The immigrant experience is not foreign to 35-year-old Marjorie Velázquez, a Bronx native who wants to occupy the 13th District seat of the northeast Bronx to be left vacant by James Vacca. Her parents came from Puerto Rico in the 1970s looking for better opportunities.
After the upcoming Nov. 7 election, the New York City Council will be renewed with the arrival of fresh faces. The race will end with many of the newcomers occupying the seats of a number of council members whose allowed terms come to an end. If she wins, Velázquez will be one of them.
Asked what her priorities will be if she gets to the council, the candidate responded: “The main problem in our district is public transport. It is unique because it is surrounded by water. For that reason, my objective is to get the city’s ferry service to reach our area.”
Velázquez, who has a degree in finance and accounting from New York University, was referring to the de Blasio administration’s plan to expand the ferry service to the Bronx next year. The extension, however, does not cover the neighborhoods in Velázquez’s district.
“The main thing is to give our families additional options to get to Manhattan and Queens in an affordable manner. Many residents currently take express buses at a cost of over $6 per trip, an onerous price for a community that is mostly working-class.”
The candidate said that she is firmly determined to become the representative in the council to successfully change this situation and to give the district’s development a boost by improving public transport.
Education is another priority in her platform. The 13th District suffers from overpopulation, and schools are unable to serve the demand for seats.
“My focus will be to create new schools and expand programs for students with special needs and with limited English proficiency, and even to familiarize students with other languages spoken in the city,” said Velázquez, who went to P.S 106 in Castle Hill and then to high school at St. Catharine Academy in Pelham Parkway.
Residents of the 13th District are also enduring the effects of the gentrification seen throughout New York, including its strong impact on affordable housing.
“Promoting affordable housing will be one of my priorities. There are many seniors in our district, who have their homes but are unable to stay in them because they are faced with paying higher property taxes, increasing water bills, etc. That is forcing many families to move out of the area because they cannot afford those payments.”
Velázquez said that she will promote the creation of more affordable housing units to prevent seniors from having to move out.
“It is not fair for you to live here your whole life and then have to move because what you earn is not enough to stay in the neighborhood. I don’t think that is something we should allow to happen. These families deserve to stay and to have the chance to live here,” said the candidate, who has been endorsed by James Vacca – the district’s current representative – and Council member Ritchie Torres, as well as organizations Make the Road New York and the Progressive Caucus Alliance.
“I am honored to endorse Marjorie Velázquez to become our new councilwoman for the 13th District. I will do everything in my power to support her campaign,” said Vacca, who will leave his seat after 12 years in office.
Velázquez has been a leader at the Democratic Party for almost 10 years and, at the moment, is a member of the community board. She said that, as a woman and particularly as a Latina, getting involved in her district’s politics is a great challenge.
“In my family, I was the only woman among brothers. Later when I was 17, my sister arrived, and things changed a little. But, in general, we Hispanic women have always had to make a little bit of an extra effort to reach our goals.”
Representatives of the 13th District have always been white men, often of Italian descent. “It will be a great honor for me to represent you as the first woman, Latina and Puerto Rican,” said Velázquez.