12th Council District incumbent Larry Seabrook is tough to pin down. It took The Bronx Times some time to land a one-on-one interview.
Maybe Seabrook is tough to pin down because he attends church in Harlem and misses meetings at City Hall, as opponents argue. Or maybe Seabrook is simply busy. The former assemblyman and state senator spent July and August bounding from press conference to block party, street renaming to ribbon cutting.
Opponents contend that Seabrook has been in the public eye more than usual lately, a savvy pol on campaign. Not so, Seabrook responds. Ask the incumbent why he belongs at City Hall and expect an eight-digit answer.
“I won $51 million for the 12th Council District in seven-and-a-half years,” Seabrook said. “$51 million is monumental.”
Seabrook obtained $8.5 million in capital funds in fiscal year 2008-2009, more than any other Bronx council member, according to a Gotham Gazette report. 13th Council District incumbent James Vacca finished second at $7,389,000; 14th Council District incumbent Maria Baez finished last in the Bronx at $3,502,000.
Seabrook is most proud of capital cash channeled to 12th Council District public schools. The incumbent has funded technology and playground upgrades. Seabrook had a hand in the construction of three new schools.
Unfortunately, crowding remains a problem in School District 11, Seabrook said. The Department of Education has allowed students from other school districts to attend fill new School District 11 seats. Seabrook has battled the DOE to no end; he blames mayoral control.
If education is Seabrook priority number one, senior housing Seabrook priority number two. The incumbent joined Assemblyman Carl Heastie to open the Alvin Malcolm Senior Residence on E. 221st Street in July; Seabrook contributed $1.5 million.
In August, the incumbent handed a $12,00 check to R.A.I.N. Boston East Senior Center on Boston Road. On Friday, September 4, he handed a $10,000 check to the JASA Co-op City Senior Center. Seabrook distributed more than $110,000 to senior centers in fiscal year 2008-2009.
In August, residents of the 12th Council District held a town hall meeting to demand a new recreation center. The incumbent pushed for a $4.3 million addition to the Baychester Community Center on E. 229th Street in 2003 and helped to remodel the Edenwald Community Center and playground; Seabrook had Rent-A-Center donate electronics and furniture to Edenwald in July. Seabrook thinks 12th Council District residents need to make better use of existing rec centers.
“People don’t like going to the Edenwald neighborhood but we did what we were supposed to do,” he said.
Seabrook plans to fund a new YMCA on Bartow Avenue in Co-op City, a Police Athletic League in Williamsbridge and rec centers on E. 211th Street and E. 229th Street.
When asked to comment on a string of federal and city probes related to alleged nepotism and misappropriation of funds, the incumbent refused. The feds and the city have investigated a handful of Seabrook-funded non-profits: the Northeast Bronx Redevelopment Corporation, the New York Mercy Foundation, the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, the African-American Bronx Unity Day Parade, the Bronx African-American Chamber of Commerce and the African-American Legal and Civic Hall of Fame.
“We took no [slush fund] money,” he said. “Not one penny.”
Some 12th Council District residents blasted Seabrook in 2008 when he voted to extend term limits and announced plans to run for a third term. Term limits are un-democratic and the basis for discrimination against minority and women council members, Seabrook said.
The Gotham Gazette found Seabrook absent at 25 percent of City Hall meetings January 2006 to January 2009, but the 12th Council District incumbent chairs the City Council civil rights committee. He sits on seven other committees. Seabrook’s endorsers include the Bronx County Democratic Committee, DC 37 and the United Federation of Teachers. He has raised more money than Rice or King.
“I understand the budget process,” Seabrook said. “Tour the schools and parks. See what I do.”
This story belongs to a series of profiles of the Democratic candidates running for City Council in the 12th Council District, encompassing Edenwald, Co-op City, Wakefield, Williamsbridge and Baychester. The other candidates are Andy King, Jerome Rice and Sebastian Ulanga.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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