Dominican-American Genesis Aquino, 29, like many naturalized citizens, has an American dream, and in her version, it starts with becoming a public servant and getting elected to the State Assembly.
Aquino is challenging incumbent Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) in next year’s Democratic Party state primary.
Born in the Dominican Republican, Aquino moved to Sunset Park under a reunification visa in 2001 at the age of 11 with her dad and sister. She received her Permanent Residency in 2007, just as she was applying for college and became a U.S. citizen in 2014.
Growing up in Sunset Park, Aquino and her family struggled to make ends meet. Because of their legal status, they didn’t qualify for assistance. Her mother who was a domestic worker and father who is now a janitor, spent a lot of time at the housing court, trying to secure their home, but they were still evicted. Now, as an adult with a degree in Social Work and Urban Community Development from CUNY, she works for Housing Court Answers, a non-profit that assists tenants without legal representation.
The district includes the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Red Hook Houses, the largest public housing project in Brooklyn. When elected, Aquino hopes to help pass the Good Cause Eviction Bill – a bill that would ensure tenants aren’t evicted for no reason. This includes tenants that don’t live in rent-stabilized apartments. In addition, Aquino wants to ensure that NYCHA receives adequate funding.
“People in the Red Hook Houses are living in really bad conditions because, well NYCHA is underfunded, but also because of Hurricane Sandy. They got flooded and a lot of those apartments are still facing mold and lead,” said Aquino.
Aquino’s district also has one of the largest immigrant populations in the city. For this reason, it is also one of the most targeted areas for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. In the past two months, it has experienced four of the eight raids that swept the city in a five day period.
“The next morning after the first one, the streets, the park – they were all so empty. I started ICE Watch with a few neighbors and handed information to people to let them know their rights, let them know they can come out of their homes and that we would have their backs,” she said.
When elected, Aquino wants to make sure that there is a plan for Climate Resiliency. Red Hook and Sunset Park are in a flooding zone and preparing these communities for this future is one of her main priorities. In addition, this district has one of the highest rates of asthma and respiratory problems. She hopes to be part of innovating the economy as part of the Green New Deal by keeping the waterfront industrial and creating green jobs.
Although her district has one of the lowest voting rates in the city, Aquino feels that she has a good chance of winning. The year prior she received just short of 4,300 votes, losing by a small margin of 105 votes in the Female Democratic District Leader race. In addition, she feels that she a strong voice for her community,
“What my family has experienced is very similar to what a lot of people in the community have been experiencing for a long time,” Aquino told KCP. “It’s important that our voices are the ones is power. That’s what drives me to electoral politics. We need to occupy the spaces that belong to us.”