2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council in the 18th 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 northwest Bronx’s District 18 which encompasses the neighborhoods of Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point.

There are seven candidates poised to replace former Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr., who announced his political retirement last July.

Those running in the Tuesday, June 22 primary include: Amanda Farias, William Rivera, Mohammed Mujumder, Michael Beltzer, Darlene Jackson, Mirza Rashid, and Eliú Lara.

The Bronx Times asked each candidate a few questions to help you get to know them. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Amanda Farias

Why are you running?

Growing up in CD18 was not my choice, but remaining here has been. My grandparents raised my mother here, who in turn raised my brothers and I here. I’m running for City Council to invest in the same community that has invested so much in me over the course of my life.

Our community is struggling at the hands of a racist and oppressive system with absent leadership that fails to deliver. I am running to fight for economic relief, unionized jobs, affordable housing we deserve, expanded educational opportunities, and climate action that combats the climate crisis and delivers green jobs. I am running to fight for real representation and to ensure that my community has a seat at the table.

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

I currently work as an Assistant Director at The Consortium for Worker Education, and previously worked as Director of Special Project at the New York City Council. I am born and raised in Council District 18, growing up in Soundview and currently residing in Parkchester.

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

City Council District 18 deserves affordable and efficient transportation, expanded educational opportunities and fully-funded after-school programs, and a fully realized job-market that enables NYC residents to access union jobs and benefits. In the City Council, I will allocate the necessary resources to continue improving on public transportation options, as well as other infrastructure. Through my combined work as a board member of Riders Alliance, and as a Director at City Hall and CWE, I have the experience that has prepared me to provide the plans and partnerships needed to make these solutions a reality.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

To deliver a truly progressive agenda, we must organize a mass movement of working-class people. This will require advocacy for sound policy and I want to engage everyday people that have lost faith in a system that has not worked for them. I will work to inspire a belief that we should all have a right to healthcare, housing, education, climate stability, and economic prosperity.

Since my last election, I have worked on being different for the people in my community that believed in our vision and took the risk to vote for me in 2017. I have built strong collations in other boroughs, with other organizers to ensure the work we do not only represents one local community but all the communities that are suffering.

What’s your political experience?

I am currently the Democratic State Committeewoman of the 87th Assembly District. My career in organizing, government, and local politics expands over a decade of public service in local campaigns and working on President Barack Obama’s 2012 Presidential re-election focusing on Black and Brown communities fighting voter suppression. I spent five years working at City Hall working with city agencies, managing constituent casework and the city budget, drafting policy, and implementing legislative priorities. Since 2017, I have been a dues-paying Teamster at The Consortium for Worker Education and have been managing and implementing apprenticeships in conjunction with IAMAW to increase union opportunities and employment in The Bronx.

What endorsements do you have?

I have been endorsed by 1199SEIU, DC37, 32BJ, CWA, HTC, NYC Central Labor Council, NYSNA, DC9 Painters, RWDSU, UFT, LiUNA, UniteHere! Local 100, Working Families Party, Make The Road Action, Community Voices Heard Power, NYCC, Women of Color for Progress, 21 in ‘21, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Treeage, NY Pan Asian Democratic Club, Downtown Women for Change, Voters for Animal Rights, Sunrise Movement NYC, Tenants PAC, Bronx Democratic Party, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Congressman Ritchie Torres, State Senators Alessandra Biaggi, Gustavo Rivera, Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar; Assembly Members Harvey Epstein, Amanda Septimo, Chantel Jackson and Karines Reyes; Council Members Carlina Rivera, Brad Lander, Helen Rosenthal, Antonio Reynoso and Ben Kallos; Former Assemblymember Michael Blake, Former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Zephyr Teachout.

William Rivera

Courtesy of William Rivera

Why are you running?

Given the current state of the city, I believe that we need representation – at all levels of government – that know exactly who their constituents are and how to best advocate for their collective interests.

In both personal and professional capacities, I’ve scoured every square block of the 18th, developing a keen understanding of what the people and businesses are looking for in representation at City Hall.

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

I live in the Parkchester area of the Bronx and work as the District Manager for Bronx Community Board 9. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood my whole life, so I have a close relationship to the people in our district. As the District Manager, I distribute food to the residents in our district, successfully got funding for many projects, founded the Cross Bronx Expressway Initiative and assisted in many other benefits those in our community.

