What’s next for Harlem’s Assembly member Keith Wright?

New York State Assembly member Keith Wright (D-70) has a slew of options if he decides to seek higher political office, uptown politicos said, whether that’s running for Congress, becoming the New York County clerk, or speaker of the State Assembly.

The 59-year-old Wright has been in the State Assembly since 1992, and has long been rumored as a possible successor to Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) in 2016. He is also the chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party, and a fixture in Harlem politics.

keithwrightWright may be waiting to become speaker of the State Assembly—former Gov. David Paterson said in an Oct. 17 Gotham Gazette article, “He is in line for other opportunities – I think he’d do very well as Speaker.”

But a New York Post article published the same day quoted sources close to Wright saying he was considering leaving politics altogether and becoming the New York County clerk.

Community Board 9 member Daniel Marks Cohen said that if the Democrats recapture Congress, running for federal office might become more attractive to Wright.

“He’s got a great leadership position in Albany right now,” Cohen said, citing his position as chair of the Committee on Housing. “That would be a lot to give up to be in the minority in Congress.”

Neither Wright nor his staff responded to multiple requests for an interview.

If he decides to run, Wright would likely face tough competition in a rapidly changing 13th Congressional District. Still, two-time challenger State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-31), armed with a new Hispanic majority in the district, came within 2 and 4 percent of unseating Rangel in the 2012 and 2014 Democratic primaries, respectively.

Rangel’s impending retirement after 46 years in Congress could lead to a crowded field for his seat in 2016. Other rumored potential candidates include Espaillat; State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-30); the Rev. Michael Walrond, who also challenged Rangel in the 2014 Democratic primary; and former City Council member Robert Jackson.

“If Rangel does retire … it creates this kind of flux that hasn’t existed in a long time,” political strategist Richard Fife said, adding that Wright should consider seizing the opportunity to run for an open congressional seat.

“Wright could be a strong candidate because he’s built a record, and people know that,” Fife added.

“I think he would love to be in Congress for a lot of reasons,” Curtis Arluck, a district leader of the Broadway Democrats Club, said of Wright. “But it would be a difficult race to win against Sen. Espaillat.”

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By Aaron Fisher


Spectator Staff Writer
November 13, 2014, 4:56am

Perkins: Harlem leaders left me out of secret meeting to discuss Urban League project

Among the attendees at confab called by Assemblyman Keith Wright at Sylvia’s were City Councilwoman Inez Dickens, representatives from Congressman Charles Rangel’s office and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, former state controller Carl McCall.

It seems one Harlem pol is not a part of the cool kids club.

Sen. Bill Perkins (above) is furious he was left out of a private meeting held earlier this week by Assemblyman Keith Wright, Harlem Chamber of Commerce president Lloyd Williams and others to rally support for project to build headquarters for National Urban League in Harlem.

Sen. Bill Perkins (above) is furious he was left out of a private meeting held earlier this week by Assemblyman Keith Wright, Harlem Chamber of Commerce president Lloyd Williams and others to rally support for project to build headquarters for National Urban League in Harlem.

Uptown leaders convened a private sitdown at Sylvia’s Restaurant Wednesday to muster support for the controversial plan to convert a row of small businesses on 125th St. into the headquarters for the National Urban League.

Among the roughly 20 attendees were City Councilwoman Inez Dickens, representatives from Congressman Charles Rangel’s office and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, former state controller Carl McCall.

The only problem: Those who weren’t invited to the powwow included Harlem state Sen. Bill Perkins — a leading opponent of the city-and-state backed plan — and the four small businesses that would be displaced by the $225 million project.

“When you have such an unbalanced select group of leaders from the neighborhood — all the leaders from the neighborhood, but me . . . what’s the point?” Perkins told the Daily News on Thursday. “The point is, they don’t want the counterpoint. All you get is why the Urban League should be entitled to displace four honest, hard-working businesses who have an outstanding legacy in Harlem.”

Restaurateur Raj Whadwa, who opened Sarku Japan over a year ago, says he and the other longtime tenants of the site should have been present.

“Why would we get ignored on this?” said Whadwa. “I want to be at all of these things. From what I understand so far our voice has not been heard.”

The hour-long meeting was called to set the record straight and provide details on the project, says Assemblyman Keith Wright, who hosted the confab along with Lloyd Williams, head of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference.

