Pataki's Man in Harlem

How Randy Daniels Helped Put Chain Stores and Market Prices Uptown

Congressman Rangel faults the Pataki administration for the trade center failure, which a Pataki-stacked HCDC board voted to dissolve in 1996. "They wiped out HUDC as soon as they got in office, and they sent Reverend Butts over to be on the board of HCDC to abolish the Harlem International Trade Center," said Rangel. The trade center had been funded since 1988, but the day before the vote, Pataki appointed Butts to HCDC's board. Perhaps this move was simply for insurance, since 13 other Pataki board appointees (out of 25) voted to abolish the $83 million project. According to the New York Voice, it was the right reverend who introduced the resolution for dissolution. Today the Harlem Center sits on the site. Butts's ADC and Forest City Ratner, an Ohio firm with projects across the city, developed the retail venue.

Similar infighting attended the birth of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. "They decided that they wanted to abolish HUDC before wiping out the trade center," said Rangel. "Pataki wanted to put their people in there, and did. To save the empowerment zone, we had to bring in [HUD Secretary Henry] Cisneros to threaten to take the whole thing away if they didn't agree to what Dinkins and [former governor Mario] Cuomo signed." That's an important point, as the Pataki administration often takes credit for the state's role in the EZ. "That was there before they came to office. They couldn't have done anything but allow the federal money to go away, and they damn near did that," said Rangel.

At first Pataki wanted to allocate $1 million to the empowerment zone. This figure was later upped to $7 million. Cuomo had allocated $10 million per year from the state, over 10 years. But before deciding to provide any support to the overall $300 million project, Pataki called Butts. "When the empowerment zone was being set up, the governor called me and asked me if I thought the state should really participate. I never will forget that," Butts said. "I said that I appreciated him asking for my advice, and to move forward. I don't think you can discount the work of Charlie Rangel and others, but I think that without the state's participation, a lot of what you see now would not be happening." This is true in that the EZ is a feds-state-city funding agreement in which the state has veto power. Yet, according to Rangel, it took several years to draw the funds allocated in 1994 because of two men, former mayor Giuliani's rep, Rudy Washington, and Pataki's man, Daniels.

In a dispute that highlights the differences of view between Democrats and Republicans, Washington and Daniels insisted the EZ funds be used for economic development as opposed to social programs. They got their wish, and to many folks uptown, Harlem went up for grabs to the highest bidders.

During Daniels's influential period in HCDC's first four years, he was a key player in the creation of the East River Plaza at the old Washburn Wire factory site. According to Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, who served on the boards of both HUDC and HCDC, actual development took priority over planning at HCDC, with a few exceptions. "HCDC has been involved in development itself," she said. "I think that's a detriment to the community. This was the main section of Manhattan that had not been built up. There was a lot of vacant land, and city-owned buildings that had to be torn down. That needed to have been guided. Now it's taken on a life of its own. That was a missed opportunity."

One opportunity not missed by the Pataki administration is the use of the $65 million in escrow established for the Harlem International Trade Center.

"The dollar amount allocated for that site was not invested in that site," said Fields. "Monies were taken away and used for other funds that have nothing to do with that community." This is not totally accurate. Of the funds for the trade center, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey put in $50 million. Reverend William James, HUDC chair for 17 years, and now a board member at the Apollo and UMEZ, says that through investment HITC increased the fund to $68 million, with $3 million used for staff work. When the project was aborted, the Pataki administration moved at least $20 million to the EZ, and $25 million to a fund created by Randy Daniels—MERF. At press time, no state agency has been able to account for the remaining $20 million.

A 2001 Pataki administration press release on the Harlem Center described MERF as "a revolving loan fund created to encourage private investment and create jobs in distressed areas with financing at or below market rate." In addition to $5 million loaned to the Harlem Center developers, the release claimed Daniels's fund was involved in "11 projects . . . in Upper Manhattan representing $304.7 million private sector investment and 2429 new full-time jobs with $32.9 million approved from MERF." So some of the funds rerouted from HITC have been invested in Harlem. MERF has also provided loans in other urban areas across the state.

No matter what one thinks of his political actions in Harlem on Pataki's behalf, Daniels has shown a definite dedication to urban revitalization. This fact, coupled with his political pragmatism and charismatic speaking ability, may portend a run for high-level state or federal office. When asked last fall about the chance of switching parties, he said, "I want to do it in a way that sends a signal to the African American community. You don't do it for expedience, you don't do it to get an appointment or to get elected. You do it on the basis of principles."

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