Harlem City Council Election Tests Limits of Progressive Politics

When a Democratic Socialist narrowly won a Harlem City Council seat in a crowded Democratic primary two years ago, some took it as a sign that the historically black neighborhood was becoming more politically progressive.

But about a month before this year’s June 27 primary, first-term Congresswoman Kristen Richardson Jordan unexpectedly dropped out of the race. Her decision reshaped the hotly contested Democratic primary, which now consists of three candidates — none particularly progressive.

Two current state legislators: Al Taylor, 65, and Inez Dickens, 73, served on Harlem’s council seat for 12 years before joining Parliament. The third candidate is Yusef Salaam, 49, one of five men who raped and assaulted a jogger in Central Park in 1989.

All are moderate Democrats who had tried to distance themselves from Ms. Jordan and her politics before she quit, including redistributing wealth and abolishing the police.

But with the incumbent president dropping out of the race, the candidates turned on each other. Mr Salam questioned Ms Dickens’ behavior as a landlord, asking in a debate how many people she had evicted over the past two decades.Ms Dickens initially responded with one, but the Daily News found About 17 eviction proceedings Already started.

Ms. Dickens said her family’s management company rents out apartments at below-market rates, and some tenants involved in the eviction process have been four or more years behind on arrears. “I have done more to preserve and protect affordable housing in Harlem than any other candidate in this race,” Ms. Dickens said.

Her campaign, in turn, questioned Mr. Salam’s experience because his campaign appeared to be in the red and exceeded the $207,000 spending cap before he filed the amended papers.

The race took an odd turn this week at a women’s rally for Ms. Dickens when former Rep. Charles B. Rangel recounted how Mr. Salaam Called him and said Mr Salam had a “foreign name” Mr Salam respond on social media “We all belong in New York City.” Mr. Rangel said through Ms. Dickens’ spokeswoman, meaning foreign, without offense, because he didn’t understand it.

Representatives for both campaigns confirmed that the two met on Friday afternoon and resolved the issue.

Ultimately, the race may be decided on issues more closely related to the district, including the loss of black residents, a lack of affordable housing and concerns about oversaturation of drug treatment centers.

The positions of the three candidates underscore how the region will soon be represented by moderates. Ms. Dickens opposed the so-called good cause eviction measure, which would limit landlords’ ability to raise rents and evict tenants if passed by the state legislature. Mr. Taylor has voted against abortion rights in the past over religious objections, but recently voted for a measure that would have voters add an equal rights amendment to the state constitution. Mr Salam supported congestion pricing but said he still had reservations about how it would affect Harlem.

All three have the support of mainstream Democratic groups and leaders: Ms. Dickens of the Teachers United and Rep. Adriano Espayat; Mr. Taylor of the Carpenters Guild of New York City; Councilman and Chairman Keith Wright is recruiting to run for the seat.

The Greater Harlem coalition voted for Ms Dickens before Ms Jordan withdrew from the race. The carpenters union said their only goal was to defeat Ms Jordan.

Mr Taylor said not all Ms Jordan’s supporters necessarily supported her most left-leaning positions, such as defunding the police. I don’t think she cornered the market in this neighborhood,” he said in an interview.

Ms. Jordan’s defeat of incumbent President Bill Perkins in 2021 was not so much district-wide support for far-left views as a “strongly anti-establishment” campaign against Harlem’s once-mighty but now declining political machine A high tide of emotions, said Basil Smikle, director of the Public Policy Program at Hunter College.

“There is interest in finding alternatives and charting new routes,” Mr Smikle said.

Ms. Jordan, whose name will still appear on the ballot, may be her own worst enemy.she Criticized for using council funds Promote her campaign. Her far-left stance on policing, housing development and the war in Ukraine has drawn backlash from colleagues and voters. She missed nearly half of the committee meetings, city ​​records show.

Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, Co-Founder Greater Harlem Uniona group organizing against the oversaturation of community service, thinks Ms. Jordan is too left.

“We do understand that changes need to be made,” Ms Asberry-Chresfield said. “But some of her changes were so radical she wasn’t willing to give in

Ms. Jordan declined to comment. But left-leaning Councilman Charles Barron, who represents East New York, is one of Ms. Jordan’s few allies on the city council. Independent, strong, black activist like her. “

The remaining three candidates did not differ much in debates at a National Action Network forum in Harlem earlier this month and Tuesday night at NY1.

They were both in favor of developing housing at 145th Street and Lenox Avenue, an offer Ms. Jordan initially rejected because it wasn’t affordable enough. Candidates said they disapproved of the city’s use of a stop-and-frisk tactic, which a federal monitor recently said was being used in a discriminatory manner.

Referring to the influx of migrants seeking asylum, Ms. Dickens, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Salam said they supported New York City’s status as a sanctuary city but questioned whether the billions of dollars spent on housing and supporting migrants should also be paid. compensate. Available to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.

No one wanted Ms. Jordan’s approval.

Of the three, Mr. Salam has taken the most aggressive action against Ms. Jordan’s likely supporters, making his conviction, exoneration and persecution by former President Donald J. Trump a focal point of his campaign. Last week, Mr. Salam received the loudest applause when he spoke at a community center for seniors in East Harlem, criticizing Mr. Trump, who in 1989 included The New York Times. Bought full-page ads in four of the city’s newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty over the Central Park case.

Who better to participate in leading people than someone who is close to suffering? ’ said Mr Salam.

On Tuesday, Mr Salam and Mr Taylor tried to undercut Ms Dickens’ chances by endorsing each other. Voters can rank their choices in a three-way primary, which encourages supporters to make the other their second choice. Ms. Dickens responded two days later, hosting a women’s rally where she said two men in the campaign were plotting against her and unveiled a more prestigious spokesperson: Mayor Eric Adams. ).

Speaking at the Harriet Tubman Memorial in Harlem, the mayor highlighted Ms Dickens’ moderate stance, saying she understood “the balance between public safety and justice” and “has a business-friendly cities are possible.”

In a recent National Action Network forum on everything from affordable housing to whether he supported closing the Rikers Island prison complex, Mr Salam did not tie his conviction or the nearly seven years he spent behind bars to Dickens Ms. Trouble, she highlighted her experience.

Mr Salaam supported closing the Rikers Island prison complex and opening borough-based prisons, while Ms Dickens and Mr Taylor expressed concern about opening local prisons.

That still hasn’t helped Mr Salam gain support from local progressives. A political action committee affiliated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-R.A.) endorsed Ms. Jordan in her first candidacy, but is unlikely to make a new endorsement.

Progressives across the country, such as professor and activist Cornell West, who recently announced a run for president, and Minnesota’s progressive Attorney General Keith Ellison, have backed Mr Salam. .

“Donald Trump said he should be sentenced to death,” Mr Ellison said. “Who’s to say the system needs to be better and more efficient than Yusef Salaam?”

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