Hussein drops out of District 2 Council race, endorses Vasquez

Erin Hussein

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Village resident and City Council candidate Erin Hussein ended her campaign to replace Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2 on Thursday. Hussein announced that she would be supporting Lower East Side resident Jorge Vasquez in the election.

She said that one of her primary reasons for withdrawing from the race and putting her support behind Vasquez is his background.

“I’ve lived here for a long time and got to know it even better during my campaign, but at the end of the day it makes the most sense to have the district represented by someone who is Latino, because he can speak to the unique issues from that part of the district,” she said. “The demographics are changing but that’s still true for the most part.”

Hussein added that she also felt Vasquez would fight for the issues important to the district, such as pushing for a public hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and advocating for rezoning around the proposed tech hub on East 14th Street to prevent out-of-context high-rises from popping up in the neighborhood, and was encouraged that Vasquez has not received donations from real estate developers.

“He gave me his word of honor that he would fight for a full hearing for the SBJSA and wasn’t going to vote in favor of the tech hub unless contextual rezoning was part of that, and his fundraising record doesn’t give me any reason not to believe him,” she said. “That made me feel very comfortable that I could take myself out of the equation and still win, in a way.”

Vasquez said that he was happy to receive Hussein’s endorsement.

“She has run a positive campaign about important issues in our neighborhoods, and I look forward to working with her moving forward,” Vasquez said. “I’ve been passionate about our community for my entire life, and I will use my energy, commitment, and experience to bring about real change.”

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Town & Village endorsements for City Council, Districts 2, 4

Because of term limits, the City Council seats in Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez’s districts are now open for the first time in 12 years. In both cases, there will be big shoes to fill, and the competition has certainly reflected this.
For the editorial staff at Town & Village, to say coming to a decision on whom to endorse was difficult would be an understatement in the extreme. The choices were made after interviewing each candidate as well as asking them to answer a few additional questions this past week, and those answers are also running in this week’s issue so voters can learn more about how they stand on local issues.

District 2
For the District 2 race, Town & Village is endorsing Carlina Rivera. This wasn’t a simple conclusion to come to because the candidates in this race share so many of the same values and concerns. There is a universal understanding that the district is in immediate danger of losing its character, not to mention that it’s no longer a place too many would find affordable. Homelessness is getting worse. (District 4 is in the same boat on all these issues.) But all things being equal, we’re going with the individual who’s been, in our view, the most serious candidate. Additionally, her history of community activism and on the job training thanks to the work in the office she hopes to occupy, make her the natural fit. That said, to be clear, this is a democratic system, not a dynasty, so we’re not supporting Rivera because we believe whoever works for the current council member is automatically entitled to their seat next. But the experience is not a problem, either.

Before leaving Rosie Mendez’s office to become a full-time candidate, Rivera, then a legislative aide, helped work on the package of tenant safety and anti-harassment legislation that Mayor de Blasio just signed into law. These protections are a big game changer for renters. She is also a longtime member of Community Board 3, so it’s not like she even needs to be briefed on the issues of the community before rolling up her sleeves and getting to work.

Town & Village would also like to recognize Ronnie Cho, who we believe is a genuine and worthy candidate out of a field of seven would-be council members. Not only are his credentials impressive, having worked in public engagement for the Obama administration, we also like his creative thinking on affordable housing. He would like to tie new development to the funding of social and education programs.

District 4
For District 4, with 10 candidates to pick from, the choice was even harder, which is why in this case, even at this point in the race, we feel we can only help narrow down the field for voters. Our top two choices in this race are Marti Speranza and Keith Powers, with the theory here being that whoever voters choose, the district still wins. Here’s how we came to this conclusion.

Both candidates have similar experience giving them relevant knowledge as to how this job needs to be done. Along with having worked for former Assembly Member Jonathan Bing and State Senator Liz Krueger, Powers has also worked until recently as an executive in a consulting/lobbying firm owned by former Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Speranza’s no slouch either. She worked for the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs as well as the city’s Women Entrepreneurs (WE) NYC initiative, which helps women business owners in underserved communities, before becoming a full-time candidate. Both candidates have been presidents of local political clubs and both serve on a community board.

They both prioritize affordable housing and have plans on how to create more of it. They both want to keep small businesses open, with Speranza’s weapons of choice being the SBJSA and creating a legacy business registry and Powers’ plan being implementing a vacancy tax to de-incentivize warehousing and passing legislation to protect small businesses from steep rent increases.

This is simply an instance where we wish there were two jobs available instead of just one. Hopefully, whoever doesn’t win this primary will consider running for Brian Kavanagh’s Assembly seat if he’s successful in replacing Daniel Squadron in the Senate.

In other issues, they both want to push for more pre-K seats, reform the criminal justice system and focus on the environment.

The choice is yours. We hope we have at least helped a little.

T&V would also like to recognize these additional candidates running in the primary that have managed to stand out.

Rachel Honig got our attention when discussing the need for reform of how the City Council operates so hearings on legislation couldn’t be blocked by the speaker.

Then there’s Barry Shapiro, who isn’t afraid to call out his own party when dissecting the reasons tenants are routinely short-changed.

We were also impressed by Vanessa Aronson’s recognition of ST/PCV as a community with unique needs and Jeffrey Mailman’s knowledge of the issues through a legal lens.

Education advocate running for City Council

Mary Silver is an attorney and resident of Kips Bay.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City Council candidate, attorney and Kips Bay resident Mary Silver says that she got her political education in the schoolyard.

“When one of my daughters was in kindergarten (at PS 116), there were $250,000 in budget cuts and the moms and dads jumped in to help,” she said. “We put the school on the map to bring in funding through the PTA, school leadership and community board. We created a network that was beneficial for the community and for public schools. Once you learn how to build those relationships, you can use them to benefit schools. Those were community-based efforts.”

