Law and Politics

Schools to Condos Conversion Spurs Gotbaum Run

April 9, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

Noah Gotbaum launches candidacy for City Council

Noah Gotbaum

New York, NY—The 2013 Mayoral race is a crowded field. So is Community District 6, where six candidates are vying for Council Member Gale Brewer’s seat. Noah Gotbaum, running as an independent Democrat, says he is running because there are numerous issues to address such as the development of luxury apartments on land where there are already two public schools. (Watch Video)

Mr. Gotbaum says he has what it takes to represent District 6. He started his public service career in 1980 working for late Senator Edward Kennedy. He then went on to co-found New York Cares, the country’s largest local volunteer organization. He owned and operated one of the city’s largest recycling companies, employing Teamsters union members to pick up and process the waste. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg placed a moratorium on recycling in 2002, Gotbaum played a major role in reinstating the collection of recyclables.

If elected to the council, Gotbaum said education would be a priority. As a father of three children in the city’s public schools and a former president of community education council District 3, Gotbaum believes the city has to change its position away from blaming teachers and unions to a more collaborative approach that involves parents, teachers and administrators.

“Education in New York City makes up over $20 billion of the city’s budget. Over two-and-half million New Yorkers are part of the city’s education system—almost one out of every three New Yorkers is either a parent, teacher, student, administrator or aide. Education is very important because it’s so critical and it’s a huge part of our government. I would like to see the Council get more involved with education issues,” said Gotbaum.

The politics of education is intersecting with the politics of development in District 6 this election year. 

In the fall, the DOE’s Educational Construction Fund put an ad in Crain’s New York advertising “prime development sites” for locations where two public schools—P.S. 191 and P.S. 199—already stand. According to Gotbaum, the DOE did not seek community or parental input to demolish the two public schools and replace them with high-rise luxury apartments, although the city claims it will rebuild the schools on the bottom floors of the new buildings.

“The community wasn’t consulted. This was all done in the dead of night. The community has to have a role in this. Do we want more luxury housing at the expense of giving away public schools? This is a major issue in the district and for someone like me; we need independent leadership,” Gotbaum said.

Gotbaum noted that he’s not against development per se, but it has to be done right.

“We can’t say no to development, but we have to do it in a smart way. We have to do it so that those who are building the projects are getting a living wage and benefits on the books,” he said.

Gotbaum is the son of former public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and former AFSCME DC 37 president, Victor Gotbaum. A successful entrepreneur, Gotbaum believes that the denigration of working people and unions doesn’t bode well for the city.

“We have to support our working people not just because it’s right, but also because a strong working class is good for our economy.” 

In the coming weeks, Gotbaum said he’ll be announcing endorsements from several unions.

April 9, 2013

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