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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Bill Perkins, Dem 25,619 - 86 percent
Willie Walker, Rep 2,388 - 8 percent
Michelle L. McCleary, Ind 995 - 3 percent
Michelle Olave, Lbt 784 - 3 percent
Bill Perkins 12,931
William A. Allen 3,116
Willie Walker 1,717
Geoffrey G. Johnson 1,392
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to William Allen
Geoffrey Johnson has not filed.
Michelle McCleary has not filed.
to Bill Perkins
to Willie Walker
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
Will This Renaissance Last?
When former President Bill Clinton rented an office on 125th
Street earlier this year, the idea was judged by most as sensible
and politically shrewd. It was also seen as an official endorsement
of what has been called the new Harlem Renaissance.
In Harlem, the gang wars, drug violence, and poverty of the past
30 years are no longer in the news. Crime is down, abandoned houses
are being renovated, and corporations that once avoided urban
neighborhoods have come to town. Yet beneath all the good news,
there is still much about life in Harlem that could be improved.
New York City Council district 9, which includes central Harlem,
Morningside Heights, and a sliver of the Upper West Side along
Riverside Park, is still one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
The district has one of the lowest median incomes and almost half
of the adults are not in the labor force.
"In a lot of respects, the recent media stories are on target
because there are a lot of things going on in Harlem in terms
of economic development," says Bill Perkins, who is running for
a second term. "But beneath that glitter are some very challenging
issues that sometimes go unnoticed."
The current campaign for district 9 provides the incumbent and
two challengers (all of whom share variations of the same first
name) with an opportunity to focus on these issues.
Running against Perkins are William Allen, a long-time community
activist and district leader of the 70th Assembly District, and
Willie Walker, a community organizer and director of special events
at the Department of Health. Perkins is sometimes criticized for
spending too much time at City Hall and not enough in the district,
and Allen and Walker say they would pay more attention to constituent
A primary concern for all three candidates is public health,
particularly the rising infant mortality rate. According to the
Department of Health, Harlem's infant mortality rate nearly doubled
between 1997 and 1999, to a rate of 15 deaths for every 1,000
Perkins blames the rise in infant mortality at least in part
on cuts in funding for Healthy Start, a federal program designed
to help high-risk mothers care for their newborn infants.
"Infant mortality is not a problem that you can fight and then
when you see success, walk away from," says Perkins. "The support
has to be sustained."
To that end, Perkins recently joined Council Speaker Peter Vallone
in getting five million dollars to improve access to prenatal
care. Part of the strategy revolves around two mobile clinics
that would target the areas with the highest infant mortality
rates, block by block.
Asthma also affects the lives of an alarming number of central
Harlem's residents, especially children. All three candidates
agree with a growing number of public health advocates that a
high concentration of bus depots, and the pollution they produce,
may be to blame for the high rates of severe asthma.
Harlem also has one of the highest rates of new HIV infections
in the country, with heterosexual black women joining gay and
bisexual black men as the populations most at risk.
Walker says that if he is elected he will focus on health education
and Harlem's HIV crisis. To do so he says he needs the help of
local churches, who in his view, often focus too much on abstinence,
rather than prevention in the African-American community.
"You are not going to stop a person from having sex," says Walker.
"If you're in the business of saving lives, at least advertise
that our people should use condoms."
Good times in Harlem have also brought controversy with its new
residents and businesses. In Allen's view, the large corporations
that are profiting from the economic mainstreaming of Harlem Ð
corporations like Disney, Starbucks, and The Gap -- are not doing
enough to insure the long-term well being of residents.
"Disney's paychecks are not going to pay the rents we are seeing
up here," says Allen. "The issue is not color. It is greed."
Inspired by the success of the federal Community Reinvestment
Act, Allen proposes a voluntary program in which businesses operating
in central Harlem would give five percent of their profits to
non-profit groups in the neighborhood. He believes that businesses
would see increased sales from consumers who would appreciate
the commitment to the area. "It would also help circulate money
in the community," he adds.
