Vol. 14, No.4   February 22 - March 7, 2001


Koppell to Run for Council


School board president Oliver Koppell has decided to run for City Council in the 11th District. The Riverdale Democrat served 24 years in the state Assembly and then one year as state attorney general. (He was appointed by the state legislature to replace Robert Abrams who had resigned to run for U.S. Senate against Republican Alfonse D'Amato.)

Koppell will face off against three probable opponents including Terry Bastone, a Democratic district leader; Mark Vogel, a former Koppell staffer; and Laura Spalter, a Norwood teacher and head of the Riverdale Community Association.

Councilwoman June Eisland, who has held the seat since 1979, is not eligible to run again because of term limits. However, a movement is afoot within the Council to overturn two referenda voted on by New Yorkers to impose limits of two terms on Council members and all citywide officeholders including the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, and all the borough presidents. Eisland is one of 22 term-limited members (there are 36 in all) of the Council who support a reversal of term limits. If that bid is successful and Eisland is able to run again, Koppell said he will withdraw from the race.

"I had not intended to run for this position," Koppell said at a City Hall press conference. "However, I was urged to do so by a broad group of distinguished community and political leaders. I was deeply honored by their request, and shared their concern that the district secure effective representation."

In 1999, Koppell headed a ticket of seven candidates six from Riverdale who secured a majority on the nine-member school board. That campaign focused heavily on the creation of a controversial high school zoned mainly for Riverdale residents. The board was successful in making the school a reality, but the project stoked racial tensions between Riverdale residents and parents in other parts of District 10, some of whom felt that the school was intended to exclude minority students.

After a full year mostly devoted to the high school project, Koppell and the board held a hearing at PS 246 to discuss possible solutions to the overcrowding crisis affecting the entire district. At his announcement, Koppell said, "We need to end overcrowding. We need more schools and good educational facilities now. I will not support a city budget that does not address these needs."

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