low turnout in our ranks.
With best wishes from all of us for your health and safety,
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy