Nayma Silver-Matos, Manny De Los Santos, and Edwin De La Cruz are the three candidates vying to replace Carmen De La Rosa, who resigned her seat when she was elected to represent the City Council’s 10th district.

Adi Talwar

Corner of 207th Street and Sherman Avenue in Inwood.

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Nayma Silver-Matos (a Democrat running on the “Uptown Rises” party line), Manny De Los Santos (Democrat), Edwin De La Cruz (Republican) are the three candidates vying to replace Carmen De La Rosa, who resigned her seat in the Assembly when she was elected as councilwoman for the city’s 10th district.

The three candidates, who share Dominican heritage, are competing for the 72nd Assembly District seat—which includes parts of Washington Heights, Hudson Heights, Fort George in Manhattan, and Marble Hill—in a special election on Tuesday.

Both Silver-Matos and De Los Santos have been part of Community Board 12, and both have been interviewed by Dominican media covering New York’s diaspora, especially what happens in upper Manhattan where, according to Census data, 48.6 percent of the population is foreign-born. Of those, 90 percent were born in Latin America.

The organization Dominicanos USA (DUSA) called on the Dominicans residing in the district —where more than 70 percent of its Latin American inhabitants were born in the Dominican Republic—to go out and vote in the special election on Feb. 15.

Not all of the Assembly candidates’ campaign platforms are fully bilingual (English/Spanish) and only one candidate presents all of his proposals translated into Spanish, despite the fact that 68 percent of adults in the 72nd district speak Spanish at home. Only 25 percent of the district’s residents are monolingual and speak English only.

According to the New York State Board of Elections, the candidate who has collected the most campaign contributions is De Los Santos, who had an end-of-period balance of just over $40,000 as of Feb. 4, and who told City Limits he has raised over $50,000 in total.

Republican De La Cruz said he had raised less than $4,000 and according to New York State Board of Elections data, Silver-Matos has raised less than $2,000.

Previously, De Los Santos was a candidate for both the Council and the State Assembly and has secured the most political endorsements so far, from councilmembers (Carmen De La Rosa, Shaun Abreu), Assembly members (Latoya Joyner, Al Taylor), and representatives such as Congressman Adriano Espaillat of the 13th Congressional District—with whom De Los Santos has worked.

Two of the three candidates answered City Limits’ questions: Manny De Los Santos and Edwin De La Cruz. Silver-Matos did not respond by the time this story was published.

Some similarities

One of the issues that all the candidates highlight is housing, especially after the state moratorium on evictions expired on Jan. 15. In the 72nd district, 94 percent of people live are renters, and the candidates expressed support for strengthening and expanding the right to legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction.

Silver-Matos proposes “to make sure that we preserve the already existent affordable housing in our district and that tenants are not harassed by unscrupulous landlords.” 

De Los Santos said he would like to see New York State provide legal representation to higher-income tenants, as Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Councilman Shaun Abreu have already proposed.

“As well as greater funding for local organizations such as Northern Manhattan Immigration Coalition (NMIC), Pa’lante, and Manhattan Legal Services to provide additional organizers and attorneys to provide guidance to tenants before they reach the stage of receiving an eviction notice,” De Los Santos said.

De La Cruz also supports connecting tenants with free legal help, saying such services “can be extended by forming alliances with local universities to issue community legal clinics. Coordinate with a local bar to facilitate and allow talented students to work-study and limited practice-represent tenants in eviction procedures.”

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Another point on which several of the candidates agree is their opposition to the Inwood rezoning. In 2018 when the rezoning was approved by the City Council, Silver-Matos opposed it, calling for a moratorium on zoning for five or six years to analyze how it has impacted other communities.

“We cannot keep losing the residents who make up the identity of this District to high rent prices. If we permit this trend to continue, our beautiful community will be lost,” her campaign platform reads.

De Los Santos blames former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing agenda, saying it “focused on burdening low-income and minority communities with large-scale rezonings that welcome luxury apartments, and the Inwood rezoning was no different.”

“The rezoning will bring in thousands of apartments unaffordable for local residents, while creating relatively few rent-regulated units that are truly affordable for the community,” De Los Santos added.

De La Cruz said the upzoning plan “was negotiated to benefit property managers, developers, and the wealthy at the cost to local residents.”

The other point on which the candidates agree is to call for the Row New York boathouse in Inwood’s Sherman Creek Park to have access to restroom facilities accessible to the public. In November the city’s Public Design Commission approved the construction of the plan with the support of former Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez and Manhattan Community Board 12, even though some community members opposed it.

Some differences

One of the points on which the candidates have differences is about which bills they would support if they were to win the race. De La Cruz, for example, would support bills such as the one to create a New York public bank (A8290); one that would enact strict liability claims against the state for injuries caused by required immunizations (A7042), and another bill that would ban mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 (A7100).

On the other hand, De Los Santos would support proposals such as the Good Cause Eviction bill (S3082/A5573); a new deal for CUNY (S4461/A5843), the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase bill (S3157/A5971); the bill that would provide the right to counsel to immigrants facing deportation (S.81 /A.01961), and the bill that would extend health coverage to 400,000 undocumented New Yorkers (A880/S1572). 

According to estimates by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), nearly 15,000 undocumented people live in Manhattan’s Community District 12 (which comprises Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill and covers slightly more than the 72nd Assembly District). For this population, De Los Santos wants to bridge language barriers for residents in need of government services, small business owners, and students. De Los Santos, whose immigrant parents are street vendors, said he would support the state bill to legalize and regulate street vending (A5081), and “will use my parents’ experience to convince my colleagues in Albany on the need to pass this important piece of legislation,” he added.

De La Cruz, on the other hand, believes that the district’s immigrant population should be supported through rent control and rent stabilization laws, since “about 20 percent of all residents of Dominican Republic has exited the district in search of lower rents in The Bronx, Philadelphia, Miami,” or returned to the Dominican Republic, he says.

About the law allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections that was approved by the Council in December, De La Cruz said that “the City Council’s vote to allow non-citizens to vote is challenged in court. I will wait for the courts’ conclusion and support the judicial process in what is considered a landmark future decision.”

De La Cruz is an opponent of COVID-19 vaccines for children and in his platform, he calls for “stopping experimental injections, especially in children.” Another proposal De La Cruz supports is to create a “Sea and Livestock Animal (sentient) Protection Act” to classify marine animals as sentient beings, an idea suggested by the London School of Economics and Political Science. In addition, he proposes allowing New York State to become a co-signer on a lease to help homeless people who want to find an apartment. 

De Los Santos proposes to eliminate small businesses’ language barriers for the New York State Liquor Authority and Department of Health regulations and to expand staffing in community schools to include more social workers and counselors.