Monday, July 28, 2008

Rangel'$ Community Auction

In yesterday's NY Times the paper highlighted the way in which Congressman Charlie "Stabilized" Rangel has a number of good friends among the city's largest real estate developers: "In many ways, Vornado Realty Trust, the Kimco Realty Corporation and Apollo Real Estate Advisers represent the real estate vanguard of the new Harlem...Executives and people tied to the companies, along with other real estate concerns, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Representative Charles B. Rangel’s fund-raising operation since the 2004 election cycle."

And what are these companies up to in the community? Well, just like Columbia over in West Harlem,they're actions are (or will be) displacing long time Harlemites from their neighborhood: "Vornado is building an office tower on 125th Street that some residents fear will accelerate gentrification. Kimco moved to push out longtime local store owners to demolish a building and put a new retail complex in its place. And Apollo is leading a contentious effort to turn the historically rent-stabilized Delano Village apartment complex — which has been renamed Savoy Park — into a more profitable property."

So what we have here is another example of a used-to-be-a politician who came onto the scene as a defender of the community but who as evolved into a poseur who's grown fat defending interests that are antithetical to the folks that they represent. We saw the happening over ten years ago when Rangel was shilling for the building of a Pathmark supermarket-even getting an $800,000 grant from HHS for the project (not to mention the suspicious actions of the now-defunct HUDC). For another view on Rangel, see Seth Lipsky's Op-Ed this morning at the NY Sun.

As the time aptly points out: "Mr. Rangel responded in part by stressing his long history in the neighborhood and his affection for it. But even as he extols the old Harlem, he is generating significant campaign contributions from those at the forefront of the new." How surprising. It's about time that Rangel gets the scrutiny he deserves, and the community gets more effective representation for its interests.

In the middle of all this is Vornado Realty and Trust. Vornado and Rangel are looking perfect together: "The aides said Mr. Rangel supported, in concept, one of the more controversial projects in the neighborhood, the office tower proposed by Vornado on 125th street, where Major League Baseball plans to move its new cable network. An executive for Vornado gave a total of $9,600 to Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising operation in March and April 2007. The Vornado project was to be the first prime office tower to be built in Harlem in more than three decades. Some residents complained about the scope of the project and argued that commercial gentrification could force many small businesses out."

Another major Rangel donor is Kimco Realty: "Kimco, along with another company, bought a sprawling building at 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard last summer, with plans to bulldoze it and erect a new complex. But the plan prompted protests from business owners and residents, who called on the City Council to pass legislation to create a historic Harlem district to preserve businesses run by Harlem residents. The owners and residents, led by the Save Harlem Association, also filed a lawsuit against the developers; it was settled this year for an undisclosed sum."

Kimco is also exploring plans in Brooklyn that would displace a number of local supermarkets. All in all this Times piece is a cause for concern. The eighty year old congressman is at a stage that he just might be feeling a sense of droit du seigneur when it comes to the Harlem community. It's the reason why term limits is such a good idea, and Rangel now becomes its poster child.