Who’s running in the primary for city council District 14? – Bronx Times – Bronx Times

who’s-running-in-the-primary-for-city-council-district-14?-–-bronx-times-–-bronx-times

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As New York City prepares for one of its largest election cycles in recent memory, there is one city council race that will directly impact the west Bronx’s District 14, which encompasses the neighborhoods of  Claremont Village, Fordham, Kingsbridge, Marble Hill, Morris Heights, Mount Eden, Mount Hope, and University Heights. Incumbent Councilman Fernando Cabrera is term limited and is running for Borough President. There are six candidates in the June 22 primary. They are: Adolfo Abreu, Fernando Aquino, Haile Rivera, Pierina Sanchez, Socrates Solano and Yudelka Tapia.

The Bronx Times asked each candidate a few questions to get to know them. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Pierina Sanchez

Why are you running?

I am running for City Council because the working people of our community have been ignored and excluded from the political system for far too long.

This is a difficult moment in history. Yet together, we will rise. No people are more resilient than we are here in the Bronx.

One of my earliest memories is of waking in the middle of the night to a strong smell of smoke, blinding lights, and screams. That fire was my very first experience of tenant harassment.

Through my years of constituent services in the community, I know too many of our neighbors have stories like this. My platform centers our experiences and the solutions we truly need: housing as a human right, economic opportunities for all, and fully-funded, equitable public schools and programs.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in

I’m an Afro-Dominicana, daughter of immigrants, and lifelong Bronxite. I was born in University Heights, raised in Kingsbridge, and currently live by Fordham. From an early age, I learned the value of hard work. I watched my elders sell oranges, drive taxis, clean buildings and schools in order to ensure me and my generation had a chance at higher education and opportunity in this country.

I went to public schools and because of public programs like Upward Bound at Bronx Community College, I made it to Harvard and Princeton, the Obama White House, and City Hall. I share this with the pride that comes from knowing my breaking into these spaces reflects the resilience and power of our community.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

As a council member, I will draw on my personal and professional experience in housing injustice to fight for stable and healthy homes for everyone. Housing is a human right. In our district, where 96% of our neighbors are renters, 70% of residents were one paycheck away from being late on the rent before COVID-19 hit. We must win the fight to #CancelRent during the pandemic, and the fights to support truly affordable housing, and save NYCHA, longterm.

I am also committed to universal economic opportunity. Today, good jobs are scarcer than ever in the West Bronx: our 17% unemployment rate—which has nearly doubled during this crisis—and $21,000 median income were already some of the lowest in the city even before COVID-19 hit.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

Our community has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. We have lost hundreds of neighbors too soon, our rate of cases continues to be among the highest in the city, while our vaccination rates are among the lowest.

My goals and ideals are boldly progressive and my approach will be deeply rooted in the grassroots—fighting for housing as a human right; access to good jobs with good wages and benefits; community ownership and control of housing and jobs; fully funded, high quality education and enrichment programs; environmental stewardship and humane treatment of animal life—all while building community and people power.

What’s your political experience?

I began my career in public service in the summer of 2007 advocating to expand early education programs at Agenda for Children Tomorrow, and helping immigrant families stabilize their status in the U.S.

Starting in 2010, I spent 2 years working in the City Council District 14 office, supporting thousands of my neighbors with their concerns, including organizing buildings to fight landlords for repairs.

I then served in the Obama White House and as an urban planner at Regional Plan Association (RPA). At RPA, I was committed to the mission that any long term plan for the New York region must be built on a foundation of equity and social justice.

Most recently, I was a Senior Advisor for Housing, Economic Development and Labor in City Hall.

What endorsements do you have?

Our campaign has received the support of elected officials including U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15), U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), New York Assembly Members Kenny Burgos (AD85) and Catalina Cruz (AD39), City Council Members Adrienne Adams (CD28), Justin Brannan (CD43), Danny Dromm (CD25), Keith Powers (CD4), Carlina Rivera (CD2), Mark Treyger (CD47), James Vacca (CD13), Helen Rosenthal (CD6), Diana Ayala (CD8) and Rafael Salamanca (CD17).

We also have the backing of labor unions and community groups including Hotel Trades Council (HTC), Communication Workers of America (CWA), District Council 37 (DC37), United Teachers Federation (UFT), 32BJ SEIU, Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), Women of Color for Progress, Voters for Animal Rights, New American Leaders Action Fund, and Downtown Women for Change (DWC).  Full list available at www.pierasanchez.nyc/endorsements

Yudelka Tapia

Why are you running?