For 15 years Rolston Waltin, has run his Caribbean bakery and grill Golden Crust inside of a building that will soon be home to the National Urban League.

For 15 years Rolston Waltin, has run his Caribbean bakery and grill Golden Crust inside of a building that will soon be home to the National Urban League.

There was so much misinformation during this whole process that I thought it was important to get the real concrete information and go from there,” said Wright.

Some of that misinformation included reports that Macy’s — the mega-retailer accused of racial profiling — was moving into the building.

Wright did not respond to follow-up questions as to why Perkins and the merchants were excluded.

Sources said that National Urban League president Marc Morial attended the meeting to rally support for the project and lay out his plans for the space on 125th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Malcolm X Blvds., where construction is slated to begin in 2015 — around the same time the tenants’ leases expire.

Harlem’s heavy hitters lauded the plan, sources said, but some expressed concerns about the fate of the small business owners, .

Urban League officials want the issue resolved, said one source with connections to the project.

Perkins promised to go to court with the Whadwa and the other business owners, and said all discussions about the project should be public.

“There should not have to be a secret meeting, an exclusive meeting about a community project,” Perkins said. “That sends a message to other businesses as to the fate they may suffer.”


 Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/sen-slams-secret-meeting-harlem-urban-league-project-article-1.1546391#ixzz2nPfsjzJ4

Beautifying a Harlem avenue, and remembering a political icon

Garbage bags and seedlings in hand, schoolchildren and good Samaritans gathered on Saturday morning along the medians of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Central Harlem. Their goal: to make the green spaces in the middle of the street as beautiful as those on Park Avenue.

HISTORY IS BEAUTIFUL  | Harlemite Marie Littlejohn has dedicated herself to beautifying the medians of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard.

HISTORY IS BEAUTIFUL | Harlemite Marie Littlejohn has dedicated herself to beautifying the medians of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard.

The event was the work of Marie Littlejohn, the president of the Friends of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard Malls, who led the assembled planters with a bright smile and a passion for the local community.

Littlejohn, who has dedicated herself to the avenue, its history, and the people who live around it, has watched her neighborhood change since she moved here in 1983.

“I moved to Harlem in large part because though it is a large community, it is still a community,” she said. “Even the street people look out for you and make sure you are safe. That is one of the reasons I have become an advocate, because I would like to preserve that sense of community. If you have a community, children are safe, and there is a connectedness.”

When she first arrived in the neighborhood, she started planting with the Friends, getting more involved over the years to attain her current role as president.

[MULTIMEDIA: Watch Littlejohn and other volunteers cleaning up the boulevard.]

The work on Adam Clayton Powell, she said, is not just about making the street look nicer—it’s also a critical part of preserving history.

“Most people don’t even know who Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was,” she said. “That really disturbs me, because he was one of the greatest politicians ever.”

Powell represented Harlem in Congress between 1945 and 1971. The first African-American congressman in the state, Powell was the neighborhood’s best-recognized politician—that is, until he was defeated by a state representative named Charles Rangel.

Littlejohn said Powell’s legacy deserved recognition.

“This is a boulevard in his name that I feel should be maintained and is a way to keep a past about our history in its forefront,” she said.

The Friends have raised money to purchase plants and organize activities—including an annual Christmas tree lighting—with local sororities, fraternities, youth groups, families, and businesses.

Now, the medians along Adam Clayton Powell are among the few in the city maintained solely by community members. So are Park Avenue’s, which are supported by The Fund for Park Avenue, with an annual budget of over $1 million. Littlejohn declined to detail the budget of her group, but stressed that it was built on local fundraising.

Littlejohn also observed that the project has strengthened the community’s bond.

“I remember how, once, a bus driver stopped and yelled ‘Thank you!’ as we were planting,” she said. “At first, people were also concerned that the bulbs would be stolen. That hasn’t happened. I think that people really do appreciate what we’re doing. I hear comments all the time from people who like it and from children who can say, ‘I did that!’”

Littlejohn, though unassuming in appearance, exudes an aura of confidence that reflects her natural disposition for leadership in the community. She’s retired, but she still serves on the Harlem Hospital Advisory Board, regularly attends Community Board 10 meetings, and remains an active member in her service-oriented sorority and church community.

Littlejohn said that as Harlem continues to change, with rising rents and a higher profile in the city, the work the community is doing will become even more important in maintaining the neighborhood’s identity.

