The Battle for Harlem

Sharpton Camp Assails Butts as Upstate Republicans Maneuver To Exploit Black Power Struggle

"Gargano asked Randy Daniels to withhold additional funding for the Apollo until questions regarding its finances could be resolved," Caroline Quartararo, aspokeswoman for the Department of Economic Development, told the New York Post.

Daniels is now truly alone as his bosses seek to deflect blame, one Albany insider said. Daniels, the source claimed, asked Butts to "please tell the governor, 'Don't leave me hanging out there.' " Butts, the source added, initially had advised Daniels against "doing the Republicans' dirty work" in Harlem, but Daniels was adamant.

Butts distanced himself from this account, adding that he had avoided raising specifics about the controversy with Daniels or the governor. Quartararo told the Voice that Daniels has been advised not to comment while Vacco is conducting an investigation.

Daniels allegedly had embarked on a campaign to destroy the "Gang of Four," the disparaging moniker opponents use to describe Rangel, Sutton, Dinkins, and Paterson. Rangel told the Post that Daniels has an ax to grind because Dinkins effectively fired him.

In October 1992, Daniels was forced to resign from the Dinkins administration days after his appointment as a deputy mayor, amid unproven charges of sexual harassment. His accuser, former NY1 reporter Barbara Wood, backed down from her initial charges in a pretrial deposition two years later.

"In a highly charged political atmosphere, my patron betrayed me," Daniels told freelance reporter Philip Nobile in a 1995 interview. "Bush stood behind Clarence Thomas to the end, but Dinkins gave me three days. I was told to find three white feminists to take my side, or else my appointment was dead. A year after Anita Hill, no Black man could do that."

A former Dinkins aide, who asked not to be named, claimed that Daniels "had said privately after he started working with Pataki that he was going after the uptown establishment, which is Charlie, Percy, David, and Basil.

"He said at a minimum they should have provided him with a golden parachute, a good-paying job outside of government," the ex-aide said.

"I had nothing to do with it," Rangel insisted.

"We had nothing to do with David not appointing him," reiterated Sutton.

"Why they took us on? I guess it's because Percy Sutton is on one side and Charlie Rangel's on the other and we're part of the Dinkins team," Rangel said. "That's the only thing I can speculate on."

If indeed the Republicans have a master plan to exploit the power struggles, some blacks warn that the battle eventually will not be fought over the Apollo Theater, but for Harlem itself.

"It's about George Pataki and Charles Gargano wanting to turn that prime real estate called Harlem over to their developer friends," said the former Dinkins official. "To accomplish that they must erode some of the community's icons, and diminish their power. They hope to get a free ride under the guise that they are going to develop this community. Who are they going to develop it for? Who is going to own and take control of Harlem?"

If the power struggles being waged around the Apollo were predictable, their outcome was not. As rumors of Reverend Butts's involvement in a Republican dirty-tricks campaign to discredit Rangel, Sutton, Dinkins, and Paterson continued to resonate within the Harlem community, Butts was forced to redefine his relationship with Randy Daniels and Governor Pataki.

"The perception is that Randy Daniels is Butts's man, but Butts is sincere in telling me that he is not," said one of the targeted Harlem Democrats.

But, in an interview with the Voice, that's not how the minister characterized his relationship with Daniels, whom he described as a "walking deacon" in his church and his neighbor. "Our families are friends so I would consider him a friend," Butts said. When Daniels was informed by Dinkins in 1992 that he would not be appointed deputy mayor, he immediately turned to Butts and sought refuge at the Abyssinian.

Despite such close ties, Butts declared: "I knew absolutely nothing about the origin or the plan of attack regarding the Apollo Theater situation," adding that in the past he may have engaged in "some political jousting" with Percy Sutton, but trying to embarrass him simply was not his style. "I have too much regard for Percy to do that to him."

As for his relationship with Pataki, Butts bragged: "I am close to the governor. There are things that the Pataki administration is doing, and will do, to benefit the African American community, particularly Harlem. I don't intend to end a positive relationship with the governor."

Because of the relative ease with which he seems to accomplish projects that often require more than pledges of commitment from federal, state, and city officials, Butts has been labeled "the Republican's poverty pimp in Harlem" by envious community leaders.

"I'm not a poverty pimp," he retorted. "I'm out here struggling, working on behalf of the community. Everything I do is above board. People have gotten used to dealing with me because they know where I work. Anybody can come and look at the books, look at the deals we've made with people who don't think we are trying to shake 'em down."

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