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

The biggest challenges facing my district center around unemployment, housing, quality of life issues, small business and economic development. My intentions are to leverage my institutional knowledge of the district, enhanced by my direct experience in serving the community to be a firm and transparent advocate in City Hall in terms of bringing funding and being a voice for these challenges.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

I think it was challenging for the incumbent given his contentious relationship with Council leadership. I’ll be approaching this in a far more conciliatory way and intend on cultivating relationships to enhance my position to better able me to bring resources back to the district.

What’s your political experience?

I am currently the District Manager for 6 years. I served as the Chairman of Bronx Community Board 9, State Committeeman & District Leader of the 87th Assembly District. Prior I worked for the New York City Fire Department for 12 years.

What endorsements do you have?

Pending.

Mohammed Mujumder

Courtesy of Mohammed Mujumder

Why are you running?

As a City Council member, I want to bridge socioeconomic gaps. I want to provide a level playing field for all. I understand and recognize the struggles of being a minority; of facing discrimination; of having certain socioeconomic barriers already built against you. I want to bring new job opportunities to Bronxites, advocate for housing; bring better quality education and be the voice for the voiceless. I want to bring my own experience to the table to bring about change. But I do not just want to talk. I want to ACT! Please visit our page mujumdernyc.com to learn more.

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

My name is Mohammed N Mujumder. I have been a resident of District 18 of the Bronx since 1990. As a new immigrant in the U.S., I moved to the Parkchester area, with my wife and infant daughter. I hold a LLM degree from Touro Law School. I have managed a mid-size law firm for over twenty years and run a few small businesses. The Bronx is where I embarked on the “American Dream”. I raised my children here and sent them to our schools. My daughter is an immigration attorney and my son a soon-to-be law school graduate. I am grateful for all the wonderful opportunities and now it is my turn to give back to the Bronx!!

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

We have a high rate of unemployment, suffer from poor health, and have a shortage of affordable housing. I am an advocate of affordable housing. I believe we have the funds available; we simply need to have them reallocate and make better use of those funds. I also plan on creating funding for after school programs; daycare; and/or recreational centers for kids which would help parents to be able to go to work. I would like to expand tutoring programs, vocational training, job skill training for adults and youth and provide equal access to education by making sure barriers such as language, mental health, etcetera are being addressed.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

Bronxites often feel neglected by other residents of NYC. The Bronx is known to be “bad and dangerous”. Most Bronxites take this personally and would agree that our borough and particularly District 18 is not as bad as the reputation it has amongst the other boroughs. We need to highlight our borough and residents. I will encourage political involvement so that the Bronx’s voice is heard by holding frequent open meetings where residents can come and discuss issues we face and propose ideas. I promise to bring the voice of District 18 to City Council!

What is your political experience?

I have served as a Board member in Community Board 9 since 2010. Moreover, I have served twice as Interim Chairman and once as First Vice Chairman. I also served as Chairman of the Land Use and Zoning Committee. I privately fund and run a new immigrant welcome center where I help new immigrants navigate government benefits, seek employment, find housing and pursue higher education. I assist with completing Section 8 housing applications every Saturday. As the President of the Bangladeshi American Community Council (BACC), I have hosted several Interfaith Iftars within the community, and served as a liaison for constituents to connect with law enforcement.

What endorsements do you have?

Bodega & Small Business Group, Bronx Bangladesh Society of New York, Bronx Bangladesh Women’s Association, Rongdhuno Society of Bronx, USA Inc., Bronx Bangladesh Association, and Redoy Bangladesh.

Michael Beltzer

Courtesy of Michael Beltzer

Why are you running?

I am running to make sure we comprehensively plan our community against gentrification. That means building more social and senior housing, limited equity co-ops, community land trusts and using the local income levels. We are running to exert worker power, by supporting and expanding unions, creating worker co-ops, universal retirement accounts and raising the minimum wage to $20/hr. We are fighting for public power, banking and internet to help reduce those fees or make free all together. Of course I am running to make housing, education and healthcare human rights in NYC.

