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Fernando James "Freddy" Ferrer (born April 30, 1950) was the Borough President of The Bronx from 1987 to 2001, and was a candidate for Mayor of New York in 2001 and the Democratic Party nominee for Mayor in 2005.
Ferrer grew up on Fox Street in the Longwood section of the South Bronx and was raised by his mother and by his grandmother, who worked in the kitchen of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Ferrer graduated from Catholic schools in the Bronx: St. Anselm Elementary School and Cardinal Spellman High School. As a high school student, he was a member of Aspira of New York, where he was elected to the post of Vice President of the citywide Aspira Clubs Federation (ACF), which included other future Puerto Rican leaders like Ninfa Segarra and Angelo Falcón. In 1968, as an Aspirante, he was part of a major student protest at the NYC Board of Education that resulted in such reforms as bilingual report cards and the recognition by the public schools of Puerto Rican Discovery Day (November 19).
He attended New York University before he got involved in community service as a student. Ferrer entered politics, and was elected to the New York City Council at the age of 32. Remembering how he had to translate for his grandmother when she was hospitalized, he authored legislation requiring interpreters in city emergency rooms. Ferrer went on to chair the Health Committee, fight for anti-discrimination laws on behalf of gays and lesbians, and lead the fight for a Civilian Complaint Review Board for the NYPD.
Currently, Ferrer resides in the relatively affluent Riverdale section of the Bronx. Though both Riverdale and Ferrer's native Hunts Point are located in the Bronx, they are the wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods in the borough, respectively. He is currently working to establish an insurance company in New York City, Poder Insurance Agency, with longtime political allies Luis Miranda, Jr. and Roberto Ramirez, Sr. (New York Magazine, October 16, 2006), and he appears regularly on NY1 News' "Wise Guy" segment along with former NYC Mayor Ed Koch and former US Senator Alfonse Damato.
Bronx Borough President
Ferrer was appointed Bronx Borough President as the result of the then holder of that office, Stanley Simon, going to jail in a major municipal scandal, that included the imprisonment of then Bronx Democratic Party boss Stanley Friedman. Ferrer began his 14-year tenure as Bronx borough president when the Bronx was a symbol of urban decay and neglect. National attention led to a Federal commitment to rebuild. During the Ferrer administration housing was created for about 66,000 families. The borough saw a significant drop in crime, particularly in the South Bronx neighborhood, and a steady rise in business and real estate investment.
In 1997, Ferrer launched a campaign for Mayor of New York. Trailing in the polls and under increased pressure from party insiders for a unified Democratic Party, he abruptly dropped out and endorsed the eventual Democratic nominee, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger.
2001 Mayoral Campaign
In 2001, Ferrer ran for the Democratic nomination for mayor. He won the first primary with 34%, but failed to win the necessary 40% to secure the nomination and ultimately lost a divisive runoff election to Mark Green following the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers. Ferrer, who is of Puerto Rican descent, received a high level of support from Hispanic voters but not from African-Americans. In the first round, Ferrer also finished ahead of City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
2005 Mayoral Campaign
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During the campaign, Ferrer proposed reviving a stock transfer tax for Wall Street to help pay for education; this tax ended in 1981 but while different and smaller than the original tax was treated as if it were exactly the same. Ferrer sought to create 167,000 homes, proposed hiring 1,900 new police officers, supported same-sex marriage, opposed the Urstadt law, supported the Second Avenue Subway and was opposed to tolls on the East River bridges as well as allowing residents of Staten Island to be able to cross the bridge connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn for free as other residents of other boroughs can do from their borough to others (such as the Brooklyn bridge). On October 23, Ferrer proposed Home Owner Property Exemption, or HOPE, a tax break for homeowners with a home property value of less than $100,000 which would have more than doubled the property tax rebate given to NYers.
A theme of his election campaign in 2001 was called the Two New Yorks and was altered for the 2005 campaign due to attacks that it was too race motivated. This is the conclusion of his stump speech:
- This is not about one New York against the other, this is about building a city united in opportunity, where all of us live under the blessing of possibility.
- There are two New Yorks. I have lived in both of them. Born in one, I crossed the bridge of hope and opportunity into the other, but I have never forgotten where I came from.
- That bridge took me from shining shoes on 149th Street and Southern Boulevard to this place where possibility opened up for me. It took me from Fox Street to the nomination of the Democratic Party to be Mayor of my hometown.