Silver, who has been an education advocate since her now-grown daughters were in local public schools, said that parents and teachers encouraged her run to replace term-limited Council Member Rosie Mendez for District 2.

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Former Obama staffer runs for Council

Ronnie Cho with former President Barack Obama at the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Village resident Ronnie Cho knew that he wanted to be in public service when he saw how hard his parents worked as struggling small business owners while he was growing up.

“That experience made me want to help my community,” he said. “I didn’t know about politics then but I had the seed of public service planted early. I wanted to be a part of the process that elected good people.”

Cho is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2, which covers the East Village as well as Union Square, Alphabet City, Kips Bay, Murray Hill and parts of the Lower East Side, and is a former staffer from the Obama administration in addition to previous roles with MTV in social engagement and public affairs.

Cho’s parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea and ultimately settled in Phoenix, where Cho and his siblings grew up and where they opened a restaurant in which he spent his childhood years. Cho ultimately studied political science in college with the goal of connecting with people in the community.

“People need a relationship with government,” he said. “I believe government should be a force of good. It should have a role in creating opportunities and protecting people. You need to stand on street corners and be ready to be yelled at, disagreed with. It’s part of the process.”

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Real estate attorney running for City Council

Erin Hussein (Photos courtesy of Erin Hussein)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Real estate attorney Erin Hussein, a candidate for City Council, said that she was motivated to join the race because she’s invested in her neighborhood, the East Village.

“I’m running for District 2 because of District 2,” she said. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and it’s been intertwined with my entire life.”

Hussein, a Democrat, is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez. She moved to the city for college in 1988 after growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut. While New York is a bigger city, Hussein said she sees neighborhoods that make up the communities as similar to small towns like hers.

“Cities are organisms,” she said. “It’s a collection of neighborhoods, a collection of people. But we’re becoming less focused on people and more focused on buildings, and on the very wealthy elites.”

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Attorney running to replace Mendez

Jorge Vasquez, a lifetime Lower East Sider and attorney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lower East Side resident Jorge Vasquez has his lifelong neighborhood to thank for his aspiring City Council candidacy. Vasquez, an attorney who is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2, said that it was the local Boys & Girls Republic, as well as his mother’s influence, that got him involved in community advocacy.

“It was a tradition with me and my mom on Election Day where we would wake up and I would go with her to the polls,” he said, recalling that he and his mother also canvassed for Antonio Pagan, the City Councilmember for District 2 in the 1990s prior to Mendez’s predecessor, Margarita Lopez.

Vasquez said that he started attending programming at the Boys & Girls Republic, which offer youth the opportunity to participate in self-government, at age six and was putting bills together by age 10. When Vasquez joined, the program was known as the Boys Brotherhood Republic but the program later became part of the Henry Street Settlement and was renamed the Boys & Girls Republic.

“Those programs give youth the opportunity to be active in the community,” he said. “Being part of democracy, and even to be familiar with the courtroom and jury rules, is so important. I wouldn’t be an attorney without access to these programs and the advocacy it instilled in me.”

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Council candidate focused on housing, mental health services

Jasmin Sanchez (Photo courtesy of Jasmin Sanchez)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lifelong Lower East Side resident Jasmin Sanchez had already been working in public service for most of her career when she decided to try to transfer those skills to the City Council.

Sanchez, who still lives in Baruch Houses in the Lower East Side where she grew up, has experience in the nonprofit sector, working with community leaders at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and in State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office, which is where she said she learned how to be a community advocate. She is running for the Council seat in District 2, with City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez being term-limited out next year.

A major focus of Sanchez’s campaign is mental health services, primarily because it’s an issue that ties into not only healthcare, but can affect housing and education as well, and has an impact on homelessness. She added that she feels having affordable housing can sometimes be the lynchpin for communities and families, and that it can be especially detrimental for students if they have a tenuous living situation.

“If you don’t have housing, you don’t focus as much on everything else and your performance suffers,” she said.

“It’s not a stable life for kids from shelters. It can be very stressful for them not to have a stable place to live. Schools have mental health services but they have to be holistic and make sure that families are receiving those services as well.”

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Council candidates for District 2 agree to rezone Tech Hub area

The P.C. Richard & Son store on East 14th Street where the Tech Hub is proposed

Maria Rocha-Buschel

Three of the candidates running to replace term-limited Councilwoman Rosie Mendez in District 2 have all pledged their support for rezoning the area around the proposed “Tech Hub” on East 14th Street. The candidates committed their support at a candidate night hosted by historic preservation groups at the Third Street Music School on Monday night.

Nearly 100 concerned residents packed a recital hall in the East 11th Street building while District 2 candidates, as well as candidates running against incumbent Margaret Chin in District 1, fielded questions about their commitment to historic preservation in the neighborhood.

Candidates Erin Hussein, Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver, all Democrats, were all in attendance for the event, although Jasmine Sanchez and Ronnie Cho, who are also running for the seat, were unable to make it.

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Former Mendez aide running to replace her in City Council

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Life-long Lower East Side resident Carlina Rivera has been involved in local politics since as young as age 12, so it should come as no surprise that her next move is running for City Council. Until recently, Rivera was the legislative director for Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and she left the position to focus on running to fill the seat in District 2 that Mendez will vacate this year due to term limits.

Rivera’s introduction to politics at such a young age was thanks to tenant advocate Marie Christopher, who lived on the first floor of her building on Stanton Street when she was growing up.

“She was an amazing tenant advocate, always pushing issues of public safety and preservation of NYCHA,” Rivera said of Christopher, who died in 2013. “She brought me to my first community council meeting. She knew that the community was an ecosystem, and she knew the importance of working with elected officials but also holding them accountable.”

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