“I think the world has, all of a sudden, discovered Harlem, and so everyone is rushing to take stakes,” she said.  “Progress is not going to be stopped, so I think it is important—and I’m not sure that it is being done—that we preserve what we have as we continue to move forwards.”

“We need to know and remember our past so that we can continue to build on it,” she said.

By Emma Cheng and Josephine McGowan Spectator Staff Writers October 20, 8:56pm

Veteran Battles NY State Over Preservation of Harlem Hellfighters Artifacts

HARLEM — The photo shows a proud, one-legged black World War I veteran standing on crutches on Lenox Avenue. The man is there to greet his fellow returning soldiers from the 369th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, the nation’s first black regiment to serve overseas during World War I.

image320x240Retired Maj. Gen. Nathaniel James, head of the 369th Historical Society, believes it may be the only remaining copy of the photo of the soldier, who lived a few blocks away until his death more than 20 years ago. It sits in a display at the armory at Fifth Avenue and 142nd Street, named after the 369th Infantry Regiment, along with 500 other artifacts from the historic unit. Continue reading

National Urban League back in Harlem big time

512fba005d201_preview-300Since its founding in Harlem in 1910, the National Urban League (NUL) and the legendary community have had an intimate and productive relationship. Those ties will soon be deepened because plans are underway for a huge building project on 125th Street that will be the future home of the NUL.

The plans for the project, which is another key piece in the ever-increasing building boom in Harlem, were announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday. Continue reading

Harlem build fund is wasting

A taxpayer-funded nonprofit with $55 million in the bank that was supposed to create a Harlem renaissance has stalled in its mission.

No new loans or grants from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone have been approved for local businesses or cultural groups in more than a year.

The governing board for UMEZ — the New York Empowerment Zone, which must approve all spending — hasn’t even met in a year. Its last meeting was on Dec. 14, 2011, and its next scheduled one is Jan. 23.

A UMEZ spokesman blamed the lapse on “scheduling difficulties.”

The NYEZ board, which includes Rep. Charles Rangel, met four times in 2010 and twice in 2011.

 At the December 2011 meeting, $400,000 was earmarked for UMEZ to begin work on Mart 125, the long-stalled redevelopment of a former indoor market that has been empty for a decade.

The city, which owns the market building on 125th Street, last year named UMEZ as the developer for the $20 million project which will create about 47,000 square feet of cultural, office, and retail space. But UMEZ only recently hired a development consulting firm, according to the city.

UMEZ opened its doors in 1995 after Rangel wrote the legislation creating empowerment zones in distressed areas throughout the country. The nonprofit started with $249 million in federal, state and city dollars in its coffers.

The group now has about $55 million left.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, UMEZ doled out $9.9 million in grants to groups including the Harlem Arts Alliance, the Hispanic Federation, the Museum of African Art and the National Jazz Museum, according to its latest tax filings.

The group gave $2.7 million to Alianza Dominicana, a Washington Heights social services agency, by turning a loan to the group into a grant, which it did not have to repay. The money went toward Alianza’s new headquarters, but that building is now largely empty since the nonprofit closed its doors this summer.

Critics have charged UMEZ is hoarding its cash in order to keep itself going and pay administrative salaries.

UMEZ President Kenneth Knuckles’ salary and benefits totaled $240,853 in 2010, the latest figure available. He is set to get a retirement package of more than $570,000.


Last Updated: 3:49 AM, December 23, 2012

Push to add to Harlem complex grows

The owner of Lenox Terrace is intensifying its outreach to tenants to win their approval for its controversial proposal to add about six buildings to a famed, largely rent-regulated complex in Harlem. The move comes as the landlord prepares to submit a rezoning plan for the property.

On Friday, the Olnick Organization put up a Web site and sent mailings to the 1,700 apartments in the six-building complex, boasting of how the plan will add new retail stores, upgrade community facilities, add park space and create 1,100 jobs. Addressing community concerns about the height of the new towers, the proposal now calls for at least one of the new properties to be only four stories. At least one, however, is slated to be 29 stories.

Published reports had said that all the buildings would be between 26 and 28 stories. The existing buildings are all 16 stories, so residents were concerned they would be dwarfed by the additions.

“As we proceed with a plan to update Lenox Terrace, we are continuing to engage our residents in a conversation about how to make improvements so it remains Harlem’s premier residential community for the coming decades,” said Bruce Simon, president of the Olnick Organization in a statement. “Residents’ ideas and passion for the Lenox Terrace community have helped shape our vision for this plan, and we thank them for their efforts.”

