2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council in the 16th District?

As New York City prepares for one of its largest election cycles in recent memory, there is one city council race that will directly impact the west Bronx’s District 16, which encompasses the neighborhoods of  Claremont Village, Concourse, Concourse Village, Crotona Park, Highbridge, Longwood, Melrose, Morris Heights, Morrisania, Mount Eden and University Heights. Incumbent Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson is term limited and is running for Borough President. There are six candidates in the June 22 primary. They are: Ahmadou T. Diallo, Abdourahamane Diallo, Yves Fillius, Uniqua Smith, Althea Stevens and Eric Stevenson.

Candidates Eric Stevenson and Uniqua Smith did not respond to the Bronx Times questionnaire prior to publication.

Ahmadou Diallo

Ahmadou Diallo Courtesy of Ahmadou Diallo

Why are you running?

I am seeking this office to propose a vision for change and solutions to the various issues we are facing. As an immigrant that has been afforded the many opportunities offered by this country, I am honored to be able to make a positive contribution to my community and borough.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

I was born in Guinea and came to this country in the 1990s to experience the opportunities of America. After expanding my education in accounting, I established my businesses, Ahmadou Multi-Services and Kamato Global corporations, which continue to be in operation today. For close to 20 years, I have lived and/or operated my business within the district. Additionally, I have been involved in many community organizations in the district and boroughwide.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

There are many issues that District 16 faces.  A prime example of this would be affordable housing. As a City Councilmember, I will work to ensure that all affordable housing in the district is truly affordable. I will work with all the stakeholders and community leaders to solve this critical boroughwide issue. Another issue is employment. Given my personal experience as an entrepreneur, I believe through collaboration with employers and workforce agencies, we can collectively create more employment opportunities for all groups in the district.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

I have great respect toward the Incumbent for the work she has done, however, I will bring my vision which is to work closely with the community leaders, service providers, and other colleagues in government. Together, I know we can develop positive solutions for our district.

 What’s your political experience?

Throughout my time in the Bronx, I have been involved with all major issues concerning my community. I have been politically active since 2008, fighting to secure a home for recent arrivals to freely practice their religion.

What endorsements do you have?

While I do not have political endorsements as of yet, I do have the support and endorsements of my family, inter-religious leaders, and community activists. Most importantly, I have the endorsements of the people of District 16.

Abdourahamane Diallo

Abdourahamane Diallo Courtesy of Abdourahamane Diallo

Why are you running?

The Bronx is the poorest and most underserved Borough in the City. The 16th district is the most neglected in the Bronx. It has been that way for 50 years. We need tax-free opportunity zones to attract small businesses, changes in zoning rules that encourage construction of affordable housing, better investments in our schools, more charter schools, new health care clinics, safer streets, fewer gangs, less drug dealing.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

I was raised in a one-room shack in the slums of Guinea, West Africa. Forced to drop out of school in 9th grade to get a job and help my family, I self-taught while selling merchandise in the local market. My luckiest day was when I won a visa lottery to immigrate to the United States. After settling in the Bronx, I worked as a dishwasher, delivered pizza and drove a taxi while working my way through college. I studied Political Science at John Jay College and earned a degree in business from Baruch College. The Bronx has long been my home. I’ve a deep passion for empowering people, and turned down a job on Wall Street to run for City Council.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

District 16 faces a lot of challenges. The greatest are housing, public safety, unemployment, health care and education. I will fervently advocate for the resources needed to solve these issues. I will also strive to enact changes that allow people in the Bronx to lift themselves—zoning changes that encourage the construction of affordable housing, tax-free opportunity zones to attract small businesses, more charter schools, safer streets, new health care infrastructure, and more private investment in enterprises that lift people out of poverty.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

I have no criticism of the incumbent. This part of the Bronx has been on its knees for 50 years. I will do all in my power to create tax-free opportunity zones to attract small businesses, changes in zoning rules that encourage construction of affordable housing, better investments in our schools, more charter schools, new health care clinics, safer streets, fewer gangs, less drug dealing.

What’s your political experience?

I studied Political Science at John Jay, earned a degree in Business from Baruch College, and a master’s degree in Global Affairs from Tsinghua University in Beijing, focusing specifically on how to lift people out of poverty. I’ve been involved as a leader and volunteer in several civic and charitable organizations, served as Secretary-General of the Bronx Borough President’s African Advisory Council, and as a member of the Bronx Community Board 3.  I also co-founded the African Empowerment Project NYC, served as Chairman of Guineans Succeeding in America, as a member of the Bronx Democratic County Committee and as a Young Leader of the Forum for World Education.

