The fight for Congressman Charlie Rangel’s seat turned to economics today, with a top rival unveiling a plan that bashed the longtime lawmaker’s fiscal priorities.
State Senator Adriano Espaillat stood in an East Harlem shopping plaza to criticize Mr. Rangel for allegedly catering too much to big box stores and the wealthy, offering an alternative vision for the uptown and Bronx-based district.
“Well, a picture is worth a thousand words and you see here that this is a major complex that was subsidized by the empowerment zone, that has perpetuated poverty-level jobs for the neighborhood,” Mr. Espaillat, gesturing to a multistory shopping complex that includes a Costco and Marshall’s, told the Observer. “Government again has subsidized the big and continued to forget the small business owners.”
Mr. Espaillat said the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, a Rangel initiative that provides public funds and tax incentives to boost uptown Manhattan’s business climate, should cater even more to small businesses. His plan is a combination of new tax credits and lower interest rates for smaller employers and would introduce new measures of transparency to UMEZ, including participatory budgeting, annual public budgeting sessions and the releasing of data on empowerment zone tax credits.
Mr. Espaillat also reiterated his call for a new affordable housing formula, specifying that he would battle for new housing developments to be 40 percent market rate rather than the typical 80 percent and mandate 30 percent of space also be set aside for small businesses.
“Any time you have that mix in a building, it lifts everybody. You know, the market rate folks that have made more money will be living in the same premises as working class families or middle class families,” Mr. Espaillat said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Mr. Espaillat, as a freshman congressman likely to be in the minority, would force through his sweeping housing plan. But like before, he charged that Mr. Rangel, first elected in 1970, had been in office too long and lost too much clout in Washington.
“He doesn’t have the influence or the political power right now to get much done. I think we need new blood and new vision, a new model such as this one in Washington that represents everybody,” Mr. Espaillat said.
After Mr. Espaillat wrapped up his press conference, Charlie King, a senior adviser to Mr. Rangel, arrived to deliver a forceful rebuttal. As Mr. King spoke to reporters, Mr. Espaillat stood with aides less than a hundred feet away.
“The senator has somewhat of a selective amnesia. He’s been in the senate and the assembly for 18 years. He hasn’t proposed one piece of legislation as relates to this policy–it’s only when the lines changed and he saw an opportunity he thinks to win in a congressional race that he has all of these ideas,” Mr. King charged.
“You should ask the senator’s campaign or you should ask his staff whether or not once in 18 years he raised any objections to the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone about how it conducted business,” he continued. “The fact that he brings it up now is remarkable only insofar that it’s a campaign piece.”
Also running in the race are Pastor Mike Walrond and Bronx activist Yolanda Garcia. The Democratic primary will be held on June 24.