Council Race 2001By Jose B. Rivera
East Harlem - February 1, 2001. East Harlem’s 8th Councilmanic district race is heating up with the addition of Felipe Luciano as a candidate for city council. Other candidates for this council seat include the incumbent Councilman Phil Reed and Community Board # 11 member, Edwin Marcial.
Mr. Luciano, a news reporter and community activist, has moved back into East Harlem, where he gained national fame as a Young Lord during the early 70s. The Young Lords, if you remember, took over a church (with guns) on 111th Street and Lexington Avenue to demand school breakfast and better education for East Harlem’s children. He then went on to become a local news reporter. He currently works at Fox News, a local television station.
Reaction to Mr. Luciano’s candidacy has been both joy and frustration. Joy in that East Harlem Latinos feel that they finally have a candidate who can take back what they consider a Hispanic City Council seat. Frustration from those who feel that Mr. Luciano is an “outsider” and that a “homegrown” candidate would better serve the district. Needless to say, that fellow candidates Marcial and Reed are not too happy by Mr. Luciano’s candidacy. Though Councilman Reed does not seem to feel too threatened by it.
Councilman Reed is looking to hold on to his seat and is backing a plan to end term limits for City Council members. He was also looking to run for Speaker of the City Council, but with Councilman Bill Perkins doing the same, it is possible that Mr. Reed will settle for another Council post or chairmanship.
Mr. Edwin Marcial, a Community Board # 11 member and local entrepreneur has been running for the council seat since the summer of 2000. He has been trying to get support from local activists, elected officials and community residents. Mr. Marical recently lost a bid to become Vice Chair of Community Board # 11, having been beaten by Vice Chair Cora Shelton. Mr. Luciano’s entry into the councilmanic race is not good news for Marcial. Although Marcial is known in the district, Mr. Luciano’s name recognition may easily overshadow Marcials name and good work.
Some Hispanic political and community leaders are quietly overjoyed that Mr. Luciano has jumped into the council race. And they will reveal themselves in due time. Many East Harlem Hispanics feel that Harlem politicians have over stepped their boundaries by running and winning in a Hispanic district. They feel the weight and oppression of another ethnic group running their affairs. Puerto Rican self determination/actualization is at stake. “We have been too fair in including others, to the point of taking ourselves out of power”, says Rafael Perez, a local community resident.
Others are upset at the current composition of the community board, which currently has a 50% African American make-up versus a 39% Hispanic membership. Almost the exact opposite of East Harlem’s ethnic makeup (37% African-American and 47% Puerto Rican). Those upset by the board composition blame Councilman Reed and Borough President C. Virginia Fields for the imbalance.
If Hispanic leaders wish to re-take the 8th Councilmanic District, they will have to convice Mr. Marcial or Mr. Luciano to drop out of the race. Something which is easier said then done. During the 1997 Councilmanic race, three Hispanics split the Hispanic vote and Mr. Reed won the election. (Mr. Reed still garnered more votes than the three Hispanics combined (see Reed Wins). But this time Hispanic leaders may feel they have a chance to re-take the seat, if only one Hispanic runs versus Councilman Reed.
This City Council race will end in September during the Democratic Primary, where one of the candidate’s will be chosen by the voters to represent the Democratic party in the November race. It is a fact of East Harlem political life that the candidate who wins the Democratic Primary will go on to win the November election. Republicans are never elected in East Harlem. The race will be interesting, hard fought and may get nasty before a winner is declared in the Fall. East Harlem Online will follow this race closely.