What endorsements do you have?

We will be rolling out a series of important endorsements during the coming weeks. They will come not from special interest groups, or the political class. Rather, they will come from people who live everyday lives here in the Bronx, the shop restaurant owners, merchants, mothers who wish for better schools, seniors who wish for safer neighborhoods and workers who must daily endure New York’s deteriorating public transportation system.

Althea Stevens

Althea Stevens Courtesy of Althea Stevens

Why are you running?

When I first made the decision to run for City Council, I made a commitment to run a community-first campaign. I am running with community support, on a platform based on the needs of the community, with a team that is just as passionate for the future of this district as I. The first year of my campaign, I committed to a listening tour of District 16, really getting to know what the community needs and cares about in order to build an inclusive platform. I am dedicated to continuing to listen throughout my campaign and if elected.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in

Althea Stevens is a proud New York native and a respected community advocate for the Bronx. As a dedicated single mother, she works hard to create a sustainable future for her child and for all children and families who live in under-resourced neighborhoods.

Althea began her career in civic service more than 15 years ago working for non-profit agencies and community centers that focused on giving a voice to the most vulnerable populations. She organized voting rights information sessions, led strategy workshops to address gang policing and created annual youth forums and community celebrations to bridge relationships between residents and neighborhood partners. Each step of the way, Althea’s natural leadership and organizing skills were honed while advocating for families, seniors, young adults and students on important issues, while identifying and allocating much needed resources to neighborhoods of the South Bronx.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

Affordable Housing
First, housing is a huge issue for District 16 where families need pathways to transition out of shelters into affordable housing. Council District 16 has the largest number of family shelter units in all of NYC with over 1,100 family shelter units, or 10% of all family shelter units in the city, according to a report by The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. One in four students in this district have experienced homelessness in the last five years. In addition to individuals and families experiencing homelessness, 37% of households in the district are severely rent burdened (spending 50%+ of their income on rent). At the same time, there are insufficient pathways to affordable housing for the families most in need, and Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversions are creating uncertainty for NYCHA residents. My knowledge about the dire state of housing in Council District 16 and the city at-large is deeply informed by my close relationships with NYCHA Tenant Association Presidents through local advocacy work. To start shifting the current focus of District 16 from shelters to housing, I am calling for the following: larger city investments in maintenance of NYCHA developments, City Council oversight of any RAD conversions within the city, and supportive pathways to low-income home ownership.

Food insecurity
Second, District 16 needs more community services and resources focused around increasing food security. This issue is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on the population of NYC, in general, and communities like District 16 who were already struggling, specifically. Prior to March of 2020, residents of District 16 already struggled not only to find healthy, affordable food, but to provide just enough food to their families. In a study from Hunger Free America, during the data period of 2015-2017, 37.6% of children in the Bronx were experiencing food insecurity while the city-wide rate was 18%. Now, in a world where COVID-19 has devastated communities of color in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, and increased the financial burden on families already struggling to make ends meet, this rate has skyrocketed. To address this issue, NYC should increase funding to programs like Health Bucks and expand the pool of individuals eligible to receive them. The Council should also expand the locations where Health Bucks can be used as not everyone has access to a local farmer’s market.. Additionally, community and city leaders need to encourage the development of additional grocery stores in food deserts like District 16. To address the lack of nutritious food in our communities, the Council should also approve tax incentives for food vendors to provide healthier options.

Youth development programming
Third, District 16 is in dire need of engaging and empowering youth development programming. I wanted to set this apart as different from Education as the problems faced by youth in Council District 16 go beyond education alone. Unfortunately, growing up in District 16, young people have the odds stacked against them. The graduation rate is around 66% (Citizens’ Committee for Children), 52% of people work in low-wage occupations (Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness), and there is extremely limited access to after school programs or active community centers. To combat this, I am advocating for increased access to after school programming for school-age children. All of our city’s children deserve access to enrichment programming that provides opportunities to explore different topics and socialize with peers, and all of our city’s families deserve access to free or affordable childcare where they can feel sure their child is safe and learning.  My plan to fund these programs would be to reapportion funds from the NYPD’s budget to expand and strengthen our city’s essential childcare programs. To engage older youth, I would advocate for increased funding for SYEP to give them valuable work experience at an early age. I also recognize that not all young people follow a traditional educational path, so I believe we need to invest in and support educational alternatives that can give the extra support some students need to get to graduation (transfer schools and Young Adult Borough Centers), and professional programs that offer gateways to living wage careers for young adults who are not pursuing college.

