There’s a bit more than contention brewing between newly elected Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan in District 9 in Harlem and long-standing Black leaders, such as Assemblymember Inez Dickens, and constituents in overlapping districts.
Richardson Jordan ran against former Councilmember Bill Perkins, who at the time hadn’t rallied much for a reelection campaign and had pretty robust health issues. Richardson Jordan won on her progressive socialist policies, but it seems that those same ideas are stirring the pot too much for constituents and elected officials who have been in Harlem offices for decades.
Dickens is a lifelong resident of the 70th Assembly District and her father and uncle both served as the assemblymember in the district before her. Additionally, she was elected councilmember of District 9 back in 2006. Dickens last week floated a potential run to replace Richardson Jordan in the next city council election, first reported on by the New York Post. Dickens said that there’s not a “feud” or plan to run so much as there’s a need to “save Harlem.”
“There is no feud because I’ve never even spoken to the young woman other than to see her in passing,” said Dickens, who didn’t support Richardson Jordan’s campaign in 2021. Dickens said she reached out with a congratulations letter and her contact information, but Richardson Jordan hasn’t reached out to collaborate with her or any other local officials in the Harlem area.
Dickens said there’s definitely a lack of communication from Richardson Jordan, which seems to be fueling a division in alliances on a few big issues.
One issue they were split on was the redistricting of Harlem. During the redistricting commission’s public hearing process to create new city council district maps, Harlem residents and officials were visibly divided at one of the sessions held at the Schomburg Center. A group with Dickens, Assemblymember Al Taylor, Sen. Cordell Cleare, and NAACP’s Hazel Dukes were positioned at the right of the auditorium while Richardson Jordan and her staff were clear across the room on the left. A version of the commission’s maps are currently being reviewed by city council members to be voted on with Harlem’s district mostly intact.
“We should be all working together to create the best map possible for the survival of Black plurality for voting purposes—not just this year but looking forward 10 years,” said Dickens.
Dickens said that constituents, NYCHA residents, small business owners, and officials have been calling for her to run for the city council seat against Richardson Jordan because she’s not doing an adequate job so far.
Dickens said that unlike Richardson Jordan’s ‘partner in crime’ Councilmember Charles Barron, she simply doesn’t have the experience, networking ability, and historic information to navigate the city’s budget and get resources for Harlem.
“The Assemblyperson has had the opportunity to fight and represent the people of Harlem for almost 20 years. During that time, our Black and working-class communities faced mass displacement,” said Richardson Jordan in a statement. “Those who remained have struggled to access affordable housing, quality education, decent health care, as well as safe streets. The old way of doing things hasn’t worked.”
Dickens said that there’s no generational divide or older way of doing things. She said people just want politicians who produce favorable results. She said she’d be lying if people loved her 24/7 but the job is to secure resources for the community.
Another major issue Dickens and Richardson Jordan saw differently was the now scrapped One 45 housing project that was slated to have three mixed-use buildings with two towers, one 27 stories and the other 31 stories high, that spanned five lots of land space on 145th Street. Richardson Jordan very publicly opposed the project and the developers. The jaded developers are now proposing a heavy-duty truck rental depot on the space after heated council hearings.
Dickens admits that she comes from a real estate background so her focus in the fight for more affordable housing in Harlem isn’t as idealistic as Richardson Jordan. She believes in networking, negotiating, and finding funding to get more development that benefits the community.
“Let’s face the truth, the building has to be able to pay for itself. We’re not even talking about making a profit,” said Dickens.
She doesn’t support the truck depot and added that honestly the developers may be “a little vindictive” in the One 45 case.
“Our office has centered the community in every aspect of our work and re-directed needed resources into the district,” said Richardson Jordan in a statement. “This year we launched the first ever ‘Summer of Hope’ to prevent violence in our community by providing resources and family activities on the streets of Harlem for 60 days straight. We don’t have a ‘self policing’ policy, we have a community care policy. We look forward to continuing to put forth a new vision to persevere in Harlem and letting the people decide who best represents their interests in next year’s election.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w