The Upper East Side appears to be a perfect incubator for ambitious young politicians seeking to move up the ranks of New York City politics. Both City Council members Jessica Lappin, representing Roosevelt Island and the eastern portion of the neighborhood, and Dan Garodnick, who represents the western portion bordering Central Park and south to Turtle Bay and Stuyvesant Town, are eyeing higher office in the 2013 elections.
“It’s no secret that Jessica is laying the groundwork to make a strong run for borough president next year, should Borough President Stringer decide not to run for re-election,” said Mark Guma, political consultant to Lappin, who responded to a request for comment to Lappin’s office.
Lappin has been a strong voice on senior citizen issues, chairing the Committee on Aging since 2010, and also on women’s rights; last year, she co-sponsored a bill that passed the Council and now requires crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide medical or abortion services to advertise themselves that way. She has amassed over $331,000 in campaign contributions, according to state campaign finance board records, and is waiting to officially declare a candidacy for borough president when Stringer declares his run for mayor, which political insiders say is all but a done deal.
Buzz is already swirling around who would fill Lappin’s 5th District seat, with political consultant Ben Kallos having registered a campaign committee and confirming that he’ll definitely run if Lappin doesn’t. People have also mentioned Assembly Member Micah Kellner as a possible contender for the seat.
Garodnick has raised over $1 million for his yet-to-be-declared race, but a source close to the council member confirmed that he’s looking at the comptroller’s seat, which will be up for grabs if John Liu runs for mayor.
“People continue to come up to Dan and tell him that they think he’d be a great comptroller, that he has the right skill set and values for it,” the source said. “He’s listening to that and thinking about that, and it’s an interesting possibility.”
Garodnick currently serves as the chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee in the Council and has worked successfully on tenant protection and housing issues.
As political consultant George Arzt pointed out, it’s not unusual for big political players to come out of the Upper East Side.
“The silk stocking district, as the Upper East Side was once called, has always been a breeding ground for aspiring politicians,” Arzt said. “That includes Ed Koch.”
He also speculated that both potential candidates are probably enticed by the idea of running in open races without incumbents to conquer, and said that both Lappin and Garodnick are viable contenders at this point for their respective races.
“The ZIP codes, especially 10021 [the East 70s, which the council members share], are ZIP codes where a lot of money comes out of and a lot of fundraising is done. That is a major factor,” Arzt said.
If Lappin runs for the borough presidency, she’s likely to face off with downtown Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin and fellow City Council members Robert Jackson, who represents Upper Manhattan’s District 7, and Gale Brewer, who covers the Upper West Side. For the comptroller’s seat, Brooklyn Council Member Domenic Recchia, chairman of the Finance Committee, is the only likely challenger to Garodnick at this point—but of course, the field can change vastly.
“Anyone who announces right now is a contender,” Arzt said. “It’s only later on that you see the resources of the candidate and see the support in the geographical areas that they need, either Manhattan or citywide.”
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