April 26, 2012: 2012, Issue 16
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Realtor jumps into 80th assembly race

Bronx Times

And they’re off!

The Bronx political season is heating up, with a new challenger for Morris Park Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera’s seat and key endorsements for the candidate seeking retiring Assemblyman Peter Rivera’s Parkchester seat in the September Democratic primary.

Morris Park Realtor Mark Gjonaj, a financially well-heeled leader in the Albanian-American community, announced Sunday he is taking Naomi Rivera on for her seat in a redistricted - some charge gerrymandered with its splitting up of Morris Park - 80th Assembly District in the east Bronx.

Meanwhile, Parkchester attorney Luis Sepulveda notched endorsements Monday from Democratic Party leader Carl Heastie, as well as Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Parkchester/Soundview City Councilwoman Annabel Palma.

Sepulveda, a long time party operative, also has the backing of Diaz’ powerful local senator father, Ruben Diaz Sr., and key local party leaders in the 76th Assembly District covering Parkchester, Castle Hill, West Farms and Van Nest. Under redistricting, it will be renamed the 87th Assembly District in 2013.

He came to close to beating Peter Rivera in the last race, and is facing off against Danny Figueroa, longtime chief of staff for Rivera, recently nominated by Gov. Cuomo as his new state labor commissioner.

A win in the September 11 primary pretty much assures a win in the November general election in both overwhelmingly Democratic districts.

Gjonaj (pronounced jo-nigh) said at a press conference at his Barnes Avenue campaign office that “I am changing my life from a life of working for myself to a life of working for you.”

The district covers Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Pelham Gardens and Van Cortlandt Village, and is the epicenter of the 9,500-member Albanian-American community according to census figures.

It was recently split in half by the state Legislature, with Governor Cuomo’s approval.

Gjonaj said that if elected, he would work to help cut the current Bronx unemployment rate of 14%, the highest in the state, and also focus on more affordable housing, public safety, programs for seniors, and maintaining after-school programs to help “keep kids off the street.”

He could face tough going against Rivera, who has been in office since 2005 and also has the key endorsement of Democratic Party boss Carl Heastie. Her father is former east Tremont Councilman and current Assemblyman Jose Rivera and brother is Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera.

Asked his thoughts on Naomi Rivera’s leadership ability, Gjonaj quickly changed the subject, saying “I know what I’ll bring to Albany - hard work, long hours and dedication.”

He was born in the Bronx to Albanian parents from Montenegro who worked as porters at Jacobi Medical Center before starting the MP Realty Group Corp., now run by him.

This is the first run for elective office for Gjonaj, co-founder of the Albanian-American Community Association and Bronx commissioner of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission. He would be the first assemblyman of Albanian descent to hold the office.

Naomi Rivera said in a statement: “I look forward to a vigorous and exciting re-election and to putting forward my record of accomplishments on behalf of the people of the 80th Assembly District.”

