This week’s feature story profiles Charles Barron, the polarizing politician from East New York. He was the 42nd District city councilman for 12 years, before getting termed-out at the end of 2013. His wife, Inez Barron, vacated her state Assembly seat after winning the election for Charles’s seat, and Charles is the front-runner for Inez’s former post in Albany.
The seat-swap attempt helps illustrate Barron’s popularity in his neighborhood, which has gained many new buildings and parks during his administration. His supporters appreciate that he doesn’t go-along to get-along, that he speaks his mind and fights for his beliefs. But among East New Yorkers who will not vote for Barron this time around, there is a common complaint: Barron’s heated rhetoric has driven resources away from the district.
He and Speaker Christine Quinn had their tiffs. Barron ran against her twice for the speakership. Quinn stripped him of his chairmanship of the Committee on Higher Education. Barron never missed an opportunity to declare that Quinn was using her powerful position to maintain a status quo that benefited the rich and hurt the working class.
The speaker controls city council’s piggy bank, though. And Quinn granted Barron nearly the bare minimum of discretionary funding, even though the 42nd District has one of the highest levels of poverty in the city.
It’s nearly certain that Councilwoman Barron will have a better relationship with her speaker than the councilman did with his. For one, Inez is of a cooler temperament, more conducive to collaboration. Perhaps more importantly, the Barrons eagerly supported Melissa Mark-Viverito’s run for speaker and are optimistic about her vision.
In time, we’ll see whether this means more resources to the 42nd District. With money at her fingertips, the speaker is a powerful ally. And like a lot of things in this city, the gulf in city council between well-off and the hard-up is vast.
Here’s how Quinn distributed discretionary funding from 2009 to 2012, according to a report by the Citizens Union of the City of New York:
This week’s feature story: The Barrons of East New York: Charles and Inez Barron Aren’t Your Traditional Power Couple
Lowest 10 Discretionary Funding Totals*
(District 19) Daniel Halloran/Tony Avella: $9,482,052
(43) Vincent Gentile: $10,927,089
(42) Charles Barron: $11,280,434
(40) Mathieu Eugene: $12,433,670
(48) Michael Nelson: $13,549,071
(26) Jimmy Van Bramer/Eric Gioia: $14,101,892
(21) Julissa Ferreras/Hiram Monserrate: $14,545,389
(14) Fernando Cabrera/Maria Baez: $14,844,672
(16) Helen Foster: $15,013,443
(35) Letitia James: $15,034,080
Highest 10 Discretionary Funding Totals
(47) Domenic Recchia Jr.: $66,662,544
(37) Erik Martin Dilan: $37,094,050
(46) Lewis Fidler: $34,780,045
(9) Inez Dickens: $33,895,299
(23) Mark Weprin/David Weprin: $30,900,032
(6) Gale Brewer: $30,821,341
(3) Christine Quinn: $30,610,152
(50) James Oddo: $30,524,631
(27) Leroy Comrie Jr.: $29,562,860
(13) James Vacca: $27,351,866
*There are two parts of discretionary funding: capital and expense. Simply put, capital money is for physical projects, such as building a school, renovating a playground, fixing potholes, etc; expense money is for line-item stuff like social service programs, job training initiatives, community events, etc.
Next: read the report in full.