A long-simmering dispute between two uptown City Councilmembers spilled into the open today as Robert Jackson of Harlem accused two Dominican lawmakers of attempting to turn Dominican residents of his district against him.
According to sources present at a Zoning Committee hearing today regarding Columbia University’s plan to expand their athletic facilities in Inwood, Jackson said that Washington Heights City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and State Senator Adriano Espaillat have been “poisoining the process” by meeting with constituents directly and rebuffing Jackson’s efforts to work together.
Jackson said that the duo were telling neighborhood residents that he was “anti-Dominican.” Rodriguez accused Jackson of telling university officials not to meet with any other elected officials other than him.
“If you have something to say, say it to my face,” Jackson said to Rodriguez, according to one council member who witnessed the exchange.
Both Rodriguez and Jackson represent the area where the project would be situated, but it is actually on Jackson’s side of the district line.
According to a source who witnessed the exchange, Rodriguez shot back that the district line was irrelevant, since the issue affects the entire community.
“It’s not the minor leagues, it’s the major leagues,” Rodriguez said.
The two had to be quieted by Council Land Use Committee chairman Leroy Comrie, who suggested that the conversation should occur elsewhere.
The dispute between Jackson and Rodriguez dates from at least last year when Jackson surprised many by supporting Mark Levine, a local district leader, in the campaign to replace Eric Schneiderman in the State Senate. Schneiderman’s district is historically one of the most Dominican voting districts in the country, and most of the uptown political establishment lined up behind Espaillat, who is a close ally of Rodriguez’s.
Espaillat went on to win by a double-digit margin.
“It’s a turf war and it’s not the first one they had,” said one Council member who attended the hearing. “I have never seen people go at each other like this in a Council hearing and make it personal.”