By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — As Rep. Charlie Rangel celebrated the 75th anniversary of social security in East Harlem Thursday morning, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV took his bid to unseat the congressman to the heart of Rangel's district.
At Powell's press conference, held in front of Rangel's office building at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Boulevard (named for Powell's father), the Assemblyman said that he will defeat Rangel in the September primary if the congressman won’t resign.
“We call on him to resign with dignity but if he won’t do that we will defeat him on Sep. 14,” Powell said. “The community will take him out.”
Powell said the 13 ethics charges facing Rangel amount to corruption and that Rangel had lost the influence needed to accomplish things for the district.
“The congressman has not two, not three, but four rent controlled apartments. You say that’s not corruption but that’s against the law,” Powell said.
Powell also cited the high unemployment rate in Harlem as one of Rangel's failures and said the $300 million Empowerment Zone created by the congressman did not help the members of the community most in need.
“Nobody was empowered,” Powell said.
As Powell spoke, Rangel was at an event celebrating the 75th anniversary of Social Security at Taino Towers in East Harlem, on East 123rd Street between Second and Third Avenues. The congressman had opened a campaign office in the area the day before.
Both men were listed as speakers at the Social Security event, but Powell instead opted to hold the press conference on 125th Street.
“Ultimately what Adam Powell says is not important. What’s important is what voters of the 15th district say. We will trust the voters,” said Bob Liff, a spokesman for the Rangel campaign.
At Thursday's event, Powell said he was angry at Rangel’s comments last week about the lack of qualified candidates in the race to unseat him.
“Since he said there were no candidates, that’s why I’m here. Since he said no one was qualified, that’s why I’m here,” said Powell.
Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera called Rangel a “great man” who has done “wonderful things” but said it is time for someone new to hold the seat.
“Allow this young man to fill in your shoes,” said Rivera. “It is time for a change.”
Asked about his own ethical issues, including a driving while impaired conviction in March, Powell said what Rangel is accused of doing is not comparable.
“My mistake was one night of having maybe one too many, if you will, so to speak. His mistake has been a pattern of years and years and years of abuse of disrespect for the laws, of thinking that he’s above it all,” Powell said.
Kelley Boyd, 49, an unemployed information technologist who is starting her own business, said she would consider voting for Powell not because of the ethics charges facing Rangel, but simply because the 20-term congressman has been there too long.
She said she didn’t think the charges against Rangel were that egregious and largely agreed with Rangel’s calls for an immediate hearing of the charges against him, but said the congressman is simply too entrenched.
“it would be nice to start with someone with fresh eyes who asks: ‘What do you need,’” said Boyd. “But is Charlie Rangel a bad guy? No. A cheater? Maybe. But they all are.”