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Columbia Spectator Staff

Election season is well underway in New York, and the vote-rich, liberal Upper West Side will be a prize for any candidate.

The neighborhood's importance was on display Wednesday night when a host of prominent New York politicians visited the local Three Parks Independent Democrats meeting to discuss plans for the 2013 elections.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council member Inez Dickens, State Senator and Democratic Conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat spoke and took questions from the audience of club members and interested Upper West Siders.

Stringer, who is running for city comptroller, was the event's most prominent attendee. Although he is currently the only candidate in the race, Stringer is still touring the city to convince residents they should vote for him in the September Democratic primary and November general election.

"There's a sense that in this city right now, City Hall is not listening to the people who have traditionally been the backbone of this city," he said. "The job of comptroller has never been more important."

Stringer stressed his record as borough president, specifically how he conducted reports to keep several city agencies in check.

"The job of comptroller is to watch the money, watch the agencies, and to make sure that when public policy is going in the wrong direction, you have the power of audit and soapbox and real opportunity to make this city run better," Stringer said.

Merle McEldowney, a Three Parks board member, said she was impressed with Stringer's speech, especially his comments about holding city agencies accountable.

"For a public official to do those things, you need to have the public behind you, and I think he will have the public with him," McEldowney said.

Stewart-Cousins discussed the current political climate in the State Senate, which since December has been controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a breakaway group of Independent Democrats.

"We're beginning a journey of strengthening our Democratic Conference," now in the minority, Stewart-Cousins said. "You will see me again, hopefully as the majority leader next time."

Dickens addressed the fact that redistricting, under the latest draft maps, will eliminate Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side from her purview.

"I will no longer be your City Council member," she said, listing her accomplishments to applause from the crowd.

Espaillat discussed his plans for the coming year, including a bill that would index minimum wage so that it would automatically increase each year. He also talked about working toward universal pre-kindergarten programs.

The panel touched on a wide range of issues, from gun control to hydrofracking. Linda DeMeo, an Upper West Side resident who is not part of the club, came to find out how to act on the issue of solitary confinement in prisons.

"It's very costly and deplorable," she said. "Not enough has been done about it."

During Stewart-Cousins' question-and-answer session, DeMeo asked about her stance on the issue and was happy to find that the senator cared about it. DeMeo said she will now reach out to Stewart-Cousins' office to push for further action.

Three Parks, which represents the Manhattan Valley area, will be endorsing candidates later this year.

"I have a hunch that anyone who gets Three Parks' endorsement will be the next comptroller," Stringer joked. | @evakalikoff

Three Parks Independent Democrats Scott Stringer Adriano Espaillat