Bronx women of color highlight big election night wins

Vanessa Gibson made history Tuesday night, becoming the first Black candidate and woman to become Bronx borough president.
Photo Adrian Childress, Bronx Times

It was a celebration inside the spacious Zerega restaurant Con Sonfrito on Tuesday night.

The celebration? For the Bronx’s first-ever Black and female borough president, Vanessa Gibson, who defeated her challengers in a landslide to cement a historic win on election night.

Gibson, currently a District 16 NYC councilwoman, told the Bronx Times that her victory — which the Associated Press called with Gibson receiving 76.5% of the vote and her nearest challenger Republican Janelle King 17%, according to the city Board of Elections, as of midnight Wednesday — is humbling and a sign of how far women of color have come in making an impact in local politics.

“Women of color are smashing ceilings in (politics), and every time we’re winning seats that weren’t meant for us,“ Gibson said. “So each win means that Blacks girls, Latina girls, Black and brown kings can aspire and hope to run for any office they set their mind to.”

Gibson will take over for three-term Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and said that her administration hopes to amplify the “hidden gems” of the northernmost borough while making strides to improve the lives of all Bronxites no matter their identity or orientation.

“The Bronx can expect us to lead with commitment, action, consistency and dedication and that we expand on existing offices like (Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation),” said Gibson, who added that she wants to also create Bronx-based offices for immigration services and public safety. “We’re also going to look at new opportunities to build on our infrastructure which is aging and deal with resiliency issue to make sure the Bronx is booming like never before.”

The future of Bronx politics for the next few years will be steered by a host of women and politicos of color, and many candidates spoke on their role as a representative face for their individual blocs.

In addition to Gibson’s historic win, Althea Stevens coasted to victory over Republican Kajara R. Boyd to fill Gibson’s District 16 seat — which includes the neighborhoods of Concourse, Morrisania, Highbridge, Morris Heights and Tremont.

“I’m not supposed to be here, I’m a teen mom and I went to school and I graduated, and I’m in the building,” said Stevens, who received 90.7% of the total vote with 95% of scanners reporting. “I’m a representation of people who have been silenced, so when I’m in City Council, I will use my voice to make sure they are heard.”

Additionally, Marjorie Velázquez will become the first Latina and woman of color to represent the City Council’s 13th District, a seat she vied for unsuccessfully in 2017. While Velázquez received a stiff challenge from Republican opponent Alexsander Mici — in the only close race in the Bronx on election night — for a seat that includes parts of the west Bronx, her victory put a bow on a campaign that has spanned four years.

Velázquez’s journey to District 13 councilwoman-elect included life-changing injuries from a workplace accident and a subsequent serious car crash that left her temporarily disabled. On Tuesday, she also made history outpacing her opponent 55%-44%, with 95% of scanners reporting.

Althea Stevens raises the hand of her predecessor and Bronx Borough president-elect Vanessa Gibson at a Con Sofrito election watch party in the Zerega section on Tuesday. Photo Adrian Childress, Bronx Times

“I’m ending this campaign with a big win,” Velázquez said. “What led me to run, was (that) I was broken dealing with a broken healthcare system that did not want to see me recover. That’s not unique here in the Bronx as many Brown women struggle, and this (win) is for all women of color.”

Representation, in regards to candidates of color representing the Bronx in City Council, remained strong with the successful victories for Pierina Ana Sanchez (14th District) and Amanda Farias (District 18), as well as the reelections of incumbents Oswald Feliz (District 15) and Rafael Salamanca (District 17).

Marjorie Velázquez (left) will become the first Latina and woman of color to represent the City Council’s 13th District, a seat she vied for unsuccessfully in 2017. Photo Adrian Childress, Bronx Times

Yudelka Tapia’s successful and unopposed bid for the vacated 86th Assembly District seat — in a special election following the exit of longtime incumbent Victor Pichardo — includes a district which is marred with comparatively high rates of unemployment, shorter life expectancy rates, and some of the highest eviction rates in the city, tips the scales for a female majority in the Bronx’s Assembly delegation.

Incumbent Eric Dinowitz was also successful in his reelection efforts to maintain his seat as the District 11 (Riverdale) representative on the City Council.

An incumbent, Feliz, who lives in one of the poorest districts in the city that is home to the Bedford Park, Fordham, Mount Hope, Bathgate, Belmont, East Tremont, West Farms, Van Nest, Allerton and Olinville sections, said he plans to focus on affordable housing, childhood education and amplifying the Bronx.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

More from Around NYC