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

I am a proud working-class public school parent who lives in Unionport. I have lived in the district since 2007 and have served on the local community board and community education council and have formed the Southeast Bronx Community Council as well.

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

We have challenges around housing, transportation and education. First, we need to come up with a community based plan so we can build in protections for people while building for the future. We need to re-prioritize our streets to promote public transit and defund the NYPD to get more money for education and other social services.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

The incumbent is retiring and I would do everything completely different from him. First, I will actually show up for the community. I would bring people in and have them be part of the decision making process, such as participatory budgeting. I also will stand up for all people and help the many different types of ethnicities we have in the district.

What’s your political experience?

I am currently a County Committee member and have helped dozens of people win seats as well. I ran for this seat in 2017 and have helped get people like John Liu, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Alessandra Biaggi elected.

What endorsements do you have?

Voters for Animal Rights Paw of Approval and local tenant presidents.

Darlene Jackson

Courtesy of Darlene Jackson

Why are you running?

My experience as a grassroots community organizer has inspired me to run for public office – movements led by directly impacted New Yorkers that are truly invested in systemic and transformational changes by holding our elected officials accountable to championing our issues through our lived experience to influence public policy and community investments by building collective power at the local level. 

Thinking about my teenage son and eager to play my part in creating an equitable pathway for today’s young leaders and future generations, running for public office has arrived at my doorstep.

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

I’m a parent, advocate and community organizer – a woman of action who has dedicated my career of twenty years fighting for the most marginalized. It was through my lived experience that I found my own voice to navigate red tape bureaucracies and empowered others to do the same.

I could have never imagined that 24 years later, I would be running to be the next City Councilmember of the very same community in Soundview – where I was placed in foster care and a student at Monroe High School!

I found my voice in the 18th district. Now I will use it to fight for our community!

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

Reimagining Public Safety by divesting from community policing and reinvest in trauma informed preventative services to address the root causes of inequality.

Economic Justice to save small businesses and jobs; expand SYEP – an economic opportunity to create revenue & jobs for our youth to work in the community. Protect property owners from massive tax increases.

Fair Housing by creating deep affordable units through the “Neighborhood Area Income” end income and housing discrimination; expand access to homeownership, community land trust, and cooperatives. 

Quality Education outlined by NYC students and parents to end the school-to-prison pipeline, gender based violence, and integrate our schools.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

Our campaign is rooted in centering the voices and needs of the community directly impacted by the system, and left out of the political process. Building collective leadership and community ownership through self actualization, self determination, and self sufficiency for transformational change in our communities.

Our council district hasn’t had a voice at city hall or an open door policy with its constituents. Together, the community can decide how to preserve, create, and change council district 18 while recovering from covid-19 by revitalizing and implementing “Community Visioning Sessions” to actively listen and re-establish community based planning to shape policy and budgetary priorities.

What’s your political experience?

I am a woman of action with a proven track record of 20 years of experience – leading community led solutions, legislation, and community investments that are equity driven and promotes upward mobility. 

My political activism began with my son addressing systemic racism with our NYC public school system; becoming an active parent leader at school leadership teams, community or citywide Education councils. 

Civic engagement was my driving force to empower others to use their voice collectively to influence public policy, budget priorities, and the ballot box through community organizing, mobilizing, and strategizing beyond elections – educate, empower, and engage.

What endorsements do you have?

Our campaign isn’t taking money from real estate developers, fossil fuel companies, or police unions. I am the only candidate for district 18 that is taking action now – demanding city hall to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act – a real lifeline for our small businesses and their employees. 

I refused all real estate and big PAC campaign donations. I refused endorsements or help from the corrupt political machine. I stand for justice and rights for our small business owners, vendors, and our young people to expand SYEP – an economic opportunity to create revenue and save jobs!

Mirza Rashid

Courtesy of Mirza Rashid

Why are you running?

I’m running because the people of my district and their problems have been neglected by our elected officials. I have lived in this district since 1985. I have had to face many of these issues that people are facing every day. Residents of District 18 do not have a real voice in the City Council. I want to be the loudest, active, and most productive voice in the City Council on behalf of District 18. I am confident and I have a strong belief that I have the needed ability to bring help to the people of my district with a hands-on approach.

