Many running to represent the ethnically diverse district—which is home to the largest population of Dominicans than any other community in the United States—said in campaign materials that COVID-19 should be a key priority for the incoming Council member.

Adi Talwar

Broadway at 213th Street in Inwood. Eight candidates are vying to represent the neighborhood in the City Council.

Council Countdown is a partnership of City Limits, City & State, Gotham Gazette and the Queens Daily Eagle, offering coverage of the 2021 New York City Council races.

COVID-19 recovery has emerged as a critical issue in the upcoming Democratic primary for Council District 10, which includes Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill.

Eight Democratic challengers are vying for the seat, currently held by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who is term-limited. James Behr, Carmen De La Rosa, Francesca Castellanos, Angela Fernandez, Johanna Garcia, Josue Perez, Tirso Pina, and Everett Reed are on the June 22 ballot. 

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Many running to represent the ethnically diverse district—which is home to the largest population of Dominicans than any other community in the United States—said in campaign materials that COVID-19 should be a key priority for the incoming Council member.

Others said that fighting the city’s proposed Inwood rezoning—at one point stayed by a state court but now moving forward—is another major priority.

Here’s a look at who’s running:

Carmen De La Rosa

Few Manhattan neighborhoods were battered worse by COVID-19 than Washington Heights, city data show. In ZIP Code 10033 alone, one in every 10 residents tested for the virus was positive, Health Department records show. The area’s case and death rates were both higher than the borough’s and the city’s rates, too.

At the height of the pandemic, the district was one of “the hardest hit in the city — highlighting just how much essential workers sacrifice to keep our city running,” said De La Rosa, who was elected to the State Assembly in 2016, on her campaign website.

Arguably one of the best-known names on the ballot, the assemblymember pushed for passage of the state Dream Act and sponsored a bill that would further tax the state’s billionaires, advocacy that has earned her progressive support.

In addition to individual endorsements from area U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat and current Councilmembers Mark Levine, Carlina Rivera, and Justin Brannan, among others, De La Rosa has been endorsed by several labor unions including the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ, and the state association of nurses. She also won the support of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Courage to Change PAC.

Additionally, De La Rosa has raised the most money in the race — pulling in just over $78,000. Candidates in the Democratic primary for the seat have collectively brought in around $287,095.

James Behr

“One of the things I wanna do is bring back jobs,” Behr, whose campaign has raised around $1,350, said in a candidate statement published by the Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

“We need to be a friendly environment to business and not have politicians who bash business, because those businesses — Wall Street, banks, everything — they fund the social programs that we need to make sure we have good schools and help the poor,” the Washington Heights resident, whose LinkedIn profile says he is a Manhattan College professor and graduate of both Juilliard and CUNY Law School, added.

“Economists predict New York’s economy will be slower in recovering than the rest of the country,” Behr continues on his campaign website. “Helping local stores and restaurants recover (and provide jobs!) is of highest priority.” If New York does not recover soon, a “modern-day New Deal” may be required, he added.

Crime is also a major city issue for Behr.

“We must improve police morale,” his website said. “Politicians demonizing police harms police willingness to do their job. Don’t blame all 36,000 NYPD personnel for the sick acts of a few bad apples (let alone in other states). Oppose politicians who call all police racists, for 57 percent of the NYPD are Hispanic, African American and Asian American. Let’s not forget that police run into gunfire to protect us. Daily they encounter dangerous people with guns.”

Francesca Castellanos

A former tenants rights activist from Washington Heights, Castellanos is running on a platform focused on housing, accessibility, and food insecurity.

“For too many New Yorkers putting food on the table for themselves and their families is a daily task,” her campaign website said. “This became very evident during the pandemic yet our local legislatures have been unwilling to address this.”

If elected, she said she wants to work with state and federal elected officials and fight for more money to be allocated to families for food assistance, including discounts for families who use EBT and SNAP. She proposes the city offset the costs of this initiative by offering supermarkets financial incentives.

A late entry into the race, Castellanos has not reported any fundraising, according to city records.

Angela Fernandez

Fernandez, former commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights and former executive director for the Northern Manhattan Immigrant Rights Coalition, has raised the third-most contributions in the race, behind Garcia, with around $68,815.

A Columbia Law graduate, according to her website, Fernandez says that equity is a central facet of her campaign, which is focused on affordable green housing, green jobs, safety, and educational and economic equity.

“Our City’s current approach to economic development is one of the primary causes of gentrification and displacement,” Fernandez’ website says.

“As a City Council Member, I would fight to reorient our approach to focus on supporting existing small businesses (which employ half of New York City’s private workforce) and local entrepreneurs, building our local talent base in growing sectors of the economy, and securing community wealth and ownership for a broad base of New Yorkers, especially communities of color.”

Johanna Garcia

A single mother of three, per her website, Garcia is a former Council staffer and parent advocate who has racked up an impressive list of endorsements from progressive influencers including Allessandra Biaggi, Bronx state senator. The Working Families Party, former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and State Sen. John Liu have also endorsed her. She’s also rallied significant financial support, raising $71,050 so far.

Starting in 2009, according to her website, Garcia worked as former Councilmember Robert Jackson’s chief of staff, a position she held for six years.

Her economic recovery plan states that “coronavirus has concentrated economic injustices that already existed in our communities. When we talk about recovery, we need to center the conversation on building back better than before because ‘before’ was not acceptable for us.”

If elected, she aims to increase resources for minority and women-owned businesses, encourage the city to develop a public bank, and secure broadband internet for all, her website said.

Josue Perez

Perez, a math teacher who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, has raised around $24,671. Perez is an opponent of the proposed Inwood rezoning, saying that it would displace tenants and small businesses. He also wants to improve education and transit in the district.

His website touts endorsements from the Police Benevolent Association and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

Tirso Pina

City Limits did not find a campaign website for Tirso Piña, who has pulled in $6,725 in donations. On a Facebook page for the candidate, he said he supported David Dinkins’ re-election bid in 1992.

Everett Reed

Reed did not have a campaign website that City Limits could find. He has raised $75.

2 thoughts on “Eight Candidates Compete for Upper Manhattan Council District Battered By Pandemic

  1. Nice article. You excluded the Republican nominee Edwin R De La Cruz late entry campaign. We have a one party system and is always democratic to include other political perspectives for the sake of a functioning government

  2. Thank you for underscoring the pandemic and how Uptown was brutalized. Some of the highest case, deaths, and lowest vans in Manhattan.

    I simply do not understand why Carmen and Johanna don’t take responsibility for any of it. Inwood, to this day, never received a vaccine hub or even the vax bus. Community members took to the streets to educate neighbors on the science, the fears, and where to go. We were left on our own.

    I’m voting Angela Fernández. She’s spent her life as a Human Rights attorney fighting for the people of this community. All of them.

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