Assemb. Jose Rivera’s latest on-screen tour de force would be worthy of an Oscar if he were acting. Alas, it’s a nonfiction spiral into debauchery by a former Bronx Democratic boss no stranger to controversy.
In a video Rivera appears to have posted online before it was deleted, the lawmaker strolls down a commercial district in the Dominican Republic with Adam Clayton Powell IV, a former Harlem assemblyman. Rivera chats up a vendor about “mamajuana,” a local moonshine known for its punch and purported aphrodisiac qualities. He asks whether it would make him strong enough to take on “young ones,” as he points to young women offscreen.
As Rivera shoots, he and Powell spot a young woman, Nairobi, and Rivera quickly seeks her address and “body measurements.” As Nairobi recites them, Rivera displays his cinematographic ability, training the lens on her thighs before a close-up on her behind. The shot grows tighter as she turns to walk away.
It’s a display of depravity not worthy of anyone, least of all a state lawmaker.
In response to the roiling controversy over the video, the 77-year-old Rivera has apologized, telling news organizations he meant no offense. For his part, Powell, 51, said the video was taken “Around. 2004-2005 when Jose and I were young & sexy . . . now we’re old & fat!!!” At the time, Powell was middle-aged and Rivera, who claims he’s a “victim” of changing times, was eligible for Social Security Security benefits.
The answer cynically tries to confuse justification with explanation. Rivera is known in NYC political circles as much for his ubiquitous videos as his reliably weak legislative record, with just one bill introduced in the 2013 session.
If he is a victim, it’s of his own doing. He’s an old hand at Bronx politics — a community organizer, union activist, council member and assemblyman who was party chief until fellow Democrats, tired of his ways, deposed him in a 2008 coup.
Unfortunately, voters in his hermetically safe district won’t punish Rivera. But if they see him coming with a camera, they should run the other way.
Eli Reyes is deputy editorial page editor for amNY.