Rep. Charlie Rangel has been neutered. David Paterson's tumultuous, short-lived governorship is history. And for the first time in 20 years, no blacks hold citywide or statewide elected office.
After a long and steady rise, black political power in New York is in retreat, and its traditional center of Harlem has been weakened.
“It's been a tough time,” said Kevin Wardally, a Harlem-based Democratic operative. “But I do believe there are strong black leaders who will fill that void.”
Those leaders, however, are unlikely to hail from the longtime bedrock of New York's—and the nation's—black political establishment. Harlem's challenges are deeper than Mr. Rangel's ethics scandal and Mr. Paterson's gubernatorial flameout. Upper Manhattan has a shrinking number of black voters, and its onetime farm team of elected officials is nearing retirement age.
As the Democratic dynasty that produced the city's first black mayor—as well as the state's first black comptroller and governor, and the dean of New York's congressional delegation—crumbles, attention has turned to a cadre of upstarts in central Brooklyn.
Political observers and elected officials point to Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara and state Sen. Eric Adams as future stars. All took office within the past six years and appear to be as ambitious as they are adept.
“I know all of them, and I'm just delighted we're getting this new wave of leaders,” said Carl McCall, a former state comptroller. “It's interesting that all three are from Brooklyn.”
Mr. Jeffries, 40, is believed to hold the most promise. A former corporate attorney, he has been floated as a mayoral candidate in 2013 and has even been labeled “Brooklyn's Barack Obama.”
However, the Prospect Heights assemblyman is more likely to run for the congressional seat held by 27-year incumbent Rep. Edolphus Towns. In May, Mr. Jeffries opened a fundraising account for federal office.
“There is no doubt that Hakeem has a bright future,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the business-backed Partnership for New York City.
Mr. Camara and Mr. Adams are also champing at the bit. In June, Mr. Camara, a 40-year-old Baptist minister, beat veteran state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson to become head of the powerful New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.
Mr. Adams, 50, a former police captain, has fostered strong ties to state Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson and has his sights set on becoming Brooklyn's next borough president.
Unlike their Harlem counterparts, all were early supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, during the 2008 presidential election.
The Big Three, as some in the borough have begun calling them, collectively represent a swath of central Brooklyn that stretches from Fort Greene to Flatbush. Despite white gentrification, the area remains predominately black.
“With all due respect to my friends in Harlem,” said strategist Robert Liff, a former spokesman for Mr. Rangel, “it's a pretty powerful base from which to operate.”
Is Central Brooklyn the new home of Black political power in NY?