- It is that bridge that is the most important human infrastructure project, the bridge with planks of hope and opportunity that must be carefully maintained by a mayor who has never forgotten the millions of New Yorkers must be able to walk over that bridge too.
- And I will never stop fighting for what I believe in until every New Yorker can cross that bridge – and live in the greatest city in the world, with every opportunity they deserve, and where every dream—the way my mother believed—is possible.
His campaign was hurt by remarks he made in March 2005 concerning the Amadou Diallo shooting. Ferrer, who'd marched in protest against the shooting when it occurred and had gotten arrested, expressed his belief to the New York City Police Department Sergeant's Benevolent Association that the incident was a "tragedy," but "not a crime." He was strongly criticized by Diallo's family and others for these remarks, and he slid in popularity polls, especially among African-Americans. These comments, although taken out of context, were never properly addressed and just followed the campaign the entire way. The comments and ensuing events also caused a long-time campaign consultant, from Chicago, and a new spokesperson, from Texas, to leave the campaign due to a power struggle over what to do. The "new" campaign team was made up of advisors from Ferrer's primary consulting firm, Global Strategy Group.
Opponents such as Christopher X. Brodeur criticized Ferrer for being part of the powerful, corrupt Bronx political machine. This perception was not helped by the fact that the campaign was in effect being designed and coordinated by former Bronx party chair Roberto Rameriez whose firm received hundreds of thousands of dollars for staff salaries and campaign materials.
In the primary election held on September 13, 2005, the first tally indicated that Ferrer garnered 39.95% of the final vote. He needed 40% to avoid a runoff, but Anthony D. Weiner, the second place finisher, conceded, thus ensuring Ferrer would advance to the general election. A final count of the total votes indicated that Ferrer actually received 40.15% of the votes. Ferrer also defeated Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.
Over the course of the campaign he was endorsed by Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards, as well as Howard Dean, Reverend Al Sharpton, the Working Families Party and former Mayor David Dinkins.
Bill Clinton endorsed Ferrer on October 20. Despite the importance of the endorsement, local media such as 1010 WINS: emphasized minor snafus, arguing that "Ferrer's golden opportunity was nearly wasted as miscommunication between Clinton's office and Ferrer's campaign caused some snags and disarray." This "problem" was due to an issue with a sound system, and all the press wanted to discuss was why there was no sound and why the President said Ferrer's name only twice. Ferrer's camp alleged that precisely this sort of pervasive anti-Ferrer media bias significantly affected the campaign but since the press was never told the full and accurate story they only were left to be able to speculate and make their own judgements on what happened.
The campaign was also hurt by this media bias as the press would report on any error stated by Ferrer but would accept the Bloomberg campaign statements as fact. The press also tended not only through their own fault but also through the Ferrer campaign's fault, to allow the Bloomberg team the last word on a subject or to issue a rebuttal to what Ferrer had said but not the other way. Some of the Ferrer "mistakes" have turned out to be truer than expected such as high school graduation rates as reported in June 2006 (the Ferrer camp was consistently attacked for not using the 53% number that Bloomberg's team cited but on June 21, 2006 it was reported that this number is much closer to what Ferrer had cited).
- If anyone doubted the hapless nature of Ferrer's campaign they had only to watch his ads featuring the rotund Reverend Al Sharpton salsa dancing. In Fernando Ferrer's losing bid for mayor, that was about as innovative as things got. The campaign was also plagued by revenue problems as the ads they wished to use were too long and hence too expensive and these "salsa" ads were done to save money but also to hopefully get the campaign some needed attention. Sadly, the focus became Al Sharpton and the others used in these ads rather than the message they tried to convey.
Ferrer's campaign was hurt when the New York Times and other big newspapers endorsed Mike Bloomberg. Also, Ferrer's campaign relied mainly on small contributions, compared to Bloomberg's $96 million from his personal billion dollar fortune.
Bloomberg defeated Ferrer by a margin of 19 percent although pre-election polls done just days before had claimed that he would lose by between 30 and 35 percent with the NY Post declaring the weekend before the election that it was over.
2005 NYC Democratic Ticket
Stephen B. Kaufman
|New York City Council, 13th District
| Succeeded by|
|Borough president of The Bronx
| Succeeded by|
|Party political offices|
Mark J. Green
|Democratic Nominee for Mayor of New York
| Succeeded by|
William C. Thompson