Young Blood Ready to Shake Up City Council

Recently elected Brooklyn councilmen Carlos Menchaca (left), Antonio Reynoso (center) and Rafael Espinal with the editorial board at El Diario/La Prensa. (Photo by Marion Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

Three recently elected councilmen, Carlos Menchaca (left), Antonio Reynoso (center) and Rafael Espinal want to bring change to the way the City Council operates. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

They’re young, experienced, and they’re determined to do away with the City Council’s old policies. The recently elected Latino councilmen – Antonio Reynoso, Carlos Menchaca and Rafael Espinal, all from Brooklyn – are ready to step into their new positions starting in January and push their progressive agenda forward.

“This movement will allow the talent and leadership of the Latino community to make headway,” said Reynoso, 30, during a meeting with the editorial board of El Diario-La Prensa. The new representative of District 34 in Brooklyn – which includes Williamsburg and Greenpoint – said that he and his colleagues will strengthen the new progressive movement, which Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio also represents.

Ritchie Torres, 24, one of the group of recently elected council members, couldn’t make it to the meeting with the editorial board.

The three new faces of city politics – who will soon join another 18 new council members, for a total of 21 – expressed their resolve to change things from the beginning.

“Just a few weeks ago, we drew up a list of proposals to reform the power of the City Council speaker; for example, one of them has to do with ‘member items,’” said Espinal, 29, who will represent District 37 in Bushwick.

“Member items” are legislative funds allocated to social projects in specific districts. According to a recent article in El Diario, the distribution of public funding is highly politicized, and many poor districts receive less money than areas with higher incomes.

“There isn’t any reason why marginalized communities should receive fewer ‘member items’ than communities with a large amount of resources,” explained Espinal, who will replace his old boss, Erik Dilán.

Two months away from being sworn into office, the new council members assert that they have an independent vision.

“We need to put an end to old politics,” said Menchaca, 32, who will represent District 38, which includes Sunset Park and Red Hook. “Vito Lopez – who was the boss or considered the dean or something like that – he didn’t work for us, didn’t work for our community, emphasized the first Mexican-American elected official in the city.

The former assemblyman used to be chairman of the then-powerful Brooklyn Democratic Party, to which the new councilmen say they don’t belong. Lopez resigned from his position in May following various accusations of sexual harassment.

“We’ve seen a ton of people in the City Council in the past who have been in power due to loyalty and not necessarily because of their merit or the quality of their work,” said Reynoso. “That has to end.”

Despite their youth, the three Latino councilmen have experience working for some prominent elected officials, including Christine Quinn in Menchaca’s case, and Diana Reyna, whom Reynoso is replacing and who was his former boss.

In addition, the three councilmen are part of a diverse group of recently elected officials in Brooklyn. The borough also has a new president and a new district attorney, both of them African-American.

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