Meet the Bronx Borough President Candidates

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The borough president proposes legislation, zoning changes, city-wide budget recommendations, and direction for land-use in the borough. Borough presidents appoint members to the New York City Planning Commission, and members to other local boards.

Who is running 

There are 6 candidates running for the seat, according to the latest campaign finance filings, which includes Senator Luis R. Sepulveda, Councilmembers Fernando Cabrera and Vanessa L. Gibson, Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez, Victor H. Gutierrez, and Samuel Ravelo. 

PoliticsNY sent all of them a brief list of questions, asking them what three areas they’d prioritize funding to, would they raise taxes on the rich, and what they think of early retirement initiatives.

Here’s what those who got back to us had to say:

Samuel Ravelo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

At a staggering 1.4 million souls, The Bronx is already a place people come to live, to raise families, and to make permanent lives and residence in. Our second biggest industry is retail. We have top medical facilities, and nearly a quarter of our population works in healthcare alone. What our Bronxites need is better pay, quality of life, and amenities comparable with the other boroughs. We plan on convincing businesses to come here for the things they are missing out, and to convince families that staying makes sense– because things can only get better from here.

Fav restaurants and businesses: Golden Eagle Restaurant in Morris Park is my personal favorite diner. I’ve been going there for decades, since I first moved into the neighborhood there in 2003. Ellie’s Diner in Parkchester is also one of the best diners in the city. My son swears by it, and he’s been going there for years. Yukka Latin Bistro in Riverdale is a fantastic Dominican restaurant serving a simple yet elegant menu of Dominican dishes. 

Fusion Barbershop in Morris Park is my personal barbershop. My sons and I get our cuts from one of the best barbers we’ve ever had– ask for Tupac. 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Our borough has had issues with housing for decades. We have spent decades trying to figure out the balance between public and private housing, and we are nowhere closer to an answer than we were when I first came to New York City in the 80s.

Families, especially children, leaving the state has got to be a bigger crisis moment for the city than it currently is. The newspapers like to make a big stink about the wealthiest of our neighbors who buy homes in far off places and can afford to work remote, but very little is being said about the poor family who has to move out of state because between the taxes and the cost of living they can barely put food on the table. 

The worst thing that could possibly happen to our city is a return to lawlessness and rampant crime. Giving communities the confidence to call the police and expect the rule of law to be carried out is a goal I believe every candidate should prioritize.

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president? 

My entire life has been a constant test of fortitude. I spent years at sea during my time in the Navy. I was a first responder on the Sept. 11th attacks at the WTC. I put up with 2 sons, whom I love very much, and got them to college. I deeply understand the kind of strength it takes for parents to see things through for their children, and I respect the hundreds of thousands of parents and families that also went through the same or similar experiences. I understand where my constituents are coming from whereas the careerists and opportunists do not.

Luis R. Sepulveda

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

The Bronx has some of the best cultural institutions not just in NYC but among the country as a whole. Just minutes from bustling Manhattan, we are the birthplace of hip hop, we have a vibrant cultural patchwork of communities from across the world, and some of the best educational institutions are right in our backyard.

By working with partners like the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens, education hubs including Fordham University, Lehman College, and Manhattan College, and leveraging our cultural and athletic prowess including the Yankees, as well as our musical relevance as the home of hip hop and the Salsa County, we can bring about a renaissance that the Bronx has never seen as we recover from the pandemic.

Fav restaurants and businesses: Khalil Biryani, South of France, Bronx Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Yankee Stadium.

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Economic development, Access to quality healthcare, Housing

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president? 

My experience and track record of results as a legislator in Albany leading the fight to give our immigrant communities access to drivers licenses through the Green Light Bill and higher education assistance with the DREAM Act, in addition to my commitment to criminal justice reform and delivering resources to the often overlooked South Bronx have prepared uniquely prepared me to successfully lead as the next Bronx Borough President.

As an attorney and adjunct college professor, I deeply believe in the power of education as an agent of change in our county and have leveraged this training to pass meaningful legislation which, as Borough President, has the ability to stimulate much-needed economic growth and development within the Bronx.

Fernando Cabrera

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

I will work on improving affordable housing, public safety, health care and quality of life issues.  I will focus effort from the Bronx Overall Economic Development to help develop business from people who live and do business in the Bronx, in order to create an economic ecosystem where wealth stays within the Borough of the Bronx and more jobs are created and economic opportunities are amplified.  I will work in developing the first Salsa Museum, entertainment hubs and other destination venues to create tourism.  

Fav restaurants and businesses: Havana Cafe, Caridad Restaurant, Picante Picante Restaurant, Salsa Con Fuego, Enzo’s Restaurant.

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Economy, Housing, and Health Care

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president? 

