Council's Newest Incumbent Challenged on Promises

Photo by: William Alatriste/NYC Council
Freshman Councilman Andy King, seen here packing up after a budget briefing, is hoping to hang on to the seat he's held for less than a year.

In the northeast Bronx, three candidates take on Andy King, who won his seat in a special election after the previous occupant succumbed to scandal.

By: Tyler Pager

Less than a year from his initial campaign, Council Member Andrew King is already up for re-election in District 12 (Baychester, Eastchester, Edenwald, Olinville, Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Woodlawn). King, who won the special election in November to replace Larry Seabrook, faces four opponents in the Democratic primary, which will be held on Sept. 10. Seabrook, who served for 10 years, was removed from office after he was convicted of corruption charges.

In this election, King is running on the same platform, but he says he has updated his slogan to "Moving Forward and Bringing Unity Back to the Community" in order reflect the progress he has made during his time in office.

"If my platform changed, that means I wasn’t for real," he says. "Everything I gave in my campaign was for something I believed in and I stayed on the same mission."

"I’ve seen this community change from good, back to indifferent," he added. "But, in order to move our community forward, we have to unify ourselves and that is what my office has been working on—unifying everyone on all the issues that matter."

Moving forward, King wants "a road of consistency" in the North Bronx. He says he wants to focus on adding more jobs to the district and improving schools and afterschool programs. District 12 is largely composed of black middle and working-class families. Some of the most pressing issues in the community are a high rent burden, low test scores and a high rate of foreclosures. (However, in interviews with the Bronx Bureau, none of the candidates raised any concerns about housing.)

King points to numerous victories such as securing $8 million in district funding and his success helping immigrants navigate the citizenship process.

In the Council, King has been the primary sponsor on two pieces of legislation. The first one supported the designation officers of the Co-op City Department of Public Safety as peace officers and was referred to the Committee of Public Safety. The second piece of legislation would require the Department of Education to distribute information on college saving plans to all students and was passed on to the Education Committee.

One of King’s challengers, Pamela Johnson, who is running again after she finished fourth out of six candidates in the November election, does not believe King is equipped to address education reform.

Johnson, executive director of Urban Neighborhood and the Eastchester Heights Community Center, whose entire platform is focused on improving education, says she has only seen King at one school district meeting in the past four years. Johnson is the president of Community Education Council 11 and serves on the Citywide Council on High Schools.

"He doesn’t have a meaningful relationship with the school board," she says. Johnson wants reform connecting all facets of the education system: schools, afterschool programs and churches.

"In our community, we don’t connect the dots," she says. "We need to input common core standards in all areas of children’s activities. It takes a village to raise a child."

Johnson stressed that there has never been a woman in this Council seat. "Being a woman, I will bring a different perspective to the City Council," she says.

She also criticized King's allocation of funds. According to Johnson, King said he would give $15,000 to the Future Talent Basketball League, which has free access to the basketball courts at Eastchester Heights, if the basketball t-shirts had King’s logo on them. When the center didn't include the logo, Johnson says, King retracted the money. She also says King promised to give $5,000 to the businesses on Boston Road but failed to deliver.

Asked about both situations, King tells the Bronx Bureau: "There were many additional organizations that got funding this year and next year we will select even more."

Since his time in office, King has given a total of $1,571,439 in discretionary funding . Kings biggest funding is $1,118,7888 to the Williamsbridge NAACP for discretionary childcare. He gave $151,714 to youth organizations including $24,000 to the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center and $20,000 to the Unity Neighborhood Center. He gave $108,750 to organizations that care for the elderly with $44,000 going to Regional Aid for Interim Needs and $31,250 to the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged.

Another one of King’s opponents, Toba LaCrown, doesn’t really view King as the incumbent because of his short time in office.

"I’m not running against him," LaCrown says. "Andy King has just been given the opportunity. He has nothing to point to what he has done."

LaCrown, who sits on Community Board 12 as the chairperson of Parks and Recreation, is running on what he calls the "4 C’s:" compassion, cooperation, confidence and courage.

"When you have the compassion to serve, you need to have the cooperation of the people to do what you want," he says. "And the cooperation of the people gives you the confidence to fight for what people need and once you’re there, you know you have the courage to carry on."

LaCrown's biggest concern is youth restlessness. "There is no youth center for students to be engaged," he says. "I really want to focus on how to empower the youth and steer them in the right direction."

The Bronx Democratic Party has endorsed King.

"He is the incumbent," says Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the party’s Bronx leader. "I know all of the candidates and I think they are good people, but I think Andy is doing a good job so far."

He added, "[King] has taken his capital money and put it towards youth programs and he made sure one of the major daycare centers in his district was saved."

Father Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12, never endorses candidates, but says he is looking for someone with integrity, who works hard and is willing to help others. He says the two biggest concerns he has in the district are quality of life and the equitable distribution of city services.

In campaign fundraising, King holds a large lead with $28,825. He is followed by Johnson with $5,215, Lenford Edie with $2,024 and LaCrown with $1,975. Four of King’s donors, SEIU PAC, Doctors Council SEIU COPE, Mason Tenders District Council and Taxpayers For An Affordable NY, gave the maximum amount of $2750.

Bronx Bureau was unable to reach Edie for comment.