Congressman’s endorsement comes as Inez Barron looks to succeed her husband
By Stephen Witt
Call it the need for a change, payback or plain politics, but Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is backing community activist Christopher Banks over Assemblywoman Inez Barron in the race to succeed Barron’s husband, the term-limited Charles Barron for the 42nd District City Council seat representing East New York.
Jeffries, whom political pundits consider a pragmatic progressive Democrat, defeated the outspoken Charles Barron in the hotly contested race to succeed retiring Congressman Ed Towns last year.
“Chris Banks is a smart, talented, energetic and committed civic leader with a track record of success. He will serve the community well in the City Council, and I look forward to working with him,” said Jeffries in a statement.
Banks said, who has raised the most money in the crowded primary field including Sean Henry, Nikki Lucas, Regina Powell, John Whitehead and Prince Lewis, attributed both Jeffries’ support and the crowded field to “Barron Fatigue.” Charles Barron has been in the City Council for 11 years, and Inez Barron in the state Assembly since 2009.
“I believe the community is dealing with Barron fatigue and folks are hungry for change,” said Banks, who heads the nonprofit organization East New York United Concerned Citizens. “The congressman wants a partner in government that represents the 42nd Council District and he has a strong belief the Barrons are not providing the representation that the people in the district need.
Banks said the Barrons’ often confrontational style within the political system has shown itself to be ineffective in getting much-needed services in the district.
Specifically, Banks said the Barrons have promised to get a community center built in NYCHA’s Linden Houses since 2006 with $2.3 million in allocated money, but the project still hasn’t gotten off the ground. They also have allowed two new homeless shelters to come into the district in the past two years and they said they didn’t know anything about them even coming, Banks said.
“Over the last 11 years, the entire Barron team hasn’t created a job. There’s good development and bad development, but you can’t be antidevelopment. You have to sort out what is good development. If we trust the Barrons again and allow Inez to go forth with the same old that the councilman has articulated for the last 11 years, then I believe we’ll be stuck in the same rut,” said Banks.
Inez Barron refused comment on Jeffries’ support of Banks, but defended both her and her husband’s record.
“I’ve encountered people in the district that are excited to build on the legacy and work that the councilman has done,” said Barron in defending both her and her husband’s style and substance. “If people don’t confront injustice then you’re not doing what you should be doing for the community.”
Specifically, Barron said the Linden Houses community center wasn’t built because the Bloomberg Administration cut services and programs. The $2.3 million was capital funding, but Bloomberg cut the operational funding, she said.
Barron also blamed the Bloomberg Administration for putting the homeless shelters in the district because he declared a state of emergency on the issue which allowed him to put in the shelters without the input of either the local council member or the community board.
Barron, who does have major service union support from DC37, 1199, 32BJ, the TWU and the UFT, listed her husband and her accomplishments to include the building of an $80 million school, renovations of five parks in the district and the addition of science labs in all the district schools and a recording studio in another school.
“It was also a major accomplishment to keep the Wal-Mart out of the Gateway Center and replace it with the construction of a store with wholesome foods that will come with permanent jobs,” she said.
Barron added that the project at Gateway also includes the development of the Elton Street corridor which comes with many opportunities for small businesses.