Cary Goodman launched his campaign for City Council in Theodore Roosevelt Park on Jan. 27. Photo: Madeleine Thompson
Upper West Sider Cary Goodman launched his campaign for City Council last week in the park that inspired him to run. On a cold, windy morning in Theodore Roosevelt Park, Goodman sat on a bench holding a de facto press conference with local reporters and promised to give incumbent council member Helen Rosenthal a run for her money. “I expect to give her a really solid race,” Goodman said. “I think I’m going to raise a significant amount of money.”
Opposition to the American Museum of Natural History’s planned Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation is Goodman’s main platform.
If elected, Goodman said he would attempt to pull the roughly $100 million in city funding that has been promised to the project. The new building will extend into Theodore Roosevelt Park by a quarter of an acre, much to the outrage of neighbors who find solace in its private, shady corners. “The first thing I’ll do when I beat Helen Rosenthal and become the council member is freeze funding for the museum’s project,” he said at the park on Jan. 27. “And then I think as a consequence of that people will see that there’s a need to have a much broader dialogue on projects that are going to be neighborhood-changing. I think I’ll introduce legislation to require all of the community boards and all of the borough presidents to institute a series of town hall meetings and conversations with constituent groups prior to, not after but prior to approving any of these projects.”
Goodman was highly critical of Rosenthal — calling her a “done-deal Democrat” — both for her support of the Gilder Center and for being “virtually uninvolved” in engaging low-income families in conversations about a recent rezoning of several Upper West Side schools. A yearlong battle between the city’s Department of Education and the local Community Education Council recently resulted in a rezoning that shuffles students around to alleviate overcrowding and increase diversity across the board. School integration is Goodman’s other central campaign issue, and he was upset with the way schools with fewer white students didn’t seem as included in the conversation as the whiter, wealthier schools. “My kids went to school here over 20 years ago now,” he said. “Their classrooms were what you think of when you think of America. The city’s one of the worst in the whole country [on school segregation].”
In a statement, Rosenthal said “no one should ever run unopposed” and welcomed Goodman’s challenge. “Multiple-candidate races are critical for residents to become ‘high information’ voters with debate on different perspectives and ideas,” she said.
This will be Goodman’s first run for public office. He graduated from Colgate University in 1972, got his masters in teaching from Columbia University in 1974 and received a Ph.D. from the Union Institute and University in 1977. He has taught at the City University of New York as well as in some of the city’s public schools, and has served as director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District since 2009.
A longtime advocate of city parks, he’s lived on the Upper West Side for more than four decades. “The reason I’m running seems more important than who I am or the fact that I’m 66 years old,” he said. “If anybody else were running, saying ‘I oppose [the Gilder Center] and I’m going to try to beat Helen Rosenthal so we can nix the funding on this plan,’ that’d be fine. I’d defer to that. But so far no one has.”
Madeleine Thompson can be reached at email@example.com