September 4-11, 1991
WHO BACKS PAGAN?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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