Our community in the West Bronx is facing a disproportionate share of the pain from this pandemic, and we need proven leaders making sure we get the relief we need. I’ve spent decades fighting for the Bronx, and I’m running to provide a just recovery that helps our community and uplifts the workers and immigrants that are essential to our city. I’m ready to fight for good-paying, union jobs, fully-funded public schools, support for our seniors and small businesses, and meaningful criminal justice reform. I’ve spent the last 30 years organizing my neighbors and fighting for progress, and I’m ready to bring my experience and my passion for fairness and justice to City Hall and make our community better for working families like mine.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in

I immigrated here from the Dominican Republic more than 30 years ago, and I’ve dedicated my life to making my community in the West Bronx a place where my sons and my neighbors can thrive. I’m a working mother who raised my four sons in this community, a union leader who will continue to stand up for working people, a PTA president who has spent decades fighting to improve our education system, and a District Leader who has delivered wins for criminal justice reform. I currently live in Morris Heights, and I’ve served as Senior Auditor for the New York City Comptroller’s Office for 23 years.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

First and foremost, I will fight to enact an equitable COVID-19 recovery plan that supports our locally-owned small businesses and puts the needs of working families, immigrants, and people of color first. Our community has been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, and we need real relief that prioritizes the needs of frontline workers and the most vulnerable.

Access to a good education, affordable housing, healthcare, safety, and job opportunities should not be up to chance or zip code. I’m committed to fighting to defend and expand our City’s affordable housing stock by building permanent affordable housing for low-income families, changing the AMI so Bronx residents can have a fair shot at fair housing, funding NYCHA, and taking on greedy landlords.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

As a Latina, a mother, and a grandmother, I will bring a unique perspective to my work in the City Council. And as someone who is running to be an independent community advocate, I will always seek to take on tough fights no matter the odds.

What’s your political experience?

I’ve spent the last three decades fighting in every fight for our community in the West Bronx as Democratic District Leader for the 86th Assembly District, PTA President at Roosevelt High School, and a member of the Executive Committee of our local DC 37 Union.

What endorsements do you have?

I am so proud to have been endorsed by our Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., along with Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, the Great Alliance Democratic Club (400 members), The Louela Hatch Democratic Club, and Local 1407-DC37.

Socrates Solano

Why are you running?

We, the residents that make up the 14th Council District, are a community with an array of diversity that celebrates our immigrant backgrounds. We have a really strong business community and we have a workforce like no other. We have unbelievably beautiful parks and playgrounds for our children. It’s just a really special place to live, work and raise a family. Fighting the war on COVID-19 has taken a serious hit on our City Budget and local economy. As we move towards vaccinations, we are going to have to do things differently to get us back on our feet.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in

I currently reside in the Morris Heights section of the district on W. Burnside Avenue.

For the past year now, I’ve been working on the front lines of our COVID Response for NYCHHC through an agency. As an Operational Lead, I manage COVID19 testing sites throughout the Bronx. I manage a staff of clerks, RN’s, and NP’s who are truly the hero’s of this fight. Regrettably, I’ve caught COVID-19, twice! But thank God I have survived it.

For a decade, I worked in Congress for Congressman Charles Rangel. The job was immensely rewarding as I helped constituents with an array of issues including immigration, housing (NYCHA), and cutting through the red tape.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

Tomorrow’s economy is going to be a startup economy and an innovation economy and the workers are going to have to be smarter, require more education, with better skills than ever before. Parents have a tremendous amount of anxiety over their children. Where are they going to work, how are they going to support their families, how are they going to send kids off to college? That’s why our district needs the kind of leadership to develop a strong workforce, improve our schools, and make our district as competitive as it can be.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

Living in the district, I’ve witnessed the heart-wrenching violence that has also wreaked havoc on our streets. We have to put an end to it. We have to change. We have to do something different. We have to get to the root causes of it. And the root causes of it goes back to poverty and the lack of opportunity and failure in our schools. Every child in our district deserves a world class education. Doing business as we’ve always done it is not good enough. One of the most difficult challenges next year is balancing the city budget. It’s time to take a hard look at city spending.

What’s your political experience?

I’m running for the City Council because the district that I love needs a councilman with the experience, vision, and the courage to address the really serious challenges that we face. My other political experience stems from working for City Council Speakers Peter Vallone and Gifford Miller, and also then Senator Hillary Clinton who gave me my political start.

What endorsements do you have?

Regrettably, due to my work with the pandemic response, I was unable to outreach and garner any endorsements. I’m hoping that the voters of the district see my story and give me their endorsement with their vote on June 22nd.

