Harlem’s District 9 City Council primary race promises to become one of the hottest election contests in the city.
Flanked by former Congressman Charlie Rangel and local community leaders, Assemblymember Inez Dickens launched her bid for city council at the Ponty restaurant in Harlem on Thursday.
Dickens represented the 9th district on the City Council from 2006 to 2016 before she was elected to the State Assembly. She is familiar with the ins and outs of the district, which encompasses Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, East Harlem, and parts of the Upper West Side. The lifelong resident of Harlem and centrist Democrat, who supports stricter cashless bail laws, is running on a strong anti-crime and pro-housing platform.
Dickens joins an already crowded field of candidates vying for the council seat. She is running against rookie Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan, Assemblymember Al Taylor, and Dr. Yusef Salaam, a member of the “Exonerated Five.”
Former Congressman Charles Rangel endorsed Dickens because they needed someone who knew “how the game is played,” touching on the inexperience of Richardson Jordan.
“We have to get someone that is anchored here,” Rangel said of Dickens. ”And the young people have to understand what we have been through. We are not doing anything except protecting the community that we know for a better and more beautiful, helpful, crime-free life.”
With a dig at Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan, a newcomer to the political scene, Dickens said that she is the only one who has the experience to bring urgently needed resources to the 9th district, which has been struggling with a high crime rate and homelessness since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a 2-year term, and we don’t have time for a neophyte to go in and try to learn where the bathroom is,” Dickens said. “We need someone who has been there. Who already has maintained the connections, who really understands what has to be done, who also has the ability to negotiate and navigate.”
Richardson Jordan, who defeated Bill Perkins by only 114 votes in the primary in 2021, has seen her share of controversies in the short time the Democratic socialist has been on the city council. In a tweet in 2021, Richardson Jordan compared the NYPD to a white supremacist institution and called for the elimination of the entire NYPD budget. Last year, she killed the One 45 housing project on West 145th Street and Lennox Avenue, which would have brought affordable apartments to the neighborhood.
Dickens touted her record on the city council and the state assembly. She reminded her supporters that one of her key pieces of legislation in the State Assembly was bringing the National Urban League back to Harlem. The $242 million multi-use project, located at 121 W. 125th Street, includes 170 affordable housing units, retail space, and offices for community groups.
“They got the land for $1 and even Republicans voted with me,” Dickens said. “Everybody in the entire legislature for the first time voted for us to get that land at a low AMI. It had never been done before in the state of New York for $1 for years because they don’t believe in that. And yet Harlem was the beneficiary of my ability.”
Many of Dickens’ endorsers recalled what she had done for Harlem during her tenure on the city council.
Iesha Sekou, violence interrupter and CEO of Street Corner Resources, said that the next council person representing the 9th District needed to be one with integrity.
“It is one who inspires. It is one who uplifts. It is one who puts the money where the mouth is,” Sekou said. “And says we’re going to give support to the things that are needed in our community.”
Early voting begins on June 17 and continues through June 25, and the primary election takes place on June 27.