NEW YORK ― State courts could have snuffed out Latest York Democrats’ gerrymandering dreams, but for a few of the party’s up-and-comers, the ultimate, nonpartisan district lines still hold promise.
Nowhere is that truer than within the Empire State’s entirely recent tenth Congressional District, which comprises lower Manhattan and a cluster of contiguous neighborhoods in central and South Brooklyn.
A lot of hopefuls pounced on the rare probability to run in an open, overwhelmingly Democratic seat. Former Latest York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, and U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones are only three of the candidates who’ve already declared their intention to run within the Aug. 23 primary. Rivera recently picked up the endorsement of certainly one of Jones’ colleagues within the House, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.).
HuffPost is running an interview series with the tenth District candidates, and our first sit-down was with Latest York City Council Member Carlina Rivera in Hamilton Fish Park.
The Lower East Side location, just across the road from the Section 8 housing where she grew up, exemplifies Rivera’s deeply local reasons for running. Rivera played small forward on the park’s basketball courts as a teen and now uses her perch on the City Council to fund a youth basketball tournament there.
Unlike other candidates with clear national constituencies and ideological lanes, Rivera, the daughter of a single Puerto Rican mother who migrated to the mainland, eschews labels and pet policy issues. She and her husband, Jamie, live just north of Latest York tenth’s boundaries, but she is running as a native daughter of the Lower East Side’s working-class Latino precincts wanting to proceed fighting for her neighbors.
Rivera is pleased with her work establishing Latest York City’s first public fund for out-of-state residents searching for abortions, helping small businesses survive at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, overseeing the town’s public hospital system, and supporting violence prevention programs.
She can be a sneakerhead who practices hot yoga and enjoys touring the center of the country together with her husband, whom she met while serving on Manhattan Community Board 3. For the couple’s next road trip, they’re flying to Cleveland after which driving from there to Detroit.
HuffPost spoke with Rivera about how she got into politics, why she’s running, and where she falls on the ideological spectrum.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Rivera (right) attends a groundbreaking alongside then-Latest York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (second from right) in November 2020. The 2 are actually rival congressional candidates.
Pacific Press/Getty Images
Tell me a little bit bit about the way you got involved in politics.
Being a component of local programs — going to the library, playing ball. I got involved because we’d at all times be talking about what’s occurring within the neighborhood, what’s vital. My family and the families that I grew up with desired to know what was free, what was inexpensive. So we’d at all times be sharing information. And that’s once we would learn when things were changing or a few of our favourite small businesses were closing.
The campaign that I used to be really a component of that got me occupied with local politics was the Essex Crossing construction project on Delancey Street. We desired to be sure that that inexpensive housing and people Essex Street market vendors were a core a part of the redevelopment plan that was occurring.
We decided as a community what was absolutely essential when it got here to this project. We wanted it to be community-led development with our voices on the table. We said it has to have inexpensive housing. We wanted an open space. We desired to be sure that there was local hiring for the roles and that there was a seamless relocation of the Essex Street Market vendors. In the long run, I assumed there was a great balance there.
How do you see yourself replicating that sort of work in Congress, which is clearly a distinct body than the City Council?
What I’m enthusiastic about and what I feel an efficient member of Congress does well is that they’re able to have a look at the local issues and things which can be happening of their community. They’ve their ear to the bottom and so they can tie it right into a national dialogue and convey those national resources for local problems.
So whether it’s supporting open spaces within the face of climate change, and searching to construct a greener infrastructure, whether it’s transit dollars, health care dollars — all of this I feel may be very, very related. issues intersectionally and with an equity lens has been something that I’ve done on the council. After we discuss the problems which can be affecting people in NY-10, those are universal issues which can be felt across the country: housing insecurity, health care, public safety, climate change — things that we’ve to act on.
“We will not arrest our way out of the crime spike.”
– Latest York City Council Member Carlina Rivera
Your mother is a unionized civilian worker for the Latest York Police Department. What are your conversations together with her about policing like?
We will agree that if the presence of police and an enormous policing budget were enough to stop crime, there could be very, very different circumstances on this city [which has a large police force].
But policing alone just isn’t enough. That’s why the strategies need to be based on community investment. There needs to be community-led programming and services.
We will’t arrest our way out of the crime spike. It just hasn’t worked and lots of the people who find themselves incarcerated actually need services that deal with their health care and which can be really trauma-informed.
Murders have gone down nearly 9% from this time in 2021. Obviously, that’s still way higher than it was in 2019. But are you able to attribute a few of the progress to the greater presence of police within the subways or other things that Mayor Eric Adams has tried?
