Charles Barron's Groundbreaking Shouting Match - NBC New York

Charles Barron's Groundbreaking Shouting Match

Councilman gets loud and proud



    Barron claimed he and students who campaigned for a new building at BMCC were "disrespected" by Mayor Bloomberg, who made no mention of their involvement. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009)

    From now on, City Councilman Charles Barron should be invited to/crash all routine building groundbreaking ceremonies.

    At an event Tuesday for a new building at the Borough of Manhattan Community College the firebrand councilman and a university trustee got into a fierce shouting match.

    Barron accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others of "disrespecting" him and the students who had campaigned for the building, which will replace one damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "The mayor gets up here and doesn't even respect us enough to even mention that students were even involved in it at all," Barron, an unscheduled speaker, said during the groundbreaking for Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

    At that point Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of the City University of New York, rose from his seat in the front row and said, "When was the last time you respected somebody? You're a disgrace!"

    The two men tried to shout each other down, with Barron calling Wiesenfeld "a sickening racist."

    Barron, who chairs the City Council's committee on higher education, complained afterward that he and another councilman, Alan Gerson, had not originally been given seats on the podium with Bloomberg, university Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and others.

    Wiesenfeld said Barron, a former member of the Black Panther Party, was acting "like a thug."

    "Someone has to speak up about it," he said.

    Barron made headlines in 2008 when he invited Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to City Hall despite worldwide censure of Mugabe's human rights record. Mugabe followed through on the invitation with a visit.

    Wiesenfeld, an investment banker, is a former staff member of New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Sen. Al D'Amato who was appointed a city university trustee in 1999.

    The brouhaha disrupted a morning of congratulatory speeches at the groundbreaking for the $325 million Fiterman Hall, which will replace a building that was badly damaged on Sept. 11, 2001.

    The old Fiterman Hall had been donated to BMCC, a community college near ground zero that is part of the city university system.
    Bloomberg declined to comment.