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Councilman Reed Sworn In

By Leon Tulton

Story by Leon Tulton.

Community leaders and elected officials gathered Saturday, January 31, 2004 to witness the swearing-in of New York City Councilmember Philip Reed for his final term as representative of the 8th Council District. Reed has served on the City Council since January 1998 and has been re-elected in 2001 and 2003.  He represents a two-borough district comprised of East Harlem/El Barrio, Manhattan Valley, Mott Haven, Randalls Island, Ward’s Island, and Central Park situated in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Standing on stage with flags representing the Puerto Rican and African-American mosaic of his community, Reed took the oath to be the elected leader of his constituents once again.  During the oath, the councilman demonstrated his commitment to representing his constituents in both boroughs when he added three important words.  And the Bronx, he quickly corrected City Clerk Victor Robles when he promised to serve all within his district, stirring applause from members of the audience.  Robles, who performed the swearing-in ceremony and is originally from East Harlem, commended Reed for his service to the community.  “A politician worries about the next election”, he said describing the difference between a politician and an elected official.  “[But] an elected official worries about the [welfare of the] next generation.”

Addressing the attendees at Public School 163, Carlos Vargas-Ramos, Ph.D. of the Center of Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York-Hunter College and master of ceremony opened the event by testifying about Reed’s commitment to affordable housing in the community.  Phil has fought very hard to preserve and to strengthen regulations that keep our homes affordable in order to keep long-time residents here, the former legislative aide said of his ex-boss and long-time friend.  Vargas-Ramos explained that Reed funded the construction of 3,700 housing units during his tenure to fight the economic pressure that would have resulted in higher rents in the community.  “This is Philip’s third swearing-in ceremony and I hope that this ceremony serves as testimony of what he has accomplished in the City Council as our representative and as our leader”, the master of ceremony said.

Reverend Patricia Bumgardner of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York offered Reed some advice during the invocation on being a leader in the community.  She advised the councilman to continue his stand of fighting for the needs of her constituents.  “This is the calling of a true civil rights leader”, Bumgardner said describing the responsibility of his role as a community leader.

Elected leaders representing the federal, state, and local governments came to the ceremony to show their support for Reed.  U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner of the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens explained that there are four qualities that make a leader successful: being smart, hardworking, being nice, and knowing when to be tough.  “The people of this community can check all four when it comes to Philip Reed”, the congressman said.  “You have the fortune to be represented by the finest”.  New York State Assemblyman Keith Wright of the 70th Assembly District told the audience that Reed is a leader who is truly a part of his community.  He recalled how he saw the councilman traveling through his district on a bicycle as opposed to being isolated from the community in a car.  “There I was walking [in the neighborhood] and all the sudden I see Phil riding on his bike to work”, Wright said.  “I should be calling him Super Councilman.”

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields spoke about her years of working with Reed before and after she was elected to her current position.  “We’ve been able to serve a district and a borough where we’ve been able to make change”, she said.  Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau also praised the councilman for his work in the community.  “You [the constituents] are very fortunate to have a man as dedicated as Philip Reed,” he said.

Other community leaders were asked to comment about Reed at the conclusion of the event.  Manhattan Community Board 11 Chair David Givens stated that he was happy that the councilman was re-elected to another term.  He explained that Reed was instrumental in obtaining funding from the city to rehabilitate the Thomas Jefferson Soccer and Baseball Field.  Givens also praised the councilman for compelling the city last summer to commit $12 million to develop more affordable housing in the community.  “We’re [Community Board 11] very pleased that he’s been re-elected and we look forward to those [redevelopment] projects coming to completion” Givens said.  Violeta Galagarza, founder and director of Keep Rising to the Top, an East Harlem-based dance company that performed at the swearing-in ceremony, explained that the councilman demonstrated his commitment to supporting the arts in the community by helping to obtain funds for her organization.  Galagarza admitted that she initially did no know who Reed was when he approached her at a performance for U.S. Representative Charles Rangel.  She stated that her group was later chosen as one of three dance companies in the community that Reed wanted to fund.  “That [Reed’s action] just opened my eyes to see a Black American supporting a Boricua [a term used by young Puerto Ricans to re-identify themselves with the original name of their homeland Borinquen],” Galagarza said.  “It’s very hard to see that support in the community and he’s been there for the past five years.”  City Council Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins described his relationship with Reed as a very productive and fruitful partnership.”  “Our districts border one another,”  Perkins said about the geographical proximity of the areas that he and Reed represent.  “I think what we’re seeing in Phil Reed is a leader for the future.”

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