Sources said the company plans to submit its proposal to the Department of City Planning in the coming weeks. Winning over the deeply skeptical community is crucial because the plan must pass the City Council, and it typically takes its cues from the local representative.

Councilwoman Inez Dickens shares her constituents’ concerns over how the new buildings would lead to overcrowding and much higher rents that would change the character of the complex, which was once known as the “Jewel of Harlem.” Stretching from Fifth Avenue to Lenox Avenue between West 132 Street to West 135th Street, the complex is home to former Gov. David Paterson and Harlem U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel.

“The councilwoman is concerned that residents be able to stay in the apartments,” said a spokeswoman for Ms. Dickens spokeswoman. “She is concerned that indigenous business be able to afford the retail rents and not just multi-million dollar chains.”

Over the summer, the Olnick Organization gave many presentations to residents, listening to their options and laying out some elements of the plans. Many weren’t happy with what they heard.

“They want to create an upscale community with wealthy people and upscale stores,” said Delsenia Glover, president of the Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants, who has lived in the complex for 30 years. “We don’t see this as a good thing. They want to kick out the people that made this a good neighborhood.”

Still, Ms. Glover was heartened to hear that some of the buildings are only slated to be four stories.

“Then we may have something to talk about,” she said.

In a statement, an Olnick Organization spokesman said that in the ten meeting the company had with tenants, the majority of the response was positive.

Read more: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20111014/REAL_ESTATE/111019914#ixzz1az9NyMF1

Bunch of ‘keep’skates in Harlem

Nonprofit hoards cash as its execs prosper

Congressman Charles Rangel’s favorite Harlem nonprofit has handed out hardly any cash in the last year, instead sitting on $55 million in taxpayer money and failing miserably in its mandate to spur development.

Critics contend the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone is hoarding cash in order to stay in business and continue to dole out bloated salaries to its staff.

The nonprofit has lent out just $215,000 to small businesses since July 2010, a stark drop from the $2.1 million in loans it made a year earlier. Grants are down, too, to $2.9 million from more than $4.7 million the previous fiscal year.

Critics say the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, a favorite of Rep. Charles Rangel (above), is sitting on taxpayer money instead of helping small businesses

The group has about $55 million left in its coffers, from an original pot of $249 million in federal, state and city funding. But with no additional taxpayer funding expected, and their federal mandate slated to expire by law on Dec. 31, 2011, insiders believe UMEZ execs are desperately clinging to cash reserves to extend the group’s life — and their livelihoods.

“They’re sitting on a chunk of cash so they can pay their fat salaries,” said one Harlem insider. “You would think with the economic climate, they would be able to figure out how to invest money in the community to create some jobs,”

While Harlem entrepreneurs are denied assistance, the nonprofit’s execs are living high on the hog. Its director, Ken Knuckles, is paid $243,949 and stands to get a retirement package of more than $500,000.

UMEZ spokesman Fred Winters blamed the funding slowdown on tough economic times and a drop in construction financing.

“UMEZ was never designed to be the principal financier of projects, but more to leverage public and private financing and to work as a consultant,” said Winters.

Rangel wrote the legislation in the 1990s that created empowerment zones nationwide to revitalize poor neighborhoods.

UMEZ, with about 16 staffers soaking up $2 million in annual salary, has lent millions to lure businesses to upper Manhattan or to help existing ones

A smiling Rangel gripped an oversized check for $1 million at a March 2010 ceremony for a loan to the Best Yet supermarket, which opened on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

But since July 1, 2010, UMEZ has approved only a $120,000 loan to Harlem Vintage, a wine store, and $95,000 to Society Coffee and Juice, a cafe, according to a loan report filed with the state.

Grants have been approved for just a handful of programs including the National Jazz Museum, Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce.


Last Updated: 7:02 AM, August 28, 2011

Little-Known Black History Fact: Manning Marable and the Power of Harlem

Manning Marable (above) was a leading historian of black history and author of a long-awaited biography on Malcolm X.

Manning Marable was a leading historian of black history and author of “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” a long-awaited biography on Malcolm X released this year. In one of his writings called “Anything’s Possible,” Marable examines the history of Harlem and its evolution to an African-American mecca.