I proudly served as the NYC Council Member representing the 14th district in the Bronx since January 2010.  My leadership positions in the NYC Council include: Majority Whip Leader, Chair of the Government Operations Committee,  and Co-Chair of the Gun Violence Task Force. I am the former chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, the Chairman of the Technology Committee, and Chair of the Substance Abuse Committee. I served at the Democratic National Conference delegate for President Barack Obama. I passed over 40 bills and resolutions in the City Council, including the Tenant Bill of Rights and School Environmental Bill.

I also served as the senior pastor of New Life Outreach International church in the Bronx.  I  am the former program director for the Mental Health and Counseling graduate program at Mercy College, where I also taught as a professor for 12 years. I worked as a school counselor and substance abuse counselor.  I earned his B.A. in Religion from Southern California College, M.A. in Counseling from Liberty University and  Doctorate in Counseling from Argosy University.  I am licensed as a Mental Health Counselor and Certified as a School Counselor.  

Nathalia Fernandez

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

As we revitalize the borough post-COVID, I will work with The Bronx Tourism Council to highlight our original cultural treasures like Orchard Beach and our unique restaurants and businesses. In my Greener Bronx plan, I will look to target new businesses by investing in renewable energies, upgrade our infrastructure, create good-paying green jobs, and improve our air and water quality. This bold, innovative, multi-faceted vision will achieve true environmental justice by uplifting and empowering our communities while making The Bronx the greenest borough in New York City.

Fav restaurants and businesses: The Lit Bar, La Masa, Lloyds Carrot Cake, 239 Play, The Ice House.

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Expanded access to the COVID-19 vaccine, Affordable Housing, Environmental Justice

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president? 

When my parents arrived in the US they were undocumented, so I know first-hand how difficult it is to come to New York City and raise a family here. As Bronx regional representative for the Governor, and an Assemblymember, I have seen first-hand these struggles in real-time. As borough president, I will work to empower all Bronxites, regardless of immigration status, and deliver an innovative vision to revitalize our borough and write the next chapter of its legacy.

Vanessa L. Gibson

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

We need to expand affordable housing and bring in new employment opportunities so that people recognize the opportunities the Bronx offers. As Borough President, I’ll fight to build more affordable housing, support responsible development and open pathways to ownership opportunities to build economic wealth and power in the Bronx. As we work to create more job opportunities, I will work with employers to bring their businesses to the Bronx and continue to advocate for those who call our borough home today. 

I will continue to partner with cultural institutions, like The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Bronx Historical Society, The Bronx Council of the Arts, The Bronx River Art Center, The Bronx Botanical Gardens, The Bronx Zoo, Wave Hill, Windows of Hip Hop and the Universal Hip Hop Museum, to tell the story of the Bronx and the history of our borough to visitors who come to see our incredible borough.

Fav restaurants and businesses: Enzo’s on Arthur Avenue, Sammy’s Fish Box, Corner Style Jamaican Restaurant, El Caldero Restaurant, Giovanni’s Bronx 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

The primary issue is COVID-19 recovery and ensuring that we educate residents on the vaccination and provide opportunities for vulnerable populations to get access. 

We need to get Bronxites back to work as one in every four residents lost their income and employment due to the pandemic. Our residents need sustainable, good-paying, union jobs that provide stability. 

Affordable Housing: Too many tenants are rent-burdened, paying more than 30% of their income towards rent and many have fallen behind due to a loss of income. We must prepare for the wave of evictions that will lead to even more homelessness and stop it in its tracks. I was proud to sponsor the Right to Counsel bill to ensure every tenant has access to free legal representation if they’re facing eviction, this will be crucial when the eviction moratorium is lifted. 

We must also look at new construction of affordable housing and ensure that it provides real affordable options for formerly homeless families, veterans, foster youth, LGBT youth, domestic violence survivors, seniors and veterans. As unemployment remains high in the Bronx, we must attract new business opportunities to create jobs and help struggling small businesses succeed in the years ahead. Our borough needs more community health clinics to provide preventative care and they must be accessible to every Bronxite.

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

The Bronx is home. From my time working with the great former Assembly Member Aurelia Greene to serving in the City Council, I’ve made connections with Bronxites from every neighborhood in our borough. We are a diverse community, but working collectively there is so much that we can accomplish. The Bronx needs strong leadership, and I’ve taken on tough fights in the legislature to deliver for residents, and I’ll never stop fighting for the Bronx. I’m ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead and find real solutions to the issues we face. 

COVID-19 has been a setback for us in the Bronx but every setback is preparation for a comeback. The Bronx needs a leader who is unafraid to make tough decisions, someone who isn’t new to this work but true to this work and someone who is able to build coalitions from all communities and lead with a passion, a plan and a purpose.