 

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

My current City Councilmember is an extremely hard worker for her community and has handled the COVID-19 crisis with lots of grace and dignity. She has been on the ground serving her community and making sure local families had food, PPE and holistic services, such as trauma counseling. I would strive to fill these shoes and respond similarly to the crises faced by our community, ensuring my constituents have the resources and services they need and know they have an ally in me.

What’s your political experience?

I have never run or held elected office, but I have sat on a number of Advisory Committees, including the New York City Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, New York City Housing Authority Tenants Association, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) Inc. and numerous government agencies. In 2019, she was also honored by Council member Ayala Women History Month Honoree for her exemplary community work.

What endorsements do you have?

Political: Working Families Party, Diana Ayala (City Councilmember District 8), Michael Blake (DNC Vice Chair and former Assemblymember District 79), Chantel Jackson (Assemblymember District 79), Bronx Democratic Party, Jim Owles Democratic Club, Ritchie Torres (Congressman, NY-15), Samelys Lopez (Former Congressional Candidate for NY-15), Alicka Ampry-Samuel (City Councilmember, District 41), Justin Brannan (City Councilmember, District 43), Carlina Rivera (City Councilmember, District 2), Vanessa Gibson (City Councilmember, District 16), Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Community: 21 in ‘21, Citizen Action New York, Road to Justice (1199 SEIU, CVH Power, Make the Road Action), Open New York, Run for Something, AIANY, Women of Color for Progress, Voters for Animal Rights

Labor: 32BJ, DC 37, CWA Local 100, NYSNA, Hotel Trades Council, UFT, New York City Central Labor Council

Yves Filius

Yves Filius Courtesy of Yves Filius

Why are you running?

I am running for New York City Council District 16 for economic inclusion, environmental justice, and collective resilience for my neighbors in the Bronx. However my priorities are not limited to these things. Education, Housing, Employment, Healthcare, Small Businesses resources and recovering from the Covid 19 Pandemic are at the forefront of what matters to me. I am looking to bring innovative solutions to long term issues within the Bronx.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in

I was Born and raised in the Morrisania community and reside in the Concourse neighborhood. My interest in public service began with my parents who are Haitian immigrants that taught me that a strong work ethic and community involvement will always lead to success. Currently, I am the elected Male District Leader in the 77th Assembly District however I also volunteer at the St. Augustine Youth Group and Food Pantry, and sits on the Boards of Directors at the Harriet Tubman/Ella Baker Charter School, Friends of Crotona Park, VIP Community Services, and Jerome A. Greene and Jackson Democratic Clubs

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

Increased emissions and pollution in our air are causing increased incidence of asthma amongst Bronx residents. My green space initiatives will allow more vehicular toxins to be absorbed and eliminate the strong presence of those emissions in the air we breath.

Our children may fall behind due to virtual instruction challenges but will also struggle with social and people skills due to distancing which is why our children needs for recreational space.

Housing and employment will be a challenge as well which is why I plan to ensure discretionary funds are allocated to local Community Based Organizations that provide rent relief and legal assistance to help residents keep their homes.

What will you do differently than the incumbent

I will push for more transparency with our law enforcement, fight to get emergency grants for our small businesses, with the help of the constituency, create new civic groups, to incorporating a trade school in the district, adding a penny bank in our school district, open a boys and girls club with in the district, capping existing highways in the distinct adding more real estate in the district and opening up ferry point access in the South-West Bronx giving Bronxites a new form of transportation outside our borough.

What’s your political experience?

Aside from being the current male District Leader in the 77th Assembly Districts my experience also includes:

Director of Outreach, NYC 16th Council District

Community Liaison, NYS Assembly 79th and 77th Districts

Small business & Community Leader Liaison, NYC Public Advocate’s Office

Political Director of the New York State Young Dems Caucus of Color

Political Director for the Bronx Democratic Party

Senior Role, New York Civil Liberties Union

What endorsements do you have?

Mohammed Mardah

Janice Robinson

Bernard Smith

Anthony Powell

Jerome A Greene Democratic Club

Jackson Democratic Club

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