Dating back to 1914 and the migration of blacks from the south, Harlem was home to over 50,000 blacks. By 1930, that number had grown to well over 200,000. With the growing number of people came the establishment and migration of churches, like the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The associations that came to Harlem gathered around West 135th and 125th streets, even though businesses in the area were not black-owned at the time.

Major political movements spread through Harlem, building a spirit of empowerment. Among those was Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Over 25,000 blacks marched down Harlem streets in 1920 in African colors to uphold Garvey’s message. Also with the movement came the tradition of soapboxing. Marable wrote that black socialist and orator Hubert H. Harrison began this tradition. On 135th or 125th, you could find a passionate standing on a soapbox or ladder, preaching their political agenda. Many were followers of the Nation of Islam. Following Harrison was A. Phillip Randolph, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Marcus Garvey.
Marable stressed the birth of political mobilization and the Harlem tradition of empowering blacks to take action in the community. Though Harlem is no longer the largest black city in New York, its power through political culture and activism reaches beyond other cities. Launching leaders like former famor David Dinkins, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rev. Calvin Butts and Malcolm X, Harlem linked the rest of the world to the black power movement.

According to the late, great Manning Marable, Harlem is where differences are negotiated.

By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show

Huge Hamilton Heights Mural Portrays History of Harlem

A portion of the mural "Magic with Logic." (DNAinfo/Jeff Mays)

HARLEM — After several weeks of working on the second largest mural in the history of the Creative Arts Workshop for Kids, a group of teenage artists unveiled their massive work, “Magic With Logic,” at P.S. 192 on Wednesday.

It is an effort to display some of the history and daily life in Hamilton Heights while also inspiring others, they said.

The birds represent freedom and striving on the multi-colored mural on 138th Street between Hamilton Place and Amsterdam Avenue. The elephants are the elders of the community who pass knowledge to the young people flipping, dancing and playing soccer nearby. And a sun is composed of people’s hands reaching out to the community and their own future.

“This mural is not just a mural,” said student artist Issac Normensinu, 17, who is visiting New York this summer from Ghana. “It’s the history of Harlem and we make history today.”

The bright yellows and reds of the mural along with its rabbits and birds nod to the fact that Barnum & Bailey circus used to call the area home. Men play dominoes in the artwork, just as they do blocks from the site. Even the local shaved iced vendor on the corner is depicted.

“This has meaning,” said Curtis Archer, president of the Harlem Community Development Corporation. “It tells your story, it tells my story.”

The students drew inspiration from Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas and the poetry of poet William Braitwithe, a Sugar Hill resident.

“It just opened the doors of their imagination. Just seeing them get over their fears was amazing,” said poet J. Ivy, who has worked with Jay-Z, Kanye West and John Legend and partnered with the kids on a spoken word project that goes with the mural.

Visitors to the artwork will soon be able to scan a code with their smart phones to get a guided tour from the artists and hear some of their poetry and spoken word, said Brian Ricklin, executive director and CEO of Creative Arts Workshop for Kids.

Molaundo Jones, program director for Creative Arts Workshops for Kids, said the mural was about much more than art.

“This gives them a sense of how they can impact their community. When they were working on this and saw the way people have responded, it had more meaning,” said Jones.

The artists said they learned to work together.

“We were all a little shy because we felt we weren’t artists. We didn’t have the confidence,” said Tiguida Toure, 15.

But that changed as the mural came together.

“We became more than friends, we became a family,” said Richard Rosado, 19.

The community also chipped in. From the superintendent of the building across the street who helped put up the ladder everyday to the shaved ice guy on the corner who provided refreshment during blazing summer days, the community embraced the project, participants said.

In addition to the artistic experience, the kids involved with the mural — sponsored by advertising firm SelectNY — were also able to earn a paycheck.

Herwig Preis, SelectNY’s president and CEO, said he hopes to commercialize the mural into t-shirts or other items. He also offered each of the mural participants two week internships at his firm starting in the fall.

“Whatever you can dream of you can achieve,” Preis told the students.

Rep. Charles Rangel said the artists have made a long-lasting impact on their community.

“I can hear you bragging now to our kids, saying look what I did when I was young. I don’t blame you because it’s a gorgeous piece of art,” said Rangel.

Normensinu said the mural is something he’s going to remember for the rest of his life.

“It represents us, the people and culture of Harlem, and it’s going to live forever,” he said.

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20110817/harlem/huge-hamilton-heights-mural-portrays-history-of-harlem#ixzz1VKqwwtJC