It really has to do with our gun control issues. The least that we are able to do for the families of people that have been killed in our supermarkets and in our churches and in our schools is to pass commonsense gun-control laws. This hits near home.
Even with Latest York having a few of the strongest gun control laws within the country, there continues to be an actual ability to bring those guns from other places and affect the families here as well.
It takes police to implement gun control laws though, right?
There’s a task for law enforcement. Absolutely.
But there need to be complementary strategies which can be community-led that include violence interrupters, and treat gun violence as a public health issue. And we’ve some great programs right here in Latest York City. We now have Avenues for Justice, which is a program that’s a national model for alternatives to incarceration. We even have the Stand As much as Violence program in Jacobi Hospital where there may be intervention right there with the gun violence victims and with credible messengers, people from the community who’re asking, “How did they get here in the primary place?”
So there are things which can be working. Those are a few of the tools that we’ve to make use of, along with an efficient police presence.
What do you’re thinking that of the job Mayor Adams is doing overall?
What I like about him is that he’s a cheerleader for the town — no doubt about that.
Among the issues just like the spike in crime are difficult to navigate and we’ve lots more to do on that.
Rivera marches within the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2018. She supports laws that will allow island residents to find out their future status vis-a-vis the mainland United States.
You ran for City Council speaker last 12 months and lost. Why were you unsuccessful?
I’m a really independent person. And I feel I’ve shown that in my decisions that I’ve made and the way I operate:at the beginning, caring for my community.
For council speaker, I feel I built a extremely great coalition of people who knew that I could be an amazing leader — someone who was a listener, who was very pragmatic and compassionate. My independence possibly just led me down a distinct path.
How do you see yourself ideologically? Would you be a member of the Progressive Caucus? Would you be a member of “the Squad”?
My record speaks for itself. Because the Supreme Court’s preparing to gut Roe v. Wade, I used to be preparing Latest York for a post-Roe world establishing the nation’s first abortion access fund, lead on issues related to climate, transit and public safety. That type of progress is essential for all cities and municipalities.
I remain eternally, cautiously optimistic on what the makeup of Washington will likely be like.
But we also need to support our local towns and cities. There are a variety of similar interests amongst a few of the candidates. Nonetheless, my experience and what I’ve been in a position to do on the council, what I plan to do in Washington, the local support that I actually have — NY-10 voters want that local perspective in Washington. I’m a homegrown candidate, and I feel all of that’s unparalleled.
What’s your relationship with progressive groups just like the Working Families Party? Would you seek their endorsement?
I actually have an amazing relationship with the Working Families Party and I’ll actually be talking to them about supporting my race. We now have similar ideals and values and we’ve campaigned for a variety of the identical candidates.
Do you may have any thoughts on Rep. Mondaire Jones moving to the town to run?
I don’t care for those who’ve been here two weeks or perpetually. Latest York City is the welcoming city. That’s our whole history — welcoming different people in, welcoming waves of immigrants.
Including members of Congress from the suburbs?
“Housing needs to be a priority. I feel it’s a human right.”
Do you’re thinking that there’s an excessive amount of local resistance to recent real estate development, especially in the case of units for low-income and vulnerable people?
We want an actual deal with constructing inexpensive housing. The creation of inexpensive housing is finally on the forefront of the national agenda. President Biden mentioned that, the mayor mentioned that — it needs to be our priority for low-income people and middle-income people; for seniors and members of the LGBTQ community; for at-risk youth, and those that are overcoming addiction. There are populations that usually are not being directly served. And overall, we just would not have enough inexpensive housing.
Housing needs to be a priority. I feel it’s a human right.
How would you advocate for Puerto Rico in Congress?
I actually have so many memories there, and really recently, of what my family goes through there — each time we are able to’t reach them, because the ability is out, or a disaster has devastated the infrastructure.
The people of Puerto Rico must have the resources and the support for self-determination to determine what they need to do. So I do know there’s laws like that in Washington straight away that’s supported by multiple Puertorriqueños that will allow them to vote on their status, be it for independence, statehood, or one other alternative.
The self-determination piece is so, so vital. Taxation without representation is fallacious. Puerto Rico does need to put in writing its own story.
What do you’re thinking that of running against former Mayor Bill de Blasio?
The query that involves mind is: Why is each candidate running? I’m running on an amazing record, as a homegrown candidate. And every time I leave my role as a council member I’m going to be pleased with my legacy.