There’s an election this month!

Chris Marte

Our City Council seat is up for grabs again this month in the primary scheduled for June 27. Christopher Marte won the seat in November 2021, but here we are again. This time he has three Democratic opponents: Ursila Jung, Susan Lee and Pooi Stewart. There is one candidate on the Republican ballot, Helen Qiu.

Jung, Pooi and Stewart will be part of a candidate’s forum on Wednesday, June 7, 5:30p, at 7 Mott, Suite 601, hosted by the Asian Wave Alliance.

Susan Lee

Read more about Marte here, from his interview and questionnaire in 2021. Tribecan Susan Lee also ran in 2021 and her questionnaire is here.




Ursila Jung is a longtime resident of Battery Park City — she moved in before 9/11 — and rented before becoming a homeowner “in this beautiful and unique neighborhood,” she said. She attended graduate school at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and worked for a long time at the World Bank. She has since consulted at start-ups around the city.

Ursila Jung

Her two boys attended PS 334 on the Upper West Side, and over the years she has held many positions on the PTA there, from class rep to V.P. of fundraising. She was elected to both the PS 334 SLT and the District 2 Community Education Council in 2021 and she still holds the CEC position.

I could not find a website for Pooi Stewart, though The Bronx Times reported that she ran for a state assembly seat in the Bronx in last June’s primary. The paper said Stewart was born in Malaysia in 1973 and immigrated to the United States at age 17 and is a mother of three.

Helen Qiu’s motto is “Liberate New York.” You can find her website here.

Early voting starts June 17. Find your polling site here.
Saturday, June 17, 2023 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Sunday, June 18, 2023 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Monday, June 19, 2023 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Tuesday, June 20, 2023 8:00AM – 4:00PM
Wednesday, June 21, 2023 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Thursday, June 22, 2023 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Friday, June 23, 2023 8:00AM – 4:00PM
Saturday, June 24, 2023 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Sunday, June 25, 2023 9:00AM – 5:00PM



  1. Whichever candidate comes out against sidewalk sheds the hardest has my vote.

    • Whoever tries to do ANYTHING about the abusive placard situation gets mine… enough already… our streets are not parking spots for NYPD friends and family

      • NYC issues hundreds of thousands of placards annually and in many instances these go to non-emergency agencies. Thousands of these placards are used to park illegally. This is a gross abuse of power and creates a public hazard – obstructed pedestrian space, reduced meter collections, blocked loading docks and causing loss of public parking. The city needs to stop issuing most of these and enforce rules against illegal use of placards. On a matter of principle, City Council members should refuse placards.

  2. @FiDi Guy – as you might know there are 2 bills being considered now (31 A and B) that are looking at licensing these sheds. In my opinion, while this is a step in the right direction (these sheds needs to be regulated and taxed), it offers many complicated options like sheds only through the summer months. These bills need more work so that we can have a LIMITED number of licensed and REGULATED sheds on streets where they do not obstruct traffic, bike lanes or access for emergency vehicles. They need to undergo regular inspections for hygiene and compliance. And they need to comply with all local noise restrictions.

    • I think the commenter is referring to “sidewalk sheds” as in the inordinate number of scaffold bridges all over the city, not outdoor restaurant seating.

    • I appreciate the response Ursula. I was specifically talking about scaffolding – which is a huge blight on the city (and really unnecessary from a safety perspective).

      Rather than repair buildings, landlords will leave up scaffolding (also called sidewalk sheds) indefinitely.

      There are less intrusive means that meet safety concerns during construction (e.g. – lots of other cities use nets fastened to the building and get on just fine).

      • Sorry I misunderstood. The scaffolding is a huge blight. And often left up just to avoid the cost of taking it down. I saw a recent survey that said at the beginning of the year there were more than 8000 such structures up around NYC – crazy! (Here is an interactive map for fun:
        In some cases, it’s up for years because it’s cheaper for owners to put scaffolding around a building than conduct repair. This is a great example of a law that was put in place with good intentions to protect pedestrians, but without proper implementation has resulted in these structures becoming an ugly reality of every day life.
        Enforcement to limit the duration they can be up and to ensure that fines are paid is absolutely essential!

        • Of the 9,000 active sidewalk sheds, how many are “unreasonably” in place?

          Here is today’s sidewalk shed data in tabular form, from that website:

          Age (Yrs)–Units–Average Age (Days)
          > 0 — 8,961 — 480
          > 1 — 3,858 — 898
          > 2 — 1,823 — 1,315
          > 3 — 1,025 — 1,631
          > 4 — 509 — 2,004
          > 5 — 241 — 2,423

          We can infer the following:

          57% of the sheds are up for an average of less than 6 months, or 1 construction season.
          23% of the sheds are up for an average of one-and-a-half years, or 2 construction seasons.
          9% of the sheds are up for an average of two-and-a-half years, or 3 construction seasons.
          That means 11% are up for 4 construction seasons or more.

