MANHATTAN — A shouting match between a city councilman and a CUNY trustee erupted on Tuesday at the groundbreaking of a building near Ground Zero.
City Councilman Charles Barron, of Brooklyn, and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a City University of New York trustee, began yelling at one another shortly after Barron stepped to the podium at the event marking the beginning of construction on a new Fiterman Hall, a CUNY building destroyed on 9/11, according to published reports.
"You're a disgrace," Wiesenfeld said.
Barron responded: "Whether you like it or not, I'm here," the New York Times reported.
For the next few minutes, the two men traded insults with Barron calling Wiesenfeld a "sickening racist," according to the Daily News. Wiesenfeld, a former staffer for Mayor Ed Koch, Sen. Al D'Amato and Gov. George Pataki, left shortly after the heated exchange.
Tensions simmered before the confrontation when students that marched with Barron to the event were initially denied entrance, the Times reported.
“I’ve been struggling to make this happen along with others for eight years, even with resistance from the mayor, with resistance sometimes even from the insurance company," Barron told the Times, referring to his efforts with students to restart construction of the $259 million building for the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
The tension began when the councilman, a former Black Panther who now chairs the Council's higher education committee, was seated with the audience rather than with political and community leaders, the New York Post reported.
Barron took it as a slight, and found his late speaking slot disrespectful, too.
Wiesenfeld said Barron bullied his way onto the podium, displacing other speakers.
"The man lacks civility," Wiesenfeld said to the Times. “He is the lone individual who looks for persecutors under every rock and uses it as an excuse to act impolitely.”
Wiesenfeld, who serves as a principal for Bernstein Global Wealth Management, further criticized Barron for his 2002 City Hall invitation to Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe who is accused with violating human rights, the paper said.