During the election cycle, candidates often try to stand out from their opponents by pledging to listen to, and communicate often with, their constituents.
Last month, dozens of new lawmakers were sworn into the New York City Council, and will represent their respective districts for the next two years (terms are shorter this time around, thanks to redistricting).
To learn more about these new officials and their plans for their time in office, City Limits partnered with students from the Department of Journalism & Media Studies at CUNY’s Lehman College, who contacted their district representatives for audio interviews. (Students who lived outside the city reached out to the reps for the district closest to their residence.) These interviews were originally broadcast on Lehman’s The Bronx Journal Radio.
Most of the students live in The Bronx, and some in upper Manhattan. Not all councilmembers who were contacted accepted the invitation to chat with the students; Below are the interviews with the six of 10 officials who accepted.
Meet the Councilmember: Carmen De La Rosa
The District: 10, which includes uptown Manhattan neighborhoods of Inwood, Washington Heights and Marble Hill
The conversation with newly elected Carmen De La Rosa focused on what it meant to be the first Dominican woman to represent a district, where about 64.5 percent of the population is Latino. The discussion also touched on gentrification in the district, and the recently enacted bill to allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections.
“Like many Dominicans who settled here in Washington Heights, we made this community our home because there was familiarity here, whether it’s the culture that was preserved or the small businesses that we could visit,” De La Rosa said. “There’s more than 1 million Dominicans that live in New York City, that call New York City their home, about one in every eight New Yorkers. So to see ourselves reflected in government—not only our values, but also our culture—I think is important for the generations to come.”
Meet the Councilmember: Eric Dinowitz
The District: 11 in the northwest Bronx, which includes Bedford Park, Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Norwood, Van Cortlandt Village, Wakefield and Woodlawn
Since Councilmember Eric Dinowitz has worked as a special education teacher for the Department of Education, the conversation largely focused on education issues. Additionally, councilmember Dinowitz talked about his less-than-a-year-long first term in office, legislation he’s promoted during that time and plans for his second term.
“In my short time in office I’ve developed very good relationships with community members and community organizations, and I think most people in the district who maybe never communicated with their local elected officials before now know that they can contact me,” Dinowitz said. “Whether it’s something big like city policy on education or retirement benefits, or something that may seem small, like a garbage can or garbage pickup, but is actually very important to their daily living.”
Meet the Councilmember: Pierina Ana Sánchez
The District: 14, which includes the north Bronx neighborhoods of Kingsbridge, Fordham, University Heights, Mount Eden and Mount Hope
The conversation with the newly-elected Councilmember Pierina Ana Sánchez focused on how she wants to change the city’s policy approach from equality to equity.* Sánchez, who was just appointed as chair of the Council’s powerful housing and buildings committee, also talks about her plans on affordable housing, the need to create more home ownership opportunities for residents, NYCHA and gentrification.
“Our community has been one that has faced so much disinvestment,” Sánchez said. “So when I say that I’m an Afro-Dominicana from the hood and I’m here to fight for us, I have those very specific realities in the crosshairs, those opportunities that we have been blocked from.”
Meet the Councilmember: Oswald Feliz
The District: 15, which includes the central Bronx neighborhoods of Bedford Park, Fordham, Mount Hope, Bathgate, Belmont, East Tremont, West Farms, Van Nest, Allerton and Olinville
Like Dinowitz, Oswald Feliz became a councilmember through a special election in 2021, replacing former councilmember Ritchie Torres, who now represents New York’s 15th congressional district. The conversation with Feliz centered on his top three priorities for this term: improving education, improving safety and improving quality of life. Students also asked what Feliz’s position is on NYCHA.
“We have to completely transform public education, and education in general. We have to make sure that the schools are truly preparing kids,” Feliz said. “We need to give them the tools to be able to do so: smaller class sizes, give our young kids access to afterschool programs and also internship programs so they could work every single day for a better future.”
Meet the Councilmember: Althea Stevens
The District: 16, which includes Claremont, Concourse, Concourse Village, Highbridge, Morris Heights, Mount Eden, Morrisania in The Bronx.
Councilmember Althea Stevens is one of the 35 newcomers to the City Council this year. For this conversation, Stevens was interviewed during a public demonstration (hence the background noise), where students spoke with her how to tackle the mental health, opioid use, and NYCHA.
“The reason I got into this is because I feel like we needed to make sure that we are supporting young people,” she said, saying that doing so requires providing comprehensive resources for entire families. “How are we looking at solutions and legislation that really look at the wraparound-service approach instead of just instant fixes, instant gratification and small wins.”
Meet the Councilmember: Amanda Farías
The District: 18, which includes Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point and Harding Park in The Bronx
Councilmember Amanda Farías is also part of the City Council’s new additions. She explained her ideas on how to address domestic violence in the district, animal welfare and disability justice.
“Black women, and Bronx women particularly, suffer from the highest intimate partner homicides throughout New York City,” she said, saying her domestic violence action plan would include establishing additional Family Justice Centers in the borough and extending their hours to include weekends. “I think one of the big things is really just talking about it, and actively checking in with one another.”
*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Pierina Ana Sánchez as the first Latina woman to represent City Council District 14. Maria Baez previously represented the district. City Limits regrets the error.