Haile Rivera

Why are you running?

I am running because as a proud father of three young children – two who were born right here and are attending public schools here as well – I am deeply concerned for the future of our district. Wit the recent wave of crimes, from robberies, to assaults to vandalism, our quality of life must improve. I would like to continue raising my children here but we must change how the community is becoming. Now more than ever, given the challenging times due to the pandemic, our people need real help. We do not need another elected official who wants to be in office because he or she is being urged for the political convenience for himself or herself or a certain group.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

I have nearly 20 years of experience working for community organizations that help our youth and vulnerable families such as the Food Bank for NYC, East Side House Settlement, CUNY Prep, Faith in NY and most recently HELP USA, helping struggling families with their rent arrears. I have also worked as the Executive Director of the prestigious National Supermarket Association (NSA), which has over 400 independently-owned supermarkets. My experience working for these organizations have prepared me to take on the problems affecting our district, such as housing, jobs and education. I have lived in the University Heights & Mt. Hope sections of the Bronx since 2003.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

One of the biggest challenges is recovering from the pandemic. Thousands of our neighbors have lost their jobs and have fallen behind on their rent. We need to help them get back on their feet. Another major concern is the quality of life and rise of crime in our streets. We must also help our struggling small businesses, many who were forced to closed permanently and others who managed barely survive on high-interest loans. They need urgent help as well because they are the backbone of our local economy.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

I believe that Councilman Fernando Cabrera has done a great job (hence why I also support him for Bronx Borough President). We need to continue the work he and his staff have been doing while also making sure we expand community outreach efforts, including having evening and weekend hours for our residents. I would also reach out to our younger voters and get them engage in the local political process.

What’s your political experience?

I have been involved with many campaigns, including that of Fernando Ferrer for Mayor (2001), Carl McCall for Governor (2002), Norman Siegel for Public Advocate (2005) and Eric Gioia for Public Advocate (2009). In the summer of 2007, after being selected as one of Barack Obama’s dinner guest, I joined the Obama campaign as a Field Organizer, working in various states with high numbers of Latinos (Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Florida). In 2013, I ran for State Assembly in the 86th Assembly District, where ultimately we came up short by a mere 540 votes in a race with highly contested and questionable results. In 2014, I served as the Bronx Coordinator for Adriano Espaillat’s second unsuccessful run for Congress in the 13th District, helping Espaillat secure 51% of the votes in the Bronx.

What endorsements do you have?

While we are waiting for some responses from some groups, we have always believed that the most important endorsement any candidate must have is that of the people who live in the district. This is why we have focused our efforts in speaking directly with and to the voters. However we do have endorsements of key community and religious leaders such as Pastor Bolivar Flores, Pastor Colin Dunckley, Maria Rosado, Mateo Canela, Melissa Rosado, Katherine Alvarez Caba, Charles Taveras, Pastora Aybar, Glenny Javier, Flor Leerdam, Sammy and Fanny Garcia, Janet Pujols, Marcelino Victoriano, Mercedes Quinones and many more people who are activists and live in the district.

Fernando Aquino

Why are you running?

I am running because I believe we need to invest in what belongs to us. Our housing, our public schools, our health care and our City University belong to us and we must fight for the investments in infrastructure, quality and equitable access to all of it. I have experienced how difficult it is for working families to afford a dignified life. The government’s failure to protect working families became more starkly evident during this pandemic, but inequality has run rampant in the Bronx for decades, and the statistics on healthcare, housing, unemployment and almost every aspect of life, are an ugly reminder and a warning that it is time for a new leadership.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in

I am an immigrant New Yorker.  I came here almost 30 years ago (1991) with little money in my pocket and no place to live.

I am a parent, who has studied, worked, and raised my family in the Bronx. I am currently teaching at Lehman College and have been living in Kingsbridge Heights for the past 16 years. I have been a member of the Latino communication network as a journalist, worked for el Diario La Prensa and other outlets, and as a spokesperson for the Democratic Conference of the State Senate under David Paterson and a spokesperson for the Attorney General office, from 2011 to 2019.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

We need to prioritize the areas of inclusive housing,  job training, benefits, and security, and more access to higher education. I believe that no one should be paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. To level the playing field, we need affordability initiatives that focus on the lower earners, by increasing the number of units dedicated to this particular group. I will bring a laser like focus on solving systemic issues like housing with long term investment and sustainability models.

