Charlie Rangel and Espaillat Surrogates Clash on Campaign Trail

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez today. (Photo: Ross Barkan)
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez today. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

A top surrogate for State Senator Adriano Espaillat crashed an endorsement event for Congressman Charlie Rangel this afternoon, shouting “shame” as Mr. Rangel looked on.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, an Espaillat ally, and Mr. Espaillat’s campaign manager showed up at an endorsement press conference for the New York Alliance of Independent Taxi Drivers, where they angrily challenged Mr. Rangel for receiving backing from an anti-Vision Zero group.

“Councilman, how are you doing?” a grinning Mr. Rangel, flanked by his backers and the press, said to Mr. Rodriguez as he approached the throng in Washington Heights. “How you doing, brother?” Mr. Rodriguez tersely replied as taxi drivers began to shout in Spanish around them.

“It’s a shame for Congressman Rangel on a day Mayor de Blasio signed a bill for Vision Zero [to be here]” Mr. Rodriguez railed after he exchanged words with Rangel allies.

“I was there with Mayor de Blasio and the Families for Safe Streets that have lost so many loved ones by injury related to car crash accidents,” Mr. Rodriguez explained to reporters once he and several of the taxi drivers finished shouting at each other in Spanish. “They are against Vision Zero is, this group is. They are against increasing the penalty for failure to yield.”

“And Charlie Rangel, knowing how important Vision Zero is … he came to be with this group,” Mr. Rodriguez fumed. “Shame on him.”

A representative from the taxi group confirmed they were against Mr. de Blasio’s transportation policy, citing the amount of fines drivers would now receive for certain infractions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mr. Rodriguez, chair of the council’s transportation committee, appeared earlier today at a Queens event where the mayor signed into a law a series of bills intended to reduce pedestrian fatalities. The bills included increased penalties for drivers who break traffic laws. Mr. Rangel, a federal lawmaker not particularly close to Mr. de Blasio, did not appear at the event.

In addition to Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Espaillat’s campaign manager hovered around the Rangel press conference as the Harlem lawmaker fielded questions from the media. At one point before the clash with Mr. Rodriguez, the Observer asked Mr. Rangel how he felt about the campaign manager, Jesse Campoamor, watching and recording him. Mr. Rangel invited Campoamor to shake hands.

The two, somewhat bregrudgingly, did so.

“That’s a big guy. Son of a gun!” Mr. Rangel remarked. “I never met the guy. I’ve only heard nice things about him before he joined the opposition.”

Mr. Campoamor was less effusive about his encounter with Mr. Rangel.

“It’s a pleasure to meet all these guys out here,” he said, telling reporters Mr. Espaillat had a campaign event nearby. “I was just hanging out.”

The Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District, which spans upper Manhattan and the Bronx, will be held tomorrow. In addition to Mr. Espaillat and Mr. Rangel, Pastor Mike Walrond and Bronx activist Yolanda Garcia are also running.

Charlie Rangel and Espaillat Surrogates Clash on Campaign Trail