Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pledged money to restore a historic Harlem watchtower on Wednesday, an announcement that comes as Stringer tries to drum up support from African American voters in the race against Eliot Spitzer for city comptroller. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
A 19th century fire-spotting perch was once Harlem's lookout point, where a bell raised the alarm of a community in danger.
Now, the tower itself is threatened, as years of neglect are visible in its rust and decay.
"Every time I come, there's another piece of the tower on the ground, and I'm thinking at any given moment, 'One hurricane, and it's gone,'" said Syderia Chresfield from the Mount Morris Park Improvement Association.
But restoration is coming, thanks to city funding, including $1 million from Manhattan Borough President and city comptroller candidate Scott Stringer.
"For 157 years, the tower has watched over Harlem, and now it's our job to protect it," Stringer said.
Stringer is running for City Comptroller against former governor Eliot Spitzer.
Because Spitzer is tapping his family fortune, the former governor's campaign is better funded.
Stringer, however, has advantages in holding office now, such as the ability to fund popular projects and reap the good publicity that comes with it.
The $1 million for the tower came from a roughly $27 million dollar fund.
Stringer has been lagging far behind Spitzer among African American voters.
A recent poll, for example, had Stringer down 47 points.
Still, Stringer rejects the suggestion that funding for the Harlem landmark has anything to do with a primary less than two weeks away.
"Josh Robin, not everything can be that cynical," said Stringer. "That question just has no basis for what's happening here."
Stringer's office and the Parks Department say funding was requested only this summer, although the tower's disrepair has been known for years.
City Councilwoman Inez Dickens: I can just tell you when the parks came to me.
Q: When was that?
Dickens: Originally? When I first got elected.
Dickens: In 2006.
Spitzer declined to weigh in.
"People want to announce a new funding for good programs, that's wonderful," Spitzer said.
The former governor, meanwhile, is unveiling an education platform. He says he'll audit the education department not just for how it spends money, but also for whether its policies work.
At the same time, Stringer is putting out a new plan for improving the city’s $10 billion system of contracts and procurements.