Budget allocations must prioritize educational, employment-job training and arts programs for those who do not have the connections or money to obtain these services on their own.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

The performance of our current councilmember cannot be evaluated independently from the disorganized, and often confrontational way city and state leaders managed this unprecedented crisis. As a councilman, I would have put more pressure on the state and city government for the medical and financial resources needed; I would use my office to help small businesses with the application process and to access every available resource to help them survive; I would have conducted daily or several times a week digital forums with community organizations and health experts to get the temperature of the situation in the district and find solutions.

What’s your political experience?

I have been fighting against the politics of injustice since I was a teenager in the Dominican Republic. As an immigrant in New York for the past 30 years, I have always advocated for immigrant causes. My job as a newspaper reporter, and later in the State Senate and in the Attorney General’s office provided me a policy advocacy avenue in the areas of civil rights (including immigrant rights), labor rights, consumer protection, and criminal justice, including gun control and police brutality. In my work in the press departments in these organizations I had to review policy and create ways to disseminate that information to give access to the communities that would be most affected by it.

What endorsements do you have?

The most important endorsement that I have is the people that work and live in the community. My campaign has more than 200 hundred volunteers and growing. As someone that has always supported the labor movement and progressive causes, I sought the endorsement from progressive organizations and labor unions, and I will represent the interest of their members as a councilman. I have galvanized a lot of support from dozens community leaders and sectorial organizations, including the bodegas and livery taxi industries, and other small business, all of which are a lifeline for the community I will represent. I was endorsed by former Governor David Paterson.

Adolfo Abreu

Why are you running?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding inequities in our community. I am running to ensure a just economic recovery for all residents in the Bronx–regardless of their race, income, immigration status, gender, or sexual orientation–and to stabilize our neighborhoods for the long haul. We deserve quality healthcare for all so that our families and communities are supported to thrive. I will work to guarantee housing for all to disrupt displacement, protect tenants rights, and build community ownership so that we have the power to ensure affordable rents and dignified homes. I will fight for safe, supportive, police-free schools that put young people on a path to college and careers—not prison.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

I was born and raised in Kingsbridge to a family of women who immigrated from the Dominican Republic. I survived off food stamps, was bussed out of my community just to find a school seat, and moved from one dilapidated building to another. My mother worked for minimum wage as a home attendant and later a paraprofessional educator in a District 75 school, but she always ensured that we were able to live on the same block my whole life. Since the age of 8, I acted as a primary caregiver for my grandmother until she died. My community always had my back, pushed me to succeed, and taught me to care for every person.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

Council District 14 had the highest eviction rate before COVID-19 and since the pandemic started on March 23, 2020 District 14 continues to lead with the highest number of evictions filings across New York City. I will fight to ensure housing affordability and security for all, including supporting eviction defense networks and securing resources to provide permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers. I will invest in Community Land Trusts that guarantee residents’ control and support collective tenant ownership through the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA). Additionally, to address high rates of asthma, I would fight for investment in green energy improvements to our buildings and public ownership of our energy system, so that our people can ensure we have clean, healthy, and resilient communities.

What will you do differently than the incumbent

I am committed to expanding on the former City Council member’s commitment to securing investment in Community Land Trusts and pushing for legislation that supports opportunities for community members to own our land and homes collectively. Additionally, I will introduce Participatory Budgeting to District 14 and advocate to expand its funding and reach citywide. Our community knows what we need. Programs like participatory budgeting support all residents, including undocumented immigrants and youth, to engage in a real democratic decision-making over solutions to critical issues and the resources to implement them.

I will also be a true ally to the LGBTQIA+ community in lifting up their priorities and needs within the New York City Council.

What’s your political experience?

I served as District Representative and Deputy Chief of Staff for Bronx City Council District 15. In addition to managing staff and running participatory budgeting operations, I helped constituents navigate city agencies and advocated for them on issues ranging from potholes in streets, repair assistance, and eviction prevention. I have also supported and defended progressive Bronx candidates towards momentous electoral victories as Field Director for State Senators Gustavo Rivera and Alessandra Biaggi.

What endorsements do you have?

I have received endorsements from Tenants PAC, Working Families Party, NYC-Democratic Socialists of America, Northwest Bronx Democrats, New York Communities for Change, NYIC Action, Kids PAC, The Jewish Vote, Run for Something, and NY Citizen Action (2nd rank).  I have also been endorsed by State Assembly Member Amanda Septimo, State Senator Julia Salazar, State Senator Jabari Brisport, State Assembly Member Phara Souffrant Forrest, State Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes, State Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, and Bronx community organizers on the forefront of change such as Samelys López, Wanda Salaman, Sandra Lobo, Karen Washington, and more.

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