Cabrera announces defeat of Baez; Koppell, Seabrook, Foster win

14th Council District candidate Fernando Cabrera, who celebrated at Maestro's Caterers on Bronxdale Avenue, appears to have upset incumbent Maria Baez in Fordham, Kingsbridge, Morris Heights and Mount Hope. Photos by Victor Chu

Bye bye Baez. Fernando Cabrera upset 14th Council District incumbent Maria Baez in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, September 15, or so it appeared as of 11 p.m. at Maestro’s Caterers on Bronxdale Avenue, where Cabrera addressed an excited crowd.

City Council incumbents rarely lose in the Bronx. 11th Council District incumbent Oliver Koppell topped Tony Perez Cassino five to three. 12th Council District incumbent Larry Seabrook took Andy King. 16th Council District incumbent Helen Diane Foster squeaked by Carlos Sierra.

But Cabrera, endorsed by the Bronx County Democratic Party and 1199 SEIU, nailed Baez. It was close; Cabrera had 1,937 votes (38 percent) as of 11 p.m. Baez had 1,847 (37 percent). Yudelka Tapia had 1,250 (25 percent). The numbers were unofficial.

Baez’ campaign could not be reached for comment. There will be a machine recount. Paper ballots will be added in before the Board of Elections declares a winner.

“God did it and you did it,” Cabrera told supporters at Maestro’s. “You took back your neighborhood.”

Some Bronx incumbents moon-walked to Primary Day wins: James Vacca in the 13th Council District, Joel Rivera in the 15th Council District, Maria del Carmen Arroyo in the 17th Council District and Annabel Palma in the 18th Council District. None had viable challengers.

The general election is on Tuesday, November 3.


Unofficially, Koppell had 5,348 (64 percent) votes and Cassino 3,021 (36 percent).

“I had strong support from every neighborhood [in the 11th Council District],” Koppell said. “From Jewish Riverdale to West Indian Wakefield to Irish Woodlawn and Hispanic Norwood.”

Koppell, a former assemblyman and state attorney general, appealed to seniors and old-guard Riverdale residents content with the neighborhood. He touted a list of 101 new playgrounds funded, soup kitchens sponsored and traffic lights installed. Koppell took flak for his vote to extend term limits and his alleged outsider status at City Hall; the incumbent held no chairmanships in his first term.

Cassino, a Manhattan lawyer and former Community Board 8 chair, campaigned hard in Woodlawn, Norwood and Bedford Park, where he was raised. He pointed to a Riverdale rezone CB8 pushed and the public-private school partnership he helped found. Cassino defended his support for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his alleged friendships with developers.

Norwood was hotly contested. Koppell supporter Andrew Sandler and a Cassino supporter got into a scrap on East Gun Hill Road, near Cassino’s Norwood campaign office. Sandler had started to campaign in front of Mosholu Montefiore Community Center at around 6 a.m. when the Cassino volunteer appeared.

“He put his hands on my throat and shoved me,” Sandler said.

Neither campaign offered comment.


Unofficially, Seabrook had 4,871 votes (55 percent), King 2,830 (32 percent), Rice 778 (9 percent) and Ulanga 333 (4 percent).

Seabrook, a former assemblyman and state senator, rode senior center openings and town hall meetings in August and early September to Primary Day. He cited $51 million in capital funds won for the 12th Council District in two terms. Seabrook assured Co-op City and Wakefield residents that he knew the secret revenue streams under City Hall. But the loud-suited councilman had to field charges of nepotism, skeleton non-profits, borough loyalty and neighborhood neglect…charges that have dogged Seabrook for years.

King, an 1199 SEIU organizer and former caseworker, promised 12th Council District residents unity and change. He cast himself as a product of the 12th Council District, born and raised. King, a mentor to young people, said he would haul teens off the street. Blasted by Seabrook as a nobody and Rice as unauthentic, King relied on neighborhoods, Olinville and Williamsbridge.

Rice, a retired Department of Corrections captain and civil rights advocate who blasted Seabrook time and again, endorsed King on Monday, September 14. So did Sebastian Ulanga, a Co-op City parent who ended his campaign in August.


Baez, a two-term incumbent who lost the Bronx County Democratic Party endorsement to Cabrera in the spring, stood by her record as councilwoman, in particular her efforts to establish the Mount Hope Community Center and the Bronx Family Justice Center, plus $40 million in capital funds. She got killed on the street by her opponents and in the press, however, for unexcused City Hall absences, misused campaign funds and skipped debates.

Cabrera, a Morris Avenue pastor and former Community Board 7 member, won a boatload of endorsements: the Bronx County Democratic Party, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., 1199 SEIU and DC 37. He made the case for change and vowed to fund only the best non-profit groups. But Cabrera had to answer a thousand questions about his recent past; the Bronx-born pastor was a resident of Westchester County and a Republican in 2008.

“Some people doubted,” Cabrera said on September 15. “Some people questioned. But it happened…Hope is on the way.”

Tapia, a city auditor and parent advocate who ran for an assembly seat in 2002, painted herself as a loyal 14th Council District resident and longtime Democrat, in contrast to Cabrera. Education reform topped her priority list. But Tapia had a staffer fired and struggled to run a tight fiscal campaign.


Unofficially, Foster had 2,654 votes (61 percent) and Sierra 1,730 (39 percent).

Foster, who succeeded her councilman father, reminded 16th Council District residents that she opposed the construction of the new Yankee Stadium and the Croton Water Filtration Plant on Bronx parkland. Foster presented herself as an experienced and church-going legislator.

Her opponent, Carlos Sierra, a Dominican-American and CUNY employee, asked 16th Council District residents to end the Foster dynasty. Sierra described the councilwoman as frequently absent at City Hall and “out of touch.” He pledged to “show up” when needed and keep capital funds in the 16th Council District. Sierra campaigned hard in Highbridge and on Jerome Avenue.

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