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

I’m Mirza M. Rashid. I have been living in District 18 for 35 years. I reside in Parkchester. I am a Realtor. District 18 is my home. I know and care about my neighborhood, and the district. I have firsthand experience with the problems and issues of this district. I know many people of Parkchester and my district individually.
My relationship with the district is excellent when it comes to helping the community in need. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked with other nonprofit organizations such as the Albanian American Open Hand Association to distribute food to hundreds of needy families throughout my district and in the Bronx.

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

District 18 has many challenges such as lack of affordable housing, shortage of high-paying jobs, not enough daycare facilities for working parents, increased crimes, not enough funding for youth activities and/or summer programs.
I will work on building more affordable housing, allocate funds to create high-paying jobs, push for and bring more funds for enough daycare facilities for working parents in the district. Also, I will work with NYPD to increase and improve community policing along with increased funding for youth activities and youth summer programs.

What will you do differently than the incumbent?

The incumbent was a New York State Senator for many years. He is a conservative ideologue who has been using the Democratic party and acting as Democrat for political convenience. He fought against the equal rights of LGBTQ+ persons throughout his career while representing a progressive district. Additionally, his stance against women’s rights to abortion is detrimental to women’s healthcare in our district. Moreover, he is retiring and lost interest in public service.
I support equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community and I fully support a women’s right to choose when it comes to the issue of abortion.

What’s your political experience?

I was elected as the first Bangladeshi American Judicial Delegate in the Bronx in the year 2012. Also, I was elected as the Senior Vice President, three consecutive terms for the largest Bangladeshi nonprofit organization named Jalalabad Association of America.
I was the Team Manager of the Bronx United Soccer Club for eight years, during which the team won seven consecutive local championships.
I have a natural ability in grassroots organizing. I communicate well with people because I care about people and their problems. I respect them and in return, I get their attention.

What endorsements do you have?

I am a strong believer in one’s ability to do things and prove them by examples. I understand many candidates seek and use endorsements as tools to gain an edge over opponents. However, my thinking is different than the traditional campaign. I don’t subscribe to the notion that getting endorsements by politicians from the party establishment will boost my candidacy and portray me as a better candidate.
My work, community activities, my relationship with the people of the district are better endorsements. I didn’t give any thought to this idea of going out there and seeking endorsements from other politicians.

Eliú Lara

Why are you running?

Our city needs representatives who know the city’s issues, identify with them, have the experience in serving our people and can advocate for their constituents with passion and energy. The Bronx has been given a bad reputation and a small amount of support. It is the poorest city in the nation. Obesity, unemployment, health, shootings, safety, and housing crisis are among the crucial concerns this city is facing. Not to mention, city-workers and other residents can hardly afford to live in the city they serve. I am running to resolve this injustice. Our residents need more community policing. We need respect amongst our residents and NYPD.

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

My name is Dr. Eliu Lara and I am running for NYC Council District 18 in the Bronx. I started as a small business owner in the community. I owned a taxi car service and worked in the heart of District 18. I was also privileged to own two travel & realty Estate agencies in the community. I’ve been an educator for Bronx HS for the past 27+ years and Bronx HS District Representative for the past 9+ years. Currently I reside in the Parkchester vicinity and a pastor of christian church for the last 13+ years

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

The biggest challenges facing the district are the following: Unemployment Community Policing/Safety housing/Homeless Educational programs and youth opportunities How will you solve them? Unemployment is an issue that can be solved with a collective effort from the government. We have to open opportunities for youths. Small businesses must be opened, motivated and supported and billionaires and millionaires should ship in their fair shares to the economy by paying their taxes. Community Policing/Safety The presence of police officers doing foot patrol is absolutely necessary to build a respectful environment between the NYPD and the community. The Youth coordination units, the Auxiliary police programs and the community affair units of the precincts that cover the area should interact more with the young people and the district residents in the community.

What is your political experience?

I’ve been the Bronx HS District Representative for the UFT for the last 9+ years. In this position I have to deal and advocate for Bronx residents/constituents for different issues and needs. Constantly dealing with local and statewide politicians.

What endorsement do you have?

Individual educators, taxicab drivers, clergy associations, etc.

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