The desire on the part of Harlem residents for more control of
the local economy is also visible in the struggle to promote more
home ownership and to provide affordable rents. But those goals
suffered two setbacks this year. First, former Housing Secretary
Andrew Cuomo's ambitious housing restoration program was revealed
to be rife with fraud. Then, the Bush Administration recently
rejected a proposal -- supported by Perkins and other Harlem leaders
-- to salvage the program by administering it through reputable
Meanwhile, Harlem rents are on the rise. "I think [Perkins] is
out of touch with the new reality of displacement," says Allen,
who is critical of the Perkins record on housing.
Perkins cites his record of pressuring the Housing Preservation
Department to amend its Third Party Transfer Initiative. The initiative
allows the city to transfer foreclosed properties to a new owner,
forgives outstanding taxes on the property, and allows financing
at low rates. Perkins was concerned that the program did not encourage
co-op ownership. His amendment to the program, Perkins says, ensures
residents, and not owners, benefit from third-party transfers.
In this year's election, Perkins clearly enjoys the benefit of
being an incumbent and the recent improvements in Harlem. Perkins
is also vying to become the next Council Speaker, the most powerful
position in City Council. If elected Speaker, he would be the
first African-American to hold the position.
"Harlem is a land of firsts," says Perkins, pointing out that
other trailblazing black politicians, like Hulan Jack, the first
black borough president, and David Dinkins, the city's first black
mayor, also hailed from his district.
Allen, on the other hand, cites Harlem figures like Marcus Garvey,
C.J. Walker, and Langston Hughes as his inspirations. The future
of Harlem, argues Allen, lies not in the political establishment,
but in building on its rich history and culture.
The race for district 9 has two new challengers: Democratic candidate
Geoffrey Johnson and Independence candidate Michelle McCleary.
Neither could be reached for interviews. In an unusual strategy,
Willie Walker will run in the September 11 primary as a Democrat
and in the November general election as a Republican according
to information from the Board of Elections.
Democratic candidate William Allen remains the most outspoken
opponent of incumbent Councilmember Bill Perkins. Allen questions
the ethics of Perkins receiving 11 donations from Board of Elections
employees, where Perkins used to work and where his wife, Pamela
Perkins, presently works as the agency's contracting officer.
"His contributors include a lot of city agency people who do business
with his office," said Allen. Allen also pointed to a recent article
in Newsday that stated that Perkin's wife made over $49,000 in
overtime last year on top of her base salary of $64,717 as a potential
conflict of interest.
Perkins said the issue of the overtime pay was between his wife
and the Board of Elections ("Frankly, she bailed them out of a
tough situation," Perkins said; she worked the extra hours on
the endlessly inconclusive Krueger-Goodman race for state senate.)
He said the contributions from election employees (which were
all under $150) was not an issue. "People who work for the city
are allowed to give campaign contributions and if there is a illegal
conflict of interest, I'm confident the Campaign Finance Board
will identify it," said Perkins in response.
Allen also said Perkins has paid too much to his pest committee.
"All I hear about is rats, when the Housing and Preservation Department
Budget has been cut so they can't do proper inspections," said
Allen. "To just say `rats' is to overlook what causes the problems."
"My record speaks to the needs of my district," said Perkins.
"Affordable housing, senior citizens, and five million dollars
for people with AIDS. That's what I want to focus on."
William A. Allen is district leader of the 70th Assembly
District and the director of community development at Promesa,
a non-profit that works on housing, economic development, neighborhood
issues in the South Bronx. He is also the founder of Greater Harlem
Coalition for Community Ownership and Greater Harlem Policy Institute.
In 1980, he was elected as the youngest member of the Board of
Education at age 18 and is a former member of Community Board
10. He has a BA from CUNY and is finishing a masters degree in
City and Regional Planning at the Pratt Institute.
Michelle McCleary (no information available.)
Geoffrey Johnson (no information available.)
Bill Perkins is currently the City Council representative for
district 9 in northern Manhattan. He serves on the several committees,
including land use, contracts, general welfare, higher education,
and youth services, and pest control. He is also the chairman
of the Lincoln Correctional facility advisory board and a member
of the executive committee of the New York County NAACP and a
former member of Community Board 11. He has served as a community
specialist with the New York City Department of Corrections; a
youth services specialist with the New York City Youth Services
Agency; deputy chief clerk with the New York City Board of Elections
and Staff Analyst for the New York City Department of Housing
Preservation and Development. He graduated from Brown University.
