September 4-11, 1991


By Paul DeRienzo

Antonio Pagan is a candidate for New York City Council in the n 2nd Council District. He is wing in a field of five candidates in the Democratic primary on Sept. 12th. His strongest opponent and the front runner is 18-year incumbent councilmember Miriam Friedlander.

The 2nd Council District snakes through the Lower East Side north of Chinatown north into Gramercy Park, terminating at 35th Street and 6th Avenue. In the city’s recent controversial redistricting process, the new district was carved out of Friedander’s former district and supposedly designed as a Latino stronghold. Yet less than ~ third of the registered voters in the new district are Latino.

Another section of Friedlander’s old district has become the new District 1 and encompasses Chinatown and Battery Park City. Although that district is more than half white and a majority of its Asian population can’t even vote, it has been termed "Asian influenced" by the redistricters. Even Asian candidates admit that they hope to win there by appealing to white, middle class and liberal voters in the apartment projects along the Hudson River.

Supporters of Miriam Friedlander opposed the new district lines, as do many Latino activists. Speaking on WBAI radio, Ruben Franco of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund accused the Dinkins Administration’s Districting Commission of creating 11 two white districts" out of the formerly majority Latino, Asian and African-American district on the Lower East Side, which included Chinatown.

Pagan seemed to agree when he said at a June 5th meeting of the Democratic Action Club (DAC), a group formed to support his candidacy, that the new district lines were, "an affront to Latinos." However he went on to say that in the new Lower East Side district "support from all sides will be essential in delivering a candidacy."

Many of his opponents say that judging from Pagan’s political backers, he may be more interested in currying favor with white voters, construction companies and political operators than in building real coalitions.

On his campaign literature City Council candidate Antonio Pagan asks the question, "Who is Antonio Pagan?" followed by a listing of political endorsements.

At the top of this list is State Assemblyman Sheldon silver, followed by State Senator Martin Connor, the Liberal Party, Harry S. Truman Democratic Club, Lower East Side Democratic Club, Inc., Village Reform Democratic Club (VRDC), Puerto Rican/Hispanic Political Council, and District Leader (and VRDC founder) Elizabeth Shollenberger.

Behind the scenes lies a more controversial supporter, Robert Napoleon, a leader of the Baruch Houses Tenant Association and the Puerto Rican Council, a multiservice center at 180 Suffolk St. funded with city antipoverty money.

The Puerto Rican Council shares offices with the Concilio Puertoriqueno, Day Care Center, a non profit corporation, which has received more than half-a-million dollars in funding from the City Human Resources Administration’s Agency for Child Development. Despite the fact that the Day Care Center’s license to operate expired July 31 and has not been renewed.

A spokesperson-for the Department of Health, which licenses day care centers, said that the Concilio Puertoriqueno Day Care Center could be in the process of renewing its license, but she added that the city does not grant grace periods.

A 1985 Village Voice article written by William Bastone noted that Napoleon had been on the day care center’s administrative director until April of that year, when Human Resources Administration officials demanded his removal after an investigation opined that he was not qualified for the $20,400 a year job. The investigation charged that he had falsified his resume.

A spokesperson reached at the center said last month that while Napoleon wasn’t on the payroll he could be reached there at night. The spokesperson added that she knew "nothing" about the day care center’s license.

Napoleon’s base of support is in the Baruch Houses where he has presided over the Baruch Tenants Association. The association uses the same telephone number as the day care center and Puerto w

According to Bastone, the Harry S. Truman Democratic Club (which also Supports Pagan), has worked closely with Napoleon since the 1976 election of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who Bastone calls "a notorious symbol of antiminority politics on the Lower East Side.

Napoleon also formed his own political club that, according to Bastone, received contributions of $1450 from Silver’s campaign committee. State Senator Martin Connor, whose district in Williamsburg includes part of the Lower East Side, has also endorsed Pagan. His committee contributed $1300 to Napoleon.

In 1987, a Federal judge ruled that the Grand Street houses, where Silver has his base of support, were involved in "a pattern of intentional racial discrimination in allocating apartments under their control."

Long-time Lower East Side activist Frances Goldin is a leader of the joint Planning Council (JPC), an organization of local low-income housing development groups. In a letter to another JPC member, Roberto Caballero, Goldin expressed shock at Caballero’s joining in a coalition with Napoleon to support Antonio Pagan’s bid for the city council.

Caballero responded that Hispanic "Empowerment," not Roberto Napoleon, was the main issue in the election, and that he would not dignify the characterization of Napoleon as "corrupt" with a reply.

Antonio Pagan says, "the same kind of accusations can be hurled and have been hurled at each and every one of Miriam Friedlander’s supporters. JPC is her backyard. They claim to represent the neighborhood that they do not even belong to."

Asked in what sense 18-year council veteran Friedlander does not represent the neighborhood, Pagan replied: "Look at your statistics, look at the voting, and you tell me if the so-called leadership of JPC and Miriam Friedlander actually represent all of the sectors of this neighborhood."

Pagan, as other candidates, must file financial disclosure statements with the New York City Board of Elections showing all contributions over $ 10 to his campaign committee. The most recent filing shows that between Jan. 12th and July 11th of this year the Committee to Elect Antonio Pagan received 15,860 from about 100 separate contributors.

