Even though Councilman Larry Seabrook’s corruption case ended in a mistrial, better days are still a ways off.
Federal Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. declared a mistrial on Friday, December 9 after jurors had deliberated for more than a week and were still deadlocked. The United States attorney’s office plans to retry Seabrook. And residents of his district, which includes Co-op City, Baychester, Edenwald, Williamsbridge and Wakefield, say they have felt underrepresented in the City Council since Seabrook was indicted in early 2010.
The councilman was charged with funneling over $1 million in public funds to non profits that he controlled, using over $600,000 of that money to pay relatives and associates. He was also accused of filing false expense reports.
Many residents of the 12th District say that, guilty or not, Seabrook served the district well after his first election in 2001, but he has been noticeably absent while dealing with the corruption case. With another trial upcoming, that trend is likely to continue.
“I applaud the work that Councilman Seabrook has done in performing a face lift in some of the areas that have needed it, such as libraries and schools,” Reverend Robert Smith of Church of the Saviour in Co-op City said.
“But this has become a Greek tragedy, and he is no longer the hero,” Reverend Smith said.
“The reaction of the people that I interact with, not just in Co-op City but across the district, if I had to sum it up in a word, is disappointment,” he added. “That disappointment is played out in terms of ‘who is going to represent me and my community in the City Council?’ That’s a real concern.”
Seabrook’s current term ends in 2013.
Ronald J. Hartridge is on the executive board of Co-op City-based North Bronx Youth Sports and is a self described Co-op City community activist. He said that he has seen a noticeable decrease in extracurricular opportunities for local children since Seabrook became preoccupied with it’s legal problems.
“Seabrook has lent a hand from his seat as a councilman, whether it’s with the Zodiacs (track program), Co-op City Little League, Cowboys (football program),” Hartridge said. “Those things have worked out very nicely, but we have lack of leadership within our district, because of his current circumstances,” Hartridge said.
“It’s not for me to say whether or not he’s guilty, that’s for the courts,” he said. “But I am adamant about one thing, and that’s representation in this district.”
Eighty-year-old Pauline Wilson, has lived in Baychester since 1967, and is an organizer at the Bay Eden Senior Center, which was a frequent beneficiary of Seabrook grants.
“He’s given us money for the senior center, and he used to do so many things, like toys for the kids at Christmas, a tree lighting on Gun Hill Road,” she said. “He’s not doing any of that anymore.”
With another trial looming, this constituents expect more of the same representation from the embattled councilman.
Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394. Follow him on Twitter @bweisbrod