A fifth candidate has entered the increasingly crowded race to succeed Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell. Carmen Quinones, the president of the New York City Housing Authority’s Frederick Douglass Houses resident association, announced her candidacy for the 69th Assembly District on Jan. 30.
The district, which encompasses parts of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights and Manhattan Valley, has been represented by O’Donnell for more than 20 years. O’Donnell announced last year that he will not seek reelection.
“Daniel O’Donnell was a good assemblyman for us, and he at least paid attention to Douglass (Houses) when he began. It just started deteriorating after a while,” she said. “We don’t have any elected officials, especially in our area, that have paid any attention to our residents.”
Quinones has been president of the NYCHA resident association for nine years. She says she is most proud of the work she has done to strengthen the development’s relationship with the New York City Police Department’s 24th Precinct, which covers Manhattan Valley and parts of Riverside Park.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she coordinated food donations to 12 NYCHA developments across Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. She believes the community ties she has created on the Upper West Side give her an edge over her competition in the primary race. “They’re talking about it, I’m doing it.” she said. “You got to walk the walk, and walk the walk every day. I’m here doing it. Even when COVID hit.”
In addition to Quinones, four other candidates have publicly announced their primary campaigns for the 69th Assembly District: public defender Eli Northrup, lobbyist Melissa Rosenberg, Manhattan Democratic Party official Barry Weinberg and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s former director of policy Micah Lasher.
Quinones is no stranger to Manhattan politics. In the 1990s, she served as chief of staff to former Democratic Assembly Members Angelo Del Toro and Nelson Denis, both of whom represented the 68th Assembly District in East Harlem. Quinones also served as a district leader in the Manhattan Democratic Party.
Quinones ran for City Council in 2021 but came in tenth place in the Democratic primary, with just 3.2% of the vote in the first round of ranked-choice voting. Despite her previous loss, she is confident about her electability in the Assembly district, which encompasses fewer Upper Manhattan neighborhoods than the City Council district does.
Quinones’ campaign is making an effort to register NYCHA residents to vote. “We’re doing everything that we have to do,” she said. “And again, it’s all about outreach, making sure people know what’s going on and listening to what people are suffering from. Once you’ve got that, you’ve got everything.”
When it comes to campaign issues, Quinones plans to prioritize improving housing on the Upper West Side. She is also passionate about environmental issues like air quality and water contamination. A grandmother to 19 grandchildren, she said that she would also like to see improvements made to the New York City public school system, including the end of mayoral control of schools.
“I don’t believe that the (school) system should be controlled by the mayor. I believe that the parents need to be prepared to take back the schools,” she said.
So far, Quinones’ campaign has been endorsed by former Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa. She is the only woman of color running for the 69th Assembly District seat, though she says she does not want that to factor into the primary race.
“It’s about what you have done, what kind of leadership you represent, right?” she said. “It might help, but that’s not what this is about.”