HARLEM — The crowded field of candidates vying to represent Harlem in the city council talked housing issues at a forum Tuesday night.
Of the 13 candidates running to replace Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, nine attended the debate, which was sponsored by P.A.'L.A.N.T.E. Harlem, a tenants rights nonprofit, at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center at 34 W. 134th St.
Candidates discussed issues including how they would fund the city’s rent-to-own Tenant Interim Lease program, which critics have noted is underfunded with many buildings falling into disrepair.
All agreed that the program needed additional funding and would propose reforms and add funding if elected, they said.
Candidates also questioned each other.
Elinor Tatum, editor-in-chief of The Amsterdam News, and NY1’s Errol Louis moderated the debate and at one point asked candidates to ask another person on the dais a question.
There were tense moments, namely when Charles Cooper, a businessman and former vice-chair of Community Board 9, needled State Sen. Bill Perkins, who previously held the seat, on being a career politician, calling it “in and out” politics.
Cooper claimed that rents increased in the neighborhood under the senator, which Perkins said was a “misrepresentation of my record.”
Athena Moore, an aide in the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, asked Marvin Holland, the political director of the Transit Workers Union Local 100, if his union support could tip the scales for him in the election?
Holland said he was an “unapologetic union guy.”
Holland then questioned Moore on her residency status, pointing out that she recently moved to the neighborhood. Moore noted her family’s roots in the area and her longtime community work.
Larry Scott Blackmon, Todd Stevens and Mamadou Drame were the only candidates absent. A spokeswoman for Blackmon said he had to cancel because of a family emergency.
Pierre Gooding recently dropped out of the race after it was revealed he filed his petition for the primary being held later this year, and not the special election on Feb. 14.
The district 9 seat was vacated when Dickens was elected to the state Assembly.
DNAinfo New York also live-tweeted the two-hour forum: