The race for a Harlem City Council seat is under way, and City Council member Inez Dickens has an official challenger in Vince Morgan, SIPA ’06, a former congressional candidate and an outspoken critic of Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion.
Morgan said Tuesday that he will run in council district 9, which includes Central Harlem and part of West Harlem.
“I’ve been very active in the 9th district in the 13 years I’ve lived here,” Morgan said. “I’m passionate about the things that most impact my life and impact my neighbors’ lives.”
Morgan, a former banker, has taken Columbia to task for, he says, not keeping its promises in the Community Benefits Agreement, which the University signed in 2009 in the wake of its expansion. Morgan wrote a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation in January that triggered a state investigation into whether Columbia has done enough to hire minority, women, and local workers.
“My experiences abroad and in community banking taught me that the way to navigate the reality of a global economy and survive the pressures of gentrification is to develop new paradigms of leadership,” Morgan states on his website.
Despite the fact that the Manhattanville expansion is not in the district he is running in, Morgan has focused on the project on his website and in a campaign video he released Monday.
“Columbia’s expansion impacts all of upper Manhattan,” Morgan said. “It represents what we’re going through right now across the board, which is these development projects that are leaving lots of people in the district behind.”
Dickens, who voted to approve the Manhattanville expansion in 2007, is seeking re-election for a third term on the council. She easily won her last Democratic primary and election in 2009 and serves as assistant deputy majority leader on the City Council. Some observers think she is next in line for the post of City Council speaker.
Before Morgan's entry in the race, Dickens was running for re-election unopposed, according to campaign finance records. The Democratic primary will be held in September 2013.
A Dickens staff member declined to comment.