By ISABEL VINCENT and MELISSA KLEIN
Last Updated: 4:30 AM, October 4, 2009
Posted: 12:19 AM, October 4, 2009
On April 9, 1965, a 34-year-old lawyer named Charles Rangel took out a low-interest mortgage to renovate his childhood home — a row house on West 132nd Street that he had just inherited from his grandfather.
The $39,350 loan came from a New York City program to develop low-income housing. Rangel and his sister Frances were to use the money to turn the family home in Central Harlem, which Rangel affectionately called Buckingham Palace, into six apartments.
While Rangel may have thought he scored a sweetheart deal, the loan came back to haunt him during his first run for Congress in 1970. An opponent in the Democratic primary accused him of violating the conditions of the mortgage because he was living in one of the apartments that were supposed to be rented only to poor people.
“If Charlie Rangel is low income, then we have a new crisis in this country,” Jesse Gray, a longtime housing activist, charged.
Rangel brushed aside the accusations, and went on to defeat both Gray and Adam Clayton Powell, who had held the Harlem congressional seat since 1944. But even as he celebrated his victory, the loan dogged the young, ambitious politician. City and federal investigators launched a probe into the dealings of the $135 million Municipal Loan Program, which was set up to give loans to building owners who couldn’t otherwise get funding to rehabilitate their properties. The Post, in a front-page story in July 1971, fingered the newly minted Congressman and another elected official in the scandal.