Thin Win for Chin

Incumbent City Council Member Leads Voting by Less Than Two Percent


City Council member Margaret Chin appears to have won her bid for a third term, but just barely. Unofficial, overnight results from the City’s Board of Elections (BOE) showed Ms. Chin clinging to a razor-thin margin of 200 votes over her nearest challenger, Christoper Marte.

As of midnight, with the BOE reporting that 98.84 percent of all polling places had reported, Ms. Chin’s tally was 5220 votes, to Mr. Marte’s total of 5020.


 Margaret Chin

Margaret Chin

Out of 11,404 votes cast within the first City Council’s First District (the remaining 1,164 ballots were divided among two other candidates and write-ins), this amounts to a margin of approximately 1.7 percent. A surplus that small could be upset by as-yet uncounted absentee or affidavit ballots, or could turn into a deficit if Mr. Marte requests a recount and auditors determine that some votes were misattributed. (The threshold for automatic recounts in New York City elections is a margin of less than one-half of one percent.) Even so, a source in Ms. Chin’s campaign said that she had declared victory late Tuesday evening.

Assuming this victory holds, it reveals some interesting patterns about voting in Lower Manhattan. Four Downtown neighborhoods — Battery Park City, the Financial District, the South Street Seaport, and Tribeca — cast a total of 2630 votes, according to preliminary BOE figures. This amounts to only 23 percent of the ballots tallied in all of the City Council’s First District, a mosaic of Lower Manhattan neighborhoods that also includes Little Italy, Chinatown, SoHo and NoHo, Greenwich Village, Washington Square, and the Lower East Side. Yet, Ms. Chin’s relative strength in these four communities (where she bested Mr. Marte by 1599 votes to 1031, or 69 percent to 31 percent), appears to have eclipsed her deficits elsewhere within the district and won her four more years in the City Council.

This trend was reflected in miniature in Battery Park City, where Ms. Chin took 375 votes to Mr. Marte’s 165, giving her the same 69-to-31 percent victory that she enjoyed throughout the four neighborhoods. (In Battery Park City, Ms. Chin won all nine precincts, which are subdivisions of larger election districts.)


In the Financial District (where Ms. Chin resides), the picture was nearly identical. Out of 276 votes cast, Ms. Chin won 192, versus Mr. Marte’s 84, giving her a similar margin of 70 percent, to Mr. Marte’s 30 percent. In the Financial District, Ms. Chin won all eight precincts.

A similar profile emerged in the South Street Seaport, where 656 votes were cast. Of these, 400 were for Ms. Chin, and 256 were for Mr. Marte. This tabulates to the same pattern of 61 percent, versus 39 percent, that adhered elsewhere in Lower Manhattan. But the Seaport did not march in lock step with Battery Park City and the Financial District in at least one respect: One of its 11 precincts was won by Mr. Marte.

In Tribeca, the results were more mixed. Of 1,158 votes cast, 632 were for Ms. Chin, while Mr. Marte took 526. This translates into a smaller local margin of victory, with Ms. Chin taking 55 percent of the tally, while Mr. Marte took 45 percent. In another striking departure from the norm elsewhere Downtown, Mr. Marte won eight of the 15 voting precincts in Tribeca, while Ms. Chin took seven. But Ms. Chin’s surplus in overall votes within Tribeca was enough to put the neighborhood in her column, even as she failed to carry a majority of its individual precincts.

There are several takeaways to be gleaned from these results. The first appears to be that Mr. Marte has a serious future in Lower Manhattan politics. At the start of the race, he was a virtual unknown outside of the Lower East Side neighborhood where he grew up, and has earned a reputation as community leader in recent years. Building on this base, he accumulated a slew of endorsements and nearly toppled an established incumbent.

The second may be that the Lower Manhattan neighborhoods analyzed here are continuing a pattern of punching above their weight in local politics. The 43 precincts contained within these communities represent just slightly more than one-fourth of the 127 precincts throughout the City Council’s First District.

Similar wins by Mr. Marte in many of the other communities elsewhere within the district appear to have brought him to within a hair’s breadth of victory. If Ms. Chin’s margin holds, it seems she will have Battery Park City, Tribeca, the Financial District, and the South Street Seaport to thank for her third term. It also may be one more portent of the ongoing demographic shift in the Lower Manhattan landscape, in which the political center of gravity — once firmly anchored in the legacy communities of the Lower East Side — appears to be migrating south and west, to the newer, rapidly growing residential neighborhoods near the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers.

This accomplishment is especially noteworthy in that Battery Park City, Tribeca, the Financial District, and the South Street Seaport have no indigenous local political organization to speak of. The largest such group south of 14th Street, Downtown Independent Democrats (DID), has a relatively sparse presence and few members in the four neighborhoods that appear to have delivered to Ms. Chin her victory. DID, which describes itself as, “the reigning Democratic club in a wide swath of Lower Manhattan,” is historically more rooted in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and SoHo.

If the four neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan can tip an election without bothering to establish a political infrastructure, their potential to do so in the wake of a serious organizing effort would likely be magnified many times over. But whether Lower Manhattan residents will take the initiative to fill this vacuum remains to be seen.

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