Rangel Verdict Evokes Mixed Emotions in Harlem
By Jeff Mays, Jill Colvin and Michael Ventura
HARLEM — News that Rep. Charles Rangel was found guilty of ethics violations had many Harlemites "taken aback" on Tuesday, while others were "disgusted."
The House Adjudicatory Subcommittee convicted Rangel on 11 charges of ethical misconduct after two days of closed-door deliberations. Residents said Rangel should have known better, but said it didn't outweigh his years of service to Harlem.
"I'm taken aback because that's 50 years of history," said Catherine Williams, 55 as she shopped at a farmers market outside of Rangel's 125th Street office. "He's been very important to this community."
Tony DeRose, a 59-year-old state auditor, said Rangel's actions were wrong but not that serious.
"The long and short of it is that not much will happen to him," said DeRose. "He'll get a slap on the hand and continue serving in Congress."
Dennis Vanzie, 45, a laid off printer, said Rangel deserved to be found guilty because his action set a bad precedent for the children of Harlem.
"I'm more disgusted than surprised," said Vanzie. "Nobody cares about the little guy. They should have picked up on this stuff he was doing years ago."
Vanzie said politics is just naturally corrupting. "I thought about going into politics but I probably would have been corrupted the same way."
Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, who lost his bid to unseat Rangel during the September Democratic Primary, and has been one of the Congressman’s harshest critics, said the verdict is no surprise.
"All of us knew he was guilty," he said "It’s black and white."
But Powell slammed the subcommittee for failing to take the charges as seriously as he believes they should.
"The reality is that although he’s guilty of all these violations, he’ll probably just get a slap on the wrist and continue as if nothing has happened,” Powell said.
"If I had violated one of those things, I’d have been charged and convicted and put in jail for many years,” he said. "It’s a double standard.”
Another of Rangel's Democratic primary challengers, former aide Vincent Morgan, said he was disappointed by Rangel and his behavior and that the 21-term congressman should not have run for re-election. Rangel, 80, and the Democratic Party should have been looking for someone with more of a future.
"I wish he had ended his career on a high note," Morgan said. "This is a jury of his peers and his peers have found that he did something inappropriate."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters in Washington that Rangel has done "an awful lot for New York City" during his years in Congress and hopes he will be allowed to keep his job, the AP reported.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who has long defended Rangel, said he was disappointed by the decision.
"I'm very saddened to hear the news," Nadler said. "Charlie Rangel has been a great asset to Harlem, New York, and the country for decades, and this is an unfortunate mark on his important record of service."
In Washington, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a non-profit legal watchdog, again demanded Rangel’s resignation.
"All of Mr. Rangel's theatrics aside, the facts were clear: Mr. Rangel violated numerous House rules and federal laws,” the group’s executive director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.
“Whether these violations were deliberate or inadvertent, the American people deserve to be represented by members of Congress who adhere to the highest ethical standards. Mr. Rangel should resign.”
But David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. said he'd be surprised if Rangel received anything more than a reprimand.
"Charlie Rangel has a lot of friends and a lot of people who think well of him," Bositis said. "Given the fact that people like him and he has a lot of good things on his record, i would assume those things would be taken into consideration."
For Marcia Bailey, the Rangel verdict is deserved because of his abuse of rent contolled apartments.
For the past few months, Bailey, 53, a teacher, has been living with her mother and her 21-year-old son in her mother's rent-stabalized apartment because she can't afford a place of her own in Harlem.
Her sister lives in the same Lenox Terrace apartment complex where Rangel lives and was found guilty of having multiple rent-controlled apartments, but her sister pays market rate rent, which is $1,200 for a studio.
"He deserved it. Apartments are hard to come by and he's holding onto four of them," Bailey said while shopping at a farmers market outside Rangel's 125th Street office. "My sister just lost her job so we don't even know if she'll be able to continue to afford that apartment."
In addition, authorities are threatening to raise her mother's rent because of the income she earns from her teaching job. It's a job where she earns too much to qualify for rent subsidies but makes too little to afford the market-rate rents in a rapidly gentrifying Harlem.
"He owes us an apology," Bailey said. "Instead of getting on television and acting like he did nothing wrong, he should apologize to the people of Harlem."