          Not all sheds are erected for facade maintenance. New buildings over 40 feet require a sidewalk shed until fully enclosed. There are about 2,500 active, new building permits for structures greater than 40 feet tall issued from 2018 onwards. Presumably most or all of those have sidewalk sheds, and those buildings are not being built and enclosed in one construction season.

          About 16,000 buildings are eligible for FISP inspections (and repairs as-needed), which occur in 5-year cycles. (This excludes all those buildings generally 40-70 ft in height that still may get violations and / or require facade repairs which require a shed.)

          Of those 16,000, about 3,000 buildings are deemed unsafe each cycle, requiring a sidewalk shed be put up immediately.

          Of those 16,000, about 2,000 are deemed safe. The rest are “SWARMP,” or safe with repair and maintenance program. This generally requires a sidewalk shed, but not until the work is actually underway.

          This issue is more complicated than it seems.

  3. More and more, I think it’s time for the sheds to go. There are some that are beautiful designed, built, and well-maintained, but too many are just graffiti-covered plywood box garbage and rat attractors.

    Again, I think the best solution is to widen sidewalks and allow restaurants to have removable outdoor seating directly adjacent to the restaurant, in the style of European cafes. Where feasible, awnings (permanent or retractable) can be added to the buildings. This avoids the problem of the sheds, and also avoids the problem of blocked sidewalks and service crossing the sidewalks. This also causes no obstruction to street cleaning and maintenance.

  4. I replied to texts requesting my support that I wanted to know candidates position on the CBD tolling for residents of the CBD. My position is that like other cities who have implemented such plans, like London where CBD residents are exempted 90% of the toll amount, something should apply for NYC CBD residents who register/park in the CBD.
    The act currently mentions toll exemption for CBD residents who earn < $60k per year. Love to know how small that group is. Are exemptions going to be given for city employees who drive in to CBD and placard park on our streets?
    Council member Marte’s staff said he advocates for local exemption similar to what exists in London, and will be testifying and writing a letter.

  5. You are right that London residents of the congestion zone enjoy a 90% discount from congestion tolls. Please note, though, that a similar discount in NYC isn’t practicable, owing to the fact that there are nearly 5x as many zone residents here (651,400) as in London (136,000). Chris Marte knows this. It would be great if he stopped posturing and instead helped his constituents — I’m one — focus on CP’s vast benefits, which are disproportionately concentrated downtown. To your other points: we will have more leverage opposing exemptions for city employees and placard perps if we unite, wholeheartedly, for congestion pricing as the boon for our city that it almost certainly will prove to be.

    • Oops, I mis-tabulated one of the six community district populations, above. Total population living in the NYC congestion zone is 612,000, not 651,000. NYC/London zone population ratio is 4.5 to 1, not nearly 5x.

      @Thomas Hagen: Even now (post-Covid), the MTA brings in 2.5x as many people into the zone each day (subway + bus + LIRR + Metro-North) as come in by car + cab + Uber + truck. I think it’s likely that more, not fewer people will come to the zone each day, with the relatively small numbers deterred by the toll more than offset by increases in transit arrivals + carpooling. You may disagree but I’ve documented my assumptions and calculations and would be happy to go over them with you.

      • If you said that the congestion tax was going to be used to lower train and subway fares we could debate the net impact. But the current proposal MUST lower the number of commuters (absent other forces).

        There’s only three types of commuters:

        1- Currently commute on public transit. Numbers should stay flat or very slightly down as a result of this policy (more crowded trains).
        2- Currently commute privately. With the new tax, some will keep driving, some will switch to public and some will stop commuting into the city. This policy will reduce the number of people currently in this category who commute into the city.
        3- Not commuting right now. With the potential cost of commuting either staying the same (public transit) or going up (private transit) there’s nothing in this policy to motivate a non-commuter to begin commuting.

        In a vacuum, this policy will definitively reduce the number of commuters into NYC.

        This policy won’t take effect in a vacuum. Maybe the number of commuters will go up anyway because other forces have a larger impact. A stronger economy, reversal of population outflows, companies requiring a return-to-office or increased public safety would all be expected to increase the number of office workers.

        What’s NOT going to happen is somebody who doesn’t commute now says to themselves, “Well, now that it’s more expensive to drive and the train fare is the same I think congestion policy is motivating me to commute into NYC again.”

        It’s fine if you support CP on environmental grounds (it will reduce auto trips to Manhattan) or as a means to transfer wealth from drivers to MTA employees (go look at the MTA’s cost per employee sometime) but don’t delude yourself that it will lead to more commuters.

        • @Thomas: By law, CP’s congestion revenue is earmarked for transit capital investments (80% to NYCT, 10% to each of the MTA’s two commuter RR’s) and so can’t be dedicated to holding down transit fares. Nevertheless, those earmarks will hold down fares over the long haul by making the trains run better, thus attracting more riders (not to mention defraying the need to borrow which as you know is a huge cause of rising fares).