Reach reporter David Cruz at (718) 742-3383 or email at

Reader Feedback

Elton from Pelham Parkway says:
Hello, I used to live in an apartment in one of Mark Gjonaj's apartment building. This man is a slumlord and does not care about any of his tenants. You should see all the outstanding violations and judgements against him from DOB and HPD violations, plus hundreds of times going without heat and hot water. Mark, you expect to get elected, no way dude you don't care about any of your tenants which include elderly and babies. You are a MAFIA SLUMLORD!!!!
April 30, 2012, 12:25 pm
Aldi from Bronx says:
Mark Gjonaj would do anything and say anything to be elected. Untol 2011, he was a registered republican. He raised funds for republicans and helped defeat docrats. He became a docrat because he knows that Bronx is a democrat city. Butost Albanians are republican. Tne only Albanians who support him are hi ssuperd, porters and Pllumb Vilajeti.
May 5, 2012, 11:33 am
Italian Princess from Morris Park/Pelham Pkwy says:
I've worked for Mark Gjonaj for 8 years. With all the illegal activity that came and went through his office, I'm shocked he hasn't been caught yet. I'm not sure how much money taking numbers can make one but I'm sure Mark Gjonaj and Pablo Escobar are neck in neck as far as profits are concerned. With all the money he takes in and spends to make friends I'm not shocked that the next thing he needs to do is to run for office.
May 8, 2012, 5:14 pm
Unknown from Morris Park says:
do "Politicians become Crimminals" or do "Crimminals become Politicians"?????
May 18, 2012, 12:13 pm
Unknown says:
Deomons that have no shame, Seven are they! Knowing no care.....Knowing no mercy....They rage against mankind: They spill their blood like rain,Devouring their flesh (and) sucking their veins. Where the images of gods are, there they quake...They are demons full of violence...Ceaselessly devouring blood...Invoke the ban against them, that they no more return to this neighborhood....
May 21, 2012, 3 pm
Luz from Pelham parkway says:
I live in the building. You must have the wrong Gjonaj. The building is beautiful.
May 21, 2012, 9:36 pm
MS from city Island says:
Mark and his family are wonderful and caring people. He has always helped me out. I know many people who he has helped. They are honest hard working people.
May 21, 2012, 9:38 pm
Your worst nightmare from Hell says:
Yes, his parents were honest and hard working people, but Mark Gjonaj has helped many people especially himself....he moves in his mistress's family members into the building he lives in so when the wife is away the mistress's, while visiting their family members sneak into his apartment and service him....what a wonderful MAN he is and NO ONE is the wiser.....Smart businessman we have here, and he wants to be our leader.....
May 23, 2012, 1:02 pm
The good ole days from the neighborhood says:
Boy did he love to take the family away to a resort upstate with the children on New Year’s Eve…..His excuse was that the children all needed to be together….what a joke…we all would laugh….the real reason was they knew the children would get tired early and the wives would have to stay in the room with them, while the men who had their mistress’s staying on a different floor or separate wing would start their real celebration….
May 24, 2012, 1:16 pm
Concerned Citizen from Morris Park says:
Is it true that this Assemblymen elect has placed a person who was ACCUSED of smuggling drugs from Albania into the United States. She is now the Director of the Albanian Senior program which is located in the Bronx House on Pelham Pkwy. Many of our children from the community attend activities there.... doesn't the Bronx House do a criminal background check on the people that work there...
May 31, 2012, 3:37 pm
BronxJBorn from morris park says:
yeah, let him go to jail with the DOB for all the illegal activity and damaging people's homes with his followers..allowing them to build without permits. They come here from Albania to convert homes to SRO's, convert buildings to Section 8 and they run around Morris Park thinking they are going to tell everyone what to do. After all, I can't wait to show Hillary Clinton all the illegal construction going on and damage they are doing to the homes on Morris Park. See how she takes it up after they sent her to their Almighty country of horror and they hae the balls to send their childrent to Catholic school and tell everyone they follow Mother Theresa..let me tell way in their wildest dreams are they like Mother Theresa nor will they ever be and I better not ever see them in my church or I will kick them a new one. They are all theives and con artists and liars and they steal to get things in this country.
June 30, 2012, 5:56 pm
Italian Gurl from My says:
Scariest thing I ever experienced..hmmm..... maybe it was the dream I had three years ago of my father telling me speaking in Italian that the Albanian boys he caught when they broke into my basement over 30 years ago, was the very man I was working for in Morris Park. Was that over 30 years ago I moved to this neighborhood and when I was 19 years old three Albanian boys broke into my basement and was rummaging through draws and stuff, it was a basement so nothing but clutter was down there....During that time my father caught them and then let them go once the cops called their parents to come get them....they were just little boys (my father had said they were Good Boys..) I was 19 they were 12. Scariest thing ever was to find out that I was working for him.......that's some scary ——....
July 10, 2012, 12:31 pm
Italian Gurl from My says:
Go see "Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" its in movie theaters will see how we will be living very shortly, if it hasn't started already.....

Abe Lincoln, was a very brave man and he was the only United States President who fought for his coutnry....if it wasn't for silver bullets, we would have never won the civil war.....

They want to use us as slaves......
July 16, 2012, 7:37 pm

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