Irving Plaza Founder Campaigns

Irving Plaza co-founder Andrew Rasiej is running for office in New York City, hoping to become the Big Apple’s public advocate – a job that would put him a heartbeat from the mayor’s office.

The public advocate presides over council meetings, watches over city agencies and acts as a public ombudsmen. According to Fortune magazine, a former public advocate, Mark Green, went on to critically review the police department and HMOs. In contrast, the incumbent, Betsy Gotbaum, is hard to track down – according to Rasiej’s campaign.

Rasiej (pronounced rah-SHAE) told Pollstar the public advocate is “responsible for making sure that the public’s voices are heard and government information is made available to the public, basically making government transparent.”

And in case the NYC mayor dies or is incapacitated, the public advocate assumes the role until special elections can be held.

Rasiej wishes to use the position as a catalyst to building an Internet-connected populace. His background includes creating the Digital Club Network, which linked 50 music venues together. He presented the concept at a past Concert Industry Consortium. He was also the chairman of Howard Dean’s technology advisory group for the presidential hopeful’s campaign and has raised $250,000 online in two months for his own campaign, without a single fund-raiser.

As public advocate, Rasiej wants to give the public an online community for submitting testimony to their representatives and offer a network for fixing the various ills of Gotham. A prototype of Rasiej’s vision,, shows how citizens can take digital photos of potholes or tree limbs that hang dangerously over public schoolyards, upload them, and alert their civic leaders.

“In 1997, like any responsible venue owner, I was very active in my local community,” Rasiej said.

He joined a group of local businessmen in adopting Washington Irving High School, located across the street from Irving Plaza.

On his first visit, Rasiej was surprised to see the students using typewriters; there wasn’t a single computer on campus. He asked some friends to donate computers and – to his surprise – two weeks later, 200 people showed up on a Saturday to connect the school to the Internet and build a computer lab.

“Their response was so inspiring that I started a non-profit organization called which went on to wire about 75 schools to the Internet,” he said. “More importantly, it developed a program training kids to build their own computer networks within their own schools, and that program is in 100 schools in New York, eight states and 20 countries.”

To building full-time, Rasiej needed to leave the venue biz, selling Irving Plaza to SFX Entertainment in ’97. He said he got into politics because his suggestions to civic leaders were met with polite nods, then requests for $5,000 or $10,000 checks. Then there was no action.

Some may know Rasiej for his effort to recruit Bruce Springsteen to do a concert timed during President George Bush’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Rasiej reserved Giants Stadium and registered He told Pollstar at the time that if the Boss accepted, R.E.M., Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews Band were likely to join in.

That never happened. Yet, although officially not connected to Rasiej’s efforts, the Boss later felt inspired to join in on the “Vote For Change” concerts throughout the swing states.

Joe Reinartz