Raising questions of a possible conflict of interest, many of his contributors are construction companies suppliers and real estate firms, like the huge Carol Management Company.

Pagan has received $1,500 from two plumbing contractors located in upstate New York, $1,300 from four electrical contractors located in the Bronx,

. Brooklyn and Staten Island, a Bronx general contractor who donated $1,000, a Howard Beach-based waste hauler who donated $500, Long Island City and Brooklyn iron and steel contractors who donated $950 and at least $1,000 from building supply companies.

At least one of those contributors, Blake Electrical Contracting, which donated $500 to Pagan’s campaign, has done work for the city. Records with the Mayors Office of Contracts show that in January, Blake Electrical Contracting installed a security system for the city’s Law Department offices located at 880 River Ave. in the Bronx

Pagan is director of Lower East Side Coalition Housing Development (LESCHD), which has close relations with numerous contractors involved in the construction of low income housing on the Lower East Side. LESCHD is currently working on two projects with 42 units at 181-3 East 2nd St., and 67 Avenue D. The cost of the project is $3,381,000 financed by low interest loans from the city and funds raised from private investors.

The cost of construction is $80,000 per unit, which is the typical cost of low income housing being constructed in New York City. Even the pro-development New York Times called the high construction costs of low-income housing "obscene" in a recent article.

Under the terms of financing for Pagan’s latest projects, arranged through the Rockefeller dominated New York City Partnership, after 15 years the housing could be sold for whatever price the market would allow. Districting Commission chair Frank Macchiarola is a former director of the New York City Partnership.

Although Pagan adamantly denies he intends to allow these LESCHD projects to enter the private market, his actions have not inspired trust in Lower East Side activists -- in part because Pagan has not been loathe to use force to gain control of city owned properties.

In one case last September, LESCHD received permission from Community Board 3 to acquire several buildings that have been inhabited by squatters for several years. In a letter to HPD Assistant Commissioner Kathleen Dunn, Pagan requested that HPD "Promptly evict the squatters."

The move by E board to hand over the buildings to Pagan led to a meeting where hundreds of squatters were denied entrance by phalanxes of riot police. Soon afterwards both Pagan and the board allowed the matter of seizing the buildings to drop.

Contributors to Pagan’s campaign include members of the now defunct organization, Before Another Shelter Tears Us Apart (BASTA). Basta was formed in 1987 in part to pressure the city into closing the HRA East 3rd Street homeless men’s shelter intake facility.

Pagan lives almost directly across the street from the facility and joined BASTA as president of the 3rd Street Block Association. The Block Association was formed by Bill and Susan Tatum who live on the same block as Pagan at 34 East 3rd Street.

Bill Tatum, a behind-the-scenes Pagan supporter, is a former city official and local developer as well as owner of The Amsterdam News He bought his present home, a 23-room triplex, from the city in 1967 for $4,000.

BASTA spokesman Howard Hermsley donated $2500 to Pagan’s campaign and has been paid $1500 for campaign related services. Hemsley was a key supporter of Pagan on Community Board 3 before they resigned last Spring together with Roberto Caballero.

Another contributor is local landlord Krystyna Piorkowska, a Pagan ally on CB3 and BASTA stalwart, appointed by former Borough President Andrew Stein. Piorkowska has close ties with police officials and defended police actions during the August 1988 riot in which more than 50 people were injured.

Yip Li the owner of Phebe’s Restaurant on 4th Street and Bowery and a BASTA supporter donated $750 to Pagan’s campaign. A contribution also came from Ilias Kolombos, the owner of Cooper Square Restaurant.

BASTA attorney and Democratic District Leader Elizabeth Shollenberger and her husband, attorney Timothy James, contributed to Pagan’s campaign. They are also founders of the conservative Village Reform Democratic Club (VRDC), which pressured the city to flood Washington Square Park with police and impose a nighttime curfew.

Sherry Donovan, who sought the District Leader post in 1986, and, whose father is a prominent rabbi, said that in the last week of the campaign Shollenberger’s supporters circulated a letter saying Donovan was "anti-Israel" because of her involvement with the National 12wyer’s Guild.

Donovan said the last minute timing of the Shollenberger group’s letter prevented her from refuting its contents before the election.

Pagan is also affiliated with the Tompkins Square Park Neighborhood Association, an organization which helped to pressure the city to get the homeless people out of the park and enforce a curfew.

A block away is the 19-story luxury Cristadora building which served as a social services center during the Depression and was later abandoned. After being squatted by the Black Panthers, Young Lords and Diggers in the late 1960s, it was sold in 1986 to private developers. Pagan contributor Lesley Hazelton, a resident of the Cristadora, wrote an op-ed piece in New York Newsday accusing anarchists of putting a bullet hole through the front door of Pagan’s building-a charge that was never substantiated.

Board of Elections records show that between. 12 and July 11 incumbent Miriam Friedlander raised $13,037, which she added to a cash balance from contributions collected before January of $28,734. Antonio Pagan reported raising $2,570 in the period prior to Jan. 12th.

Friedlander’s largest contributors are municipal employees unions that donated $11,850, including $3,600 since January 12th. She has also received contributions of $700 from New York Wholesale Fish Dealers, $345 from the Odyssey House Drug Treatment Center and $475 from Manhattan Cable Television.

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