Willie Walker is the director of special events for the
City Department of Health and is the former chairman of community
board 10 in Harlem.
Over the past few years, a cottage industry of hostels, bed-and-breakfasts
and guesthouses, many in brownstones built more than a century
ago, has sprung up, reflecting the growing number of visitors
to a revitalized Harlem. Run by both newcomers and old-timers,
the homes cater to backpackers on a budget, to professionals or
artists in the city for work, or to tourists seeking to soak up
Harlem's storied history and culture. And now it appears that
Harlem is about to get a hotel -- or more than one. (New York
In some Harlem circles, there is an unpopular but growing sentiment
that Justin Volpe's crime (against Abner Louima)-- no matter how
despicable -- was not about race. On Tuesday, the Rev. Betty Neal
and the Ministers of Harlem USA will hold a town hall meeting
in Harlem to discuss among other topics, "Did Justin Volpe Receive
Justice?" "I'm not happy about the rally and I don't agree with
Rev. Betty on this one, but I will attend next week," said William
Allen, a district leader who lives on 116th St. and will be challenging
Bill Perkins for the 9th District City Council seat. "She raises
some questions that I would like to hear the answers to. Maybe
there's some aspect of the case that needs to be revisited." (NY
How do you kill New York's notorious "super rats?" With a super
agency, of course. After months of hearings, field trips and a
special conference on New York's growing rat problem, a City Council
committee has decided that the best way to conquer the rats is
to create a new umbrella agency - a permanent government body
that will outlive mayoral task forces and short-lived rat emergencies.
Councilman Bill Perkins, who heads the Select Committee on Pest
Control, said there is not enough communication and cooperation
among city agencies. "It's embarrassing for the Giuliani administration
to admit to a rat crisis," Perkins said. "When you have a West
Nile virus crisis, it's sort of God's fault. A rat epidemic is
our fault." (Houston Chronicle)
At least three current Council members are vying to be the new
Speaker: Bill Perkins, Gifford Miller, and Angel Rodriguez. A
fourth, Adolfo Carrion, says he'll be in the running for Speaker
if he does not run for Bronx Borough President. (NY
City Councilmen Bill Perkins attributed the increases in infant
mortality in central, at least in part, to a funding reduction
in the late 1990's in those neighborhoods for a widely acclaimed
federal program known as Healthy Start. At that time, the federal
government increased the number of Healthy Start locations, but
did not increase the program's funding proportionately. (New York
Councilman Perkins said many Harlem residents have mixed feelings
about Harlem U.S.A. ''Obviously, folks appreciate the convenience
of being able to shop in their neighborhood, as opposed to having
to travel downtown,'' Mr. Perkins said. But he said that many
entrepreneurs who had stuck it out in Harlem when times were hard
now felt they were being left out. ''They feel that now that resources
are available,'' he said, ''they're not experiencing the good
times.'' (Amsterdam News)
Bill Perkins on the rat problem in New York City. (Gotham
At the Apollo debate for Democratic Presidential candidates, William
Allen asked Gore and Bradley what they thought of the fact that
only six percent of Harlem's residents own their own homes. Allen
did not expect Gore or Bradley to offer any solutions at the debate,
and he had a larger audience in mind. "Homeownership is a primal
part of the American dream," said Allen. "And when black people
feel they cannot reach a part of the American dream, then we're
all in trouble." (New York Magazine)
Friends, supporters, political allies and the curious converged
on the home of newly elected William Allen, Democratic district
leader of the 70th Assembly District. This was not a contingence
of the "old guard," comprised of young entrepreneurs, financiers,
and those with strong political ambitions. It was a delightful
afternoon and Harlem's future political movers and shakers and
community spearheads met to support one another with encouraging
words and camaraderie. Allen is touted as being "A leader then,
a leader now," as his political career began in the late 1970's
when he was anointed one of the youngest Board of Education officials.
(New York Amsterdam News)
A proposal to build a $160 million shopping center in East Harlem
to be anchored by Home Depot and Costco superstores cleared its
final hurdle when the City Council approved it by a vote of 44
to 0. (New York Times)