Last night, Gothamist headed to the mayoral forum held by Parks 1, the non-profit that is working to make NYC's parks the number one in the nation by trying to get the city goverment to commit 1% of the city's budget to the parks. (You can sign the pledge here.) Four of the potential candidates appeared: Former Bronx Borough President Ferando Ferrer, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, and former Queens City Councilman Thomas Ognibene. Congressman Anthony Weiner had agreed to come, but he was stuck in D.C. (legislation!), and Mayor Bloomberg was invited but did not attend. The discussion covered topics like how the candidates would deal with poorly maintained parks, vehicles in parks, and community gardens. Also, the candidates had other ideas about revenue to support and maintain the parks besides the 1% idea, because 1% of the city's budget is a huge chunk of change (we think it's about $500 million, based on the 2006, but we're still trying to figure out how the parks line item works). While the candidates tried to emphasize their commitment to New York and the parks, Gothamist began to think about who might be left standing this fall.
Ferrer: In our opinion, the most impressive candidate with his solid command of the issues. Not as smooth as Miller. He emphasized intiatives in the Bronx, but was also familiar with a lot of city-wide legislation, even arcane laws. Actually said he'd fired Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe over his remarks saying some parks should not be rescued.
Fields: Passionate but not as articulate as her rivals. Strong emphasis on development and working with developers, which makes us think she's going after union and big money real estate. The only candidate to actually pledge to spend 1% of the city's budget on the parks thus far, Gothamist can't help but think she signed the pledge because she knows she won't be held up to it, since she probably won't win.
Miller: The most effective and polished speaker, he was second most compelling. What he does have in his favor is being a pretty powerful politician who is affecting city legislation at the present, which is something Ferrer can't say. One issue is his over-reliance on being snarky and soundbite-y. It makes for easy applause, but we were left wanting more.
Ognibene: Eager to prove his mettle as a "real Republican," he was honest about his attitudes about issues like WiFi in the parks (thought it was a good idea, but there are other things to improve in parks first) and community gardens (again, good idea, but if a developer is willing to pay top dollar for land, then he'd be open to that) in a crowd that was decidedly not Republican. He was also cranky, but we can forgive him since Bloomberg is working him over regarding the validity of his petition to run on the Republican ticket. We can see why he was probably an effective City Councilman; we admit he's smart, even if we don't agree with him.
We suspect the primary will come down to Ferrer and Miller. At this point, Gothamist can't predict whom, but maybe it'll be clear once Ferrer and Miller mobilize their pre-primary runs.