Not because his golden years have been besieged by trouble, some of it his own making, some of it the usual thrust of a hyper-partisan political culture. Not because he is now—and has been for the past several years—hounded by plausible challengers at an age when most politicians are busy buffing the stones on the sides of buildings that bear their names; not because he continues to contend with suspicions that he is on the cusp of retirement.
No, instead, Mr. Rangel deserves some sympathy because after four decades in the House of Representatives, building a political machine that has seen scores of friends and protégés win high office, serving a district that has been represented by only two people since World War II, he is now presiding over that district’s dissolution.
That congressional district, of course, is synonymous with Harlem, the heart of Black America. Mr. Rangel and his predecessor, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., presided over the neighborhood through 13 presidents, segregation, civil rights sit-ins, riots, crack, abandonment and now years of slow but steady growth.
That growth, though, has been too good.
“The problem we have,” said Denny Farrell, a longtime Harlem assemblyman and friend of Mr. Rangel’s, “is that Charlie Rangel’s district is no longer black.”
Indeed it is not. The district covering all of Upper Manhattan north of 96th Street (with a few blocks on the Upper West Side thrown in and a few on the Upper East Side thrown out) is now close to half Hispanic, and has been for at least 10 years. The 2010 Census found 30,000 fewer black residents in the district than a decade prior; blacks now make up only 26.5 percent of the area’s population. And, while the Hispanic population of the district is holding steady at around 47 percent, the white population has surged from 16 to 21 percent in the past 10 years.