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New York Daily News

A New Mr. Bronx Moves In: Carrion Is Ferrer Pal - And His Own Man


Dec 30, 2001
Copyright © 2001
New York Daily News. All Rights Reserved.

Adolfo Carrion's rapid rise through city politics will hit a new high next week when he is sworn in as the first new Bronx borough president in 14 years.

After a single term as a City Councilman and just five years removed from a stint as district manager for Bronx Community Board 5, the 40-year-old Carrion is replacing his friend and fellow Democrat, Fernando Ferrer, at Borough Hall.

"The challenge for us as a borough is where we go from here after the leadership that Freddy provided," Carrion said. "He set a high standard."

But Carrion said he is more than ready to put his own stamp on the office, in the same way Ferrer trumpets the more than 60,000 housing units built in the Bronx during his long run as borough president.

Despite taking over an office that was stripped of much of its power by 1990 charter revisions, Carrion said he plans to follow his predecessor's style and serve as the borough's chief booster while helping to push projects through the pipeline.

"I'm here to call the governor, I'm here to call the mayor," he said. "I'm here to tell the story of the Bronx with them."

Change of pace

The job is the latest stop of Carrion's political journey, which started in the same clubhouse that launched Ferrer and Bronx Democratic boss Roberto Ramirez. It's also a detour from his long- ago goal to follow his father into the ministry.

"I don't think politics is a dirty word," Carrion said. "I think it can be as honorable as the ministry."

Carrion's election as borough president follows his high-profile imprisonment last summer, when he joined Ramirez, Assemblyman Jose Rivera and the Rev. Al Sharpton in jail for 37 days for protesting Navy bombing trials on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques .

"I saw he was a very sincere and serious public servant," Sharpton said. "He absolutely has the same qualities Freddy has and is on the horizon to be a major citywide leader someday."

Days away from assuming his new post, Carrion speaks eagerly of flying to Washington, D.C., or driving to Albany to serve as "chief agitator or chief lobbyist" for the Bronx.

"The job is what you make of it," he said. "Freddy Ferrer, despite the reduced powers, was able to shepherd the process and get the results that we got."

Carrion said his new responsibilities will center on serving as an advocate for continued economic growth and academic improvements in the Bronx, while overseeing a nearly $20 million capital budget and holding the right to appoint one member to the Board of Education.

A former schoolteacher who also worked in the city Planning Department, Carrion said he will organize a conference early in his four-year term so his staff can pick the brains of planners for which projects might work in the Bronx.

Among his goals for the conference: studying the future of industry in Hunts Point and figuring out ways to better market Bronx gems, such as the New York Botanical Garden and City Island to tourists.

"City Island is a tremendous opportunity," Carrion said. "It's our little Cape Cod, and nobody outside of the Bronx knows about it. We have to tell our story."

He also is hopeful that a new "high-tech high school" will open in Port Morris, and that a school will be be restored to redevelopment plans for the Kingsbridge Armory.

Carrion is in the process of meeting with local politicians and community groups throughout the Bronx so he can get a grasp on what's needed where.

"If there's a traffic light that they've been fighting for that makes their life safer, then it's something we have to hurry up and resolve," he said.

In many ways, the job is an extension of Carrion's work on the City Council, where he helped restore parks in his West Bronx district, put computers in classrooms and wipe graffiti from building walls.

"I want to raise the quality of life in the Bronx," Carrion said. "Graffiti is ridiculous and obnoxious, and makes us look bad."

He likes Mike

While Carrion may share political allies and goals with Ferrer, he said he won't be the City Hall critic that his predecessor was during eight years under Mayor Giuliani.

He said he's talked with Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg several times, and came away impressed with the billionaire's pragmatic approach to governing the city.

"He brings a business style and business habits to the mayoralty," Carrion said. "If that's the case, then it's going to be about outcomes: 'Can you help us achieve a goal - yea or nay?' "

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