Interviews & Profiles

Nydia Velázquez: ‘I have never supported a war resolution’

The New York took a break from Somos to talk about the reverberations of the Israel-Hamas war.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez at Somos

Rep. Nydia Velázquez at Somos Rebecca C. Lewis

Rep. Nydia Velázquez has made news recently as one of only a handful of House members to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, putting her at odds with fellow Puertorriqueño Rep. Ritchie Torres – although this is not the first time the pair have found themselves on the different sides of a hotly contested issue. City & State briefly caught up with Velázquez at Somos in Puerto Rico, where she later co-hosted a pool party with fellow member Rep. Grace Meng, who has not called for a ceasefire and remained steadfast in providing unconditional aid to Israel. Velázquez spoke about her decision to advocate for a ceasefire, the potential primary of fellow ceasefire endorser Rep. Jamaal Bowman and news that the FBI seized the phone of New York City Mayor Eric Adams. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’re one of a very small number of Congress members calling for a ceasefire. What brought you to that? Why are you choosing to call for a ceasefire at this time?

Because I'm choosing life over death. And for me, it’s very important: I have never supported a war resolution in my 31 years in Congress, and I will never support war. So we have a responsibility as human beings to protect human life, especially children, whether they are Israeli children or Palestinian children.

A handful of your colleagues voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib for her use of the phrase “from the river to the sea,” including (three) fellow New York Democrats (Reps. Dan Goldman, Pat Ryan and Torres). Others condemned the language even if they did not censure her. What do you make of that, and what do you say to those colleagues?

For me, the most fundamental right that we have is the constitutional right of freedom of speech. And sometimes, that means that people are going to say what they say, and I differ from their opinions. That doesn't give me the right to shut them up. And so I have fresh in my mind, Donald Trump's tendency to be a king, to even send people to jail if he could, if he disagreed with those people that are criticizing him. So I am not going to give up my right to freedom of speech.

Tensions are obviously high right now. How has this affected your relationships with colleagues?

I talked to Ritchie Torres, I see him. I talked to Rashida and I am not I am not taking this stuff personally. I go and do the business of the people that I represent.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who is calling for a ceasefire, is expected to face a primary challenge from Westchester County Executive Goerge Latimer, a large part due to his stances on Israel and Palestine. Do you stand by him, and what are your thoughts on that potential primary?

I think that Bowman will go before the constituents that he represents. He will explain why he took the votes that he has taken, and it will give an opportunity for him to share his views and perspective. I am not here to judge one way or the other. Go and make your case before the people that you read the stand.

But does he have your support in his reelection at this time?

I'm focusing on New York, my district. When the election times come, I will decide what I'm going to do.

And any comment on the latest Eric Adams news?

We don’t know what we don’t know.

NEXT STORY: Ninfa Segarra on Somos 2023