          My model, which underlies the figures in my NYT op-ed and which I again invite you to review, projects that “turnstile windfall” to be $200 million a year. For conservatism, the model holds those revenues aside rather than pretending to invest them or use them to hold the line on fares.

          Re commuters: I use the term to denote regular (formerly 4-5 days a week, but now, with WFH, 3 days) work trippers to the CBD. Pre-Covid, they accounted for nearly half of auto trips to the zone. Now they’re barely a third; the remainder being non-work (theater, medical, daytrippers, whatever) and thru-trips. I don’t include thru-trips in my count of people coming to the zone, b/c they don’t “land” there; I trust you agree. My point about commuters being only a subset of all car trips is one I continually press on my fellow CP advocates, by the way; it irks me when they conflate straight-up census counts of CBD trips with all such trips.

          In any event, the 15-20% attrition I project in car trips to/thru the zone takes less of a toll (haha) on trips that land there than you may have assumed. And that modest shrinkage is more than offset, in my model, by the increase in subway trips noted above, along with a 10% rise in vehicle occupancies (from 1.33 per car now to 1.46 with CP). If you find the latter suspect, please consider that changing prices of goods and services differently (as CP will do to driving into the zone) invariably affects behaviors in myriad ways, many of which can’t fully be foreseen. This “magic of pricing,” if you will, is why I’ve long gravitated in my advocacy toward pricing rather than conventional regulation, and not just in traffic matters.

          Whether CP will make it more or less attractive to work in, live in and visit the zone and NYC is something we can debate. Fyi, while I’m indeed a dyed-in-the-wool enviro, I don’t advocate CP on pollution grounds. Perhaps you noticed that the op-ed, co-written by a climate economist, didn’t mention climate and barely mentioned air pollution. That was to keep the focus on CP’s *time savings* which in our estimation are far and away CP’s greatest benefit, and, thus, selling point.

          Last, I admit that the fruits of investing CP revenue that I touted in my opening graf as well as in the op-ed will not be harvested overnight but will take years to materialize. That’s a non-conservatism in my presentation, one I flag in the model (even offering a “switch” to turn them off) but could not raise in the op-ed due to limitations on space and comprehensibility. I add that MTA governance, which we barely touched on in the op-ed, is critically awry and has to be overhauled. You and I evidently agree that our city is in trouble and can’t any longer afford hidebound inefficiencies and privileges (I’m looking at anti-housing forces, among others). I bet you and I have much in common. Let’s join forces.

      • Charles, I’ve appreciated your work on congestion pricing for a long time. One area that I never see addressed: what about the various trades-people that need vans or cars to carry their tools, supplies, etc., and on whom many buildings depend? Having done construction for years I know there is very little margin for additional expenses.
        I imagine the result will be higher prices to clients, which would in some way affect your numbers of gain/loss to the city, no? Is there any provision (tax credits, etc.) for these people?

        • Faster moving traffic will be a huge boon to the tradespeople. Instead of sitting in traffic they’ll be able to more efficiently work, get deliveries, and schedule their day.

          • @Larry, thanks for saying in under 30 words what would have taken me 300.

            @Jeff, thanks for your kind words. Building on Larry, I’ll add that for reasons I don’t understand — maybe plain inertia — there’s a chance that all trucks will be charged the same toll premium vis-a-vis cars. That would be not just unfair but also unnecessary since the TBTA, which is going to administer CP, already tolls trucks *by axles* on their tunnels and bridges. Rather than waste energy futilely demanding exemptions “because I live down here,” we should appeal to electeds to make sure that Jane the Plumber and 18-wheelers don’t get charged the same.

          • @Larry, good point about time saved in traffic. @Charles, thanks for explaining the “Jane the plumber/18 wheeler” issue. Which elected would you suggest are likely to listen?
            As to the “because I live here” issue — well, I live here and am concerned. Wasn’t there some talk about tax rebates?

  6. Instituting congestion pricing right now is grotesquely stupid.

    One of the biggest economic challenges facing NYC right now is the lack of office workers returning to the city. Just watch all the politicians act surprised that the number of office workers decreases when you start charging them an additional $23/day to commute. (All but the dumbest politicians know this but can’t resist a new revenue stream that helps them even if it hurts the city.)

  7. Actual non-driver – and completely against Congestion Pricing.

    The vast majority of vehicles are commercial and relate to luxury and commercial overdevelopment – Uber, ecommerce, commercial delivery, building utility/service, construction etc.
    Moreover the City has manufactured congestion with street closures and street shrinkage.

    In the meantime, the City completely supports more projects that will increase vehicles – like the evil casino, a new billionaire building in the works.

    What should be happening: tax ecommerce, pied a terre, billionaire buildings

  8. @Larry, good point about time saved in traffic. @Charles, thanks for explaining the “Jane the plumber/18 wheeler” issue. Which elected would you suggest are likely to listen?
    As to the “because I live here” issue — well, I live here and am concerned. Wasn’t there some talk about tax rebates?