Campaigns & Elections

14th City Council Race Has Attracted Big Bucks and Dueling Endorsements

Six candidates are vying to replace the term-limited Fernando Cabrera in a Bronx district that faces unique housing challenges.

Six candidates are running for the 14th district seat represented by the term-limited Fernando Cabrera (pictured).

Six candidates are running for the 14th district seat represented by the term-limited Fernando Cabrera (pictured). William Alatriste for the NYC Council

The race for the 14th City Council District seat —which covers the Morris Heights, University Heights, Fordham, and Kingsbridge neighborhoods in the Bronx—has already attracted more than $1 million in campaign money. That’s more than any other Council contest in the borough this year, and more than has ever been amassed in that district.

The $265,000 in private contributions and more than $795,000 in public funds were reported as of March 15, so the sum will almost certainly be a bit larger by the end of the election cycle in the borough with the highest poverty rate.

Six candidates are vying for the position: Adolfo Abreu, Fernando Aquino, Haile Rivera, Pierina Sanchez, Socrates Solano, and Yudelka Tapia. Solano is the only candidate who has raised less than $10,000 and was the last to jump into the race.

Solano, Tapia, and Rivera have received contributions from incumbent 14th District Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is ineligible for re-election because of term limits and is now running for Bronx Borough President. Tapia has also contributed equally to Cabrera’s BP campaign.

Current Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has also endorsed Tapia’s candidacy, along with State Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, and Diaz Jr. has made one of the largest contributions to Tapia’s campaign through “People for Diaz.”

Tapia has tried several times to be elected to public office. In 2009 she ran against Cabrera for the 14th District seat and in 2013 she was a Democratic candidate in the special election for the 86th District for the New York State Assembly, but withdrew and didn’t make the ballot. She has successfully been elected district leader since 2010 and has been an auditor in the New York City Comptroller’s office for more than 20 years.

Like other City Council candidates, Abreu, Aquino, and Tapia are pushing for a change in the way the city calculates the Area Median Income (AMI) on which affordable housing rents are based; New York City’s AMI is based on regional data that skews it higher. Abreu, Aquino, Tapia, and Sanchez want the city to stop subsidizing above-market rate, non-affordable housing tagged as “affordable” units.

Aquino was a political reporter for El Diario de Nueva York for six years, has been press secretary for the state Senate Democratic conference and the state attorney general’s office, and has been an adjunct professor at Lehman College.

With just over $50,000 in contributions, he is the third best-funded candidate, and with this sum, “we can now focus entirely on voter turnout,” Aquino says.

One of his ideas to improve unemployment in the district is that “any program or development that receives city funds, subsidies or tax breaks in the district must employ a minimum percentage of district residents,” Aquino says in an email.

Aquino also believes the City Council should allocate more money to programs that “prioritize educational, job training and arts programs for those who do not have the connections or money to obtain these services on their own,” he says.

Aquino and Abreu propose an expansion to the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP),  saying it should guarantee employment for all people 26 and younger. Alternatively, Sanchez proposes universal after-school programs for vocational training and college preparation.

Abreu has 16 years of experience as a community organizer and is currently one at the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, an organization with a deep-rooted presence in the neighborhood. In 2019 he was part of the Housing For All coalition that lobbied to change state rent-regulation laws. He was also part of the coalition that fought for passage of the Student Safety Act —which requires the Department of Education and the NYPD to report quarterly to the City Council on incidents related to detentions, student suspensions, and other school discipline matters. In 2010, Abreu co-led the movement to regain the right of students to commute to school for free when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) tried to take away MetroCards for students.

In March of this year, the NYC Campaign Finance Board reported that Abreu had raised just over $63,000 and as of May 5, the candidate reported $69,000, putting him in second place with the most resources. When City Limits interviewed Abreu at the start of the campaign last year, the candidate had only recently entered the race but had already raised $30,000.

Several of the housing proposals Abreu highlighted would come hand in hand with new legislation, such as supporting tenant collective ownership through the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) or redirecting $451 million from NYPD funds for school safety division and community-driven safety programs.

NEXT STORY: The fall of the Barrons?

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