Among the political leadership in Harlem, this seems to be the equivalent of a “your mama” insult:
“If you stand on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, you think you’re in Times Square—and that’s OK! That’s good. But if you stand at 116th and Lexington you think your standing in the worst neighborhood back in the 80s.”
No one wants to go back to the bad old days. But the good new days aren’t being shared by all, according to State Senator Adriano Espaillat, quoted above.
Espaillat held a press conference in Harlem on Thursday to talk about his campaign’s economic agenda for the district. Helping small businesses purchase energy efficient equipment. An increase in the use of local minority-owned and women-owned businesses on projects. Bumping up the minimum wage.
But Espaillat’s real argument was that the person who represents the district in Congress now—Charles Rangel—is economically hurting much of Harlem and the rest of the 13th Congressional District, not helping.
“The so-called renaissance of 125th Street must spread…It must not be an inside-trading game, where people who are connected get the opportunities. It should be a broad-tent approach to opportunity,” Espaillat said. “You know, our neighborhood cannot be run by a gang of four. Our neighborhood has to be run by the people of the district.”
The “gang of four” reference is to the group of four elected leaders that for decades dominated upper Manhattan political life: former mayor David Dinkins, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, former secretary of state for New York Basil Paterson (father of the former governor), and, of course, Congressman Rangel.
Espaillat’s choice of location for the press conference provided a literal backdrop to his argument. Underneath the Broadway subway overpass, cranes can be seen rising from fully razed blocks moving north of 125th Street. The Columbia University expansion plan bitterly divided the West Harlem community and Espaillat looked to remind people of Rangel’s role in helping the project move forward.
“What a sham,” he said. “What a travesty.”
On Rangel’s part, there doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by that an announcement about a new bill or a community event doesn’t come out. This week alone saw the introduction of a national jobs creation act by House Democrats, led by Rangel, and a jobs fair, sponsored by Rangel, in the district.
But that doesn’t stop Espaillat from making the case that there’s a void in leadership on the economy.
“The resources have not gone across the district. They have remained in once specific corner,” he said.