NEW YORK CITY — When Key Food donated five truckloads of food to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy last month, they asked the city’s five borough presidents where to send them.
Brooklyn's Marty Markowitz sent his bottles of water, boxes of Cheerios, soup mixes, canned tuna, granola bars and peanut butter to battered parts of Red Hook. Staten Island's James Molinaro dispatched his to New Dorp. And Helen Marshall, of Queens, sent hers to the devastated Rockaways.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, however, chose to send his $250,000 in supplies to Coney Island — not the Lower East Side or the Financial District where many residents were still struggling without power and other services.
"Unloading some of the supplies we’re donating to the communities hit hardest by
#Sandy," he tweeted, along with a picture of himself delivering cases of Arizona Iced Tea.
"Thank you @keyfood for you generous donation!"
Making appearances in other boroughs has become increasingly common for Stringer, who was once eyeing a 2013 run for mayor before opting for the less competitive comptroller race.
A DNAinfo.com New York analysis of Stringer’s schedules, obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, show that his appearances outside of Manhattan nearly doubled, from 55 during the first half of 2011 to 106 in the first half of 2012.
During that period, a quarter of his scheduled appearances occurred in the outer boroughs, up from 15 percent the year before.
The events ranged from dozens of remarks in front of Brooklyn and Queens civic associations and community boards, to a “ribbon cutting and photo-opp” at the Gourmet Glatt Market in Borough Park and a keynote address at a Bronx and Queens Builders Association event.
Stringer spokeswoman Audrey Gelman said the field trips — and donations — were not unusual and that they were all part of Stringer’s job as beep.
“Many of the issues that Borough President Stringer has prioritized during his time in office hold resonance beyond Manhattan’s borders,” said Gelman, explaining that Stringer frequently visits out-of-borough civic and community organizations to discuss his ideas for everything from improving the city’s transportation network to government transparency.
“Scott believes strongly that the cross-borough exchange of ideas is an exercise that improves our public policy and civil discourse,” she said.
Stringer's absences from Manhattan did not sit well with some residents still struggling weeks after the storm.
“That’s crazy… If you’re in Manhattan, I would assume you would take care of your Manhattan people," said Keisha Hogans, a tenant organizer at the hard-hit Knickerbocker Village, where residents are still struggling with spotty electricity and some remain without heat and hot water weeks after Sandy.
She said Stringer should have asked whether residents in his own borough needed the food.
“You’re the Manhattan Borough President. Be the Manhattan Borough President,” she said. “He could have done something for us.”
Gelman said Stringer has "worked around the clock" on Sandy relief and that he "feels strongly that we are all one city, and for that reason has worked collaboratively to target areas that suffered damages from Hurricane Sandy, including other boroughs that were particularly hard hit,” she said.
Observers said that it’s only natural for Stringer to be working to build a base of support beyond his loyal West Side as he prepares a run for higher office.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, for instance, has ramped up her visits to Upper Manhattan this year in an apparent bid to increase her visibility in African-American and Hispanic communities as she works to bolster support with those crucial voting blocs ahead of the 2013 race.
Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger said that when she was in office, she frequently spent time outside of Manhattan — both as part of her official duties and as she explored a run for mayor.
“Any issue you're working on as an elected official has ramifications for the rest of the city,"
she said. ”If you're working in something innovative, you're going to be asked by lots of community organizations and community boards (who want) to find out how are you doing something.”
"Most elected officials work something like 14-hour, seven-day-a-week jobs," she said. "In a 14-hour day, there's nothing the matter, in my mind, with knowing that some of that time is people going to communities whose support they might hope to have in a future election."
Political consultant Scott Levenson, who ran Messinger's 1997 mayoral campaign and is not affiliated with Stringer's bid, agreed that officials rarely earn scorn for working to boost their profiles.
"New Yorkers rarely punish their elected officials for having ambitions," he said.
"The voters expect that from people. I think the pressures on candidates to balance constituent needs and political needs is often a false dichotomy.
“Often what is good governmentally is in fact good politics.”
He pointed to Stringer’s performance during Hurricane Sandy, which he said had struck the “ideal balance" given the scope of devastation across the city.
“The borough president spent a tremendous amount of his energy on issues like the South Street Seaport and infrastructure breaches outside Manhattan, while showing care and concern for communities that were hardest hit," he said.