Adolfo Carrion Leaves HUD to Help Save Cities on His Own

Friday was Adolfo Carrion’s last day working for the Obama administration. He had been ensconced for the past two years

Back to the streets. (HUD/Flickr)

Friday was Adolfo Carrion’s last day working for the Obama administration. He had been ensconced for the past two years in a corner office on the 35th floor of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building downtown, serving as director of HUD Region 2, which is where The Observer met him a few weeks ago to discuss the president‘s flagging urban agenda.

Bronx paraphernalia filled the glass-line space. Near the doorway was a green highway sign, WELCOME TO THE BRONX. On a bookshelf behind his desk, beside family photos, books (Sonia Sotomayor’s biography, Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat) and hardhats of special significance, rested  a miniature subway sign for the 161st Street-Yankees Stadium stop. Along the wall stood a T.V. tuned to CNBC, framed newspaper clippings, and not one but two Yankees groundbreaking shovels, one of which had a bat for a handle. Pinstriped paraphernalia was everywhere, declaring the Manhattan-born, Bronx-bred politician’s on-field allegiance.

Mr. Carrion left the Bronx to go work for the administration, first on the campaign trail, then as the inaugural director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. He left that position to come work at HUD, a move many saw as a demotion, though he insists it was always part of his plan.

“My plan was to help the president open this office, coordinate the agencies, start the conversation and then come back home to continue working here in New York City,” Mr. Carrion said, referring to his time at the White House. “And that’s what I am doing—so happy to be home. So happy to be working the front lines. I’ve always been a local guy, I think all politics and planning is local. The economy plays out locally. I’m happy to be home to the greatest city in the world.”

Mr. Carrion said that the revelation that he had received a renovation to his home on City Island from an architect who had business with the city while he was Bronx Borough president had nothing to do with his move back to New York in 2010. Nor did a December fine of $10,000 from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board impact his decision to leave HUD now, which he announced in an email to friends and colleagues at the end of December.

“God no, of course not,” Mr. Carrion said. “That’s done, over with, much ado with almost nothing. Some agencies, in my estimation, have to justify their existence. Let’s close that book.”

Mr. Carrion, who was once considered a mayoral contender befor Mayor Bloomberg seized his third term, would not rule out the possibility or running for public office again—”I never say never,” he said—but his bigger priority is launching a consultancy that will continue the work he has been doing as cities czar and HUD regional director.

“I think having visited so many cities around the country, folks need help to get themselves repositioned for this global economy for the growth that is occurring.” Mr. Carrion said. “We don’t know how to count in the United States, so when we say there will be another 120 to 140 million more Americans in the next 30 to 40 years, it will likely be more than that. We need to figure out how to house, how to educate, how to create clean water, clean air, safe food, safe communities, business opportunities for those people. There is so much to do, we can’t afford to wait. I’m looking forward to working in that space.”

He said he would be announcing some new partnerships “very soon.”

Adolfo Carrion Leaves HUD to Help Save Cities on His Own