Adolfo the Republican?

9 May

While running for Bronx borough president in 2001, Adolfo Carrion, Jr. joined a protest against the U.S. Navy bombing of Vieques Puerto Rico and landed in Brooklyn federal prison. It wasn’t a reliable indicator of his actions once he took office. (Photo: Jordan Moss/Norwood News)

By Jordan Moss

Is former Bronx Borough President Adolfo a Republican?

Seems absurd on the face of it, but Carrion invited speculation when choosing to not deny the possibility when asked by The New York Times last week if he would consider running for mayor as a Republican as some city bigshots are recommending. The Post had some more to say about it yesterday.

Carrion rose as a loyal member of the Bronx Democratic machine (who eventually tussled behind the scenes with party boss Jose Rivera after ascending to the borough’s top job).

He left in the midst of a second term to work for Democrat-in-Chief Barack Obama  as the first director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. He left in May 2010 to become a HUD regional director.

Hardly a typical Republican pedigree.

But some Carrion comments in February to Capital New York reporter Azi Paybarah sounded a bit like a Dem trying on some GOP training wheels.

On public housing:

Carrion, the former Bronx borough president who is eying a run for Congress or citywide office, also sought to distinguish himself from “the noise on the left” when it came to public housing.

In the same interview last week, he told me, “The whole notion of subsidy is that you’re in a financial difficulty, and the intent was never that you create permanency.”

Carrion stressed that he was committed to helping the elderly, veterans and families that “have a set of circumstances that will require them to stay” in subsidized housing.

“But the notion that able-bodied people who ultimately can go to work are being fully subsidized for their entire lives, I just think it kills the spirit of reaching for opportunities that we want in every single American,” Carrion said. “And you know, that sort of lifts me out of the noise of the left.”

On paying retail workers more:

“When I left the borough presidency, the project was ready to go,” Carrion said, speaking about [the] Kingsbridge [Armory]. “And my successor, who I think is doing a good job representing the Bronx, decided that this was an important issue, that he should try to carve out a deal for the workers. The problem with that was always that there is no precedent that I know of, of national retailers carving out special wages for markets around the country.”

Carrion, who is an urban planner by training, said it’s not realistic to demand retail stores pay workers salaries that enable them to lead their household.

“I think what they do generally is they pay a rate that is whatever the market will absorb and with the understanding that retail jobs go to relatively young people, semi-retired people, students; that they are not really career positions,” said Carrion. “You don’t grow up in Kingsbridge and aspire to be a retail worker at, you know, Modell’s. You just, you know, you don’t.”

He said, “You do it as a way to complement your family’s income as a participant in that household, as a student, as a young person, or because you’re transitioning out of a difficult situation. Temporary, in a bigger sense of the word.”

Carrion almost never lines up in front of or alongside pushes from the grassroots, as say his successor, Ruben Diaz, Jr. did in championing the Living Wage efforts of community activists and unions or as a young assemblyman taking a lead in demanding police accountability following the killing of Amadou Diallo. Carrion did get arrested for protesting the Navy bombing of Vieques while he was first running for borough president, along with Rivera, but following that early aberration he mostly favored backing corporations taking on big controversial development projects — like Yankee Stadium and the Related Companies’ Gateway Mall — which received significant public subsidies.

But still, a Puerto Rican Bronx Democrat turned Republican? It’s happened before. The first Puerto Rican borough president, Herman Badillo, did become a Republican, but only very late in his career when he sought the Republican nomination against Mike Bloomberg. So, while not unprecedented, not too successful either.

But some political consultants see a potential opening, maybe because candidates running as Republicans have now ruled the Big Apple for almost 20 consecutive years.

“There is a space for an Hispanic to run for some citywide office,” veteran political consultant Jerry Skurnik told the New York Post. “If Bloomberg could run as a Republican, why can’t he?”


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