Carrion not with the ‘noise on the left.’ Subsidized housing ‘never meant to create permanency’

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Adolfo Carrion, with Carol Shea-Porter. (Barack Obama's flickr stream)
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Former Obama-administration urban affairs director Adolfo Carrion Jr. seemed to relish distinguishing himself from some other New York Democrats by challenging the logic of union-backed wage mandates, telling me in a recent interview that he doesn't adhere to "party dogma. Life is too short."

A union representing retail workers was particularly upset by Carrion's remarks on whether it was realistic to expect retail jobs to pay enough to support a household.

Carrion, the former Bronx borough president who is eying a run for Congress or citywide office, also sought to distinguish himself from "the noise on the left" when it came to public housing.

In the same interview last week, he told me, "The whole notion of subsidy is that you're in a financial difficulty, and the intent was never that you create permanency."

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Carrion stressed that he was committed to helping the elderly, veterans and families that "have a set of circumstances that will require them to stay" in subsidized housing.

"But the notion that able-bodied people who ultimately can go to work are being fully subsidized for their entire lives, I just think it kills the spirit of reaching for opportunities that we want in every single American," Carrion said. "And you know, that sort of lifts me out of the noise of the left."

Carrion grew up in public housing before his parents bought a house in the Bronx, and draws on his family experience when he talks about housing.

"We lived on South 2nd Street in Williamsburg the first year of my life" before moving to the East River Houses. "I still remember, we lived in 7A, facing the river."

Ultimately, his parents were able to save up money and purchase a house in the northeast Bronx for $28,000, Carrion said.

"But the idea of staying in the projects was never an option," he said. "And that thinking has to be inculcated into the people that live in the housing projects because what we have created, unfortunately, and at great expense, is a culture of lowered expectations; that it's OK for me to stay here."