Congressman Serrano, ailing, to retire

Serrano (l) with Diaz (r) during a protest of the Mott Haven jail.
Schneps Media/Alex Mitchell

Congressman Jose E. Serrano has developed Parkinson’s disease and will not seek reelection in 2020, he announced on Monday, March 25.

The Puerto Rican native has held a seat in the south Bronx’s 15th Congressional District since winning a special election in 1990 after spending the prior 15 years in the NYS Assembly.

“After my diagnosis, I initially planned to continue my work representing the people of the south Bronx far into the future,” Serrano said through a statement. “Although this disease has not affected my work in Congress, over the last few months I’ve come to the realization that Parkinson’s will eventually take a toll, and that I cannot predict its rate of advancement,” he continued, explaining this rationale for a congressional retirement.

Serrano also said that he intends to spend the rest of his term fighting for the progressive values that the south Bronx had taught the Lehman College graduate.

“I will use my role as chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee to fight for climate change research, a fairer justice system, and an accurate 2020 Census count,” Serrano said.

For almost a year now, Serrano has joined forces with Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. in advocating against the mayor’s plan to construct a jail at 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven.

Doing so through ‘Justice for the Bronx,’ a community led coalition to stop the Mott Haven jail.

During a town hall regarding the jail, he assured his Mott Haven constituency that even though he can’t control the city’s actions he could still “make it very hard for them to do so.”

Upon hearing of the surprise announcement, Diaz immediately commended Serrano’s voluminous work, saying it has “left an indelible mark in the Bronx.”

Serrano reflected on some of those indelible marks he’s credited with as well, stating “I am extremely proud of the work we did to revitalize the Bronx River, to bring billions of federal dollars to our borough, to expand access to the ballot for language minorities, to increase STEM resources for minority students,” the two-year Army Medical Corps veteran said, mentioning other foreign policy victories he and others had achieved on Capitol Hill.

One of his Bronx colleagues on Capitol Hill, Adriano Espaillat, also shared some kind words upon hearing the shocking news.

“Serrano welcomed me to Washington with grace and has consistently been a mentor, friend and an ally through our collective fight to ensure immigrant rights, fairness and equal access to opportunities for all residents and families,” Espaillat said.

A week before Serrano’s surprise announcement, Ritchie Torres, a Bronx councilman for the last five plus years, filed paperwork to mount a primary challenge against the ailing congressman in 2020.

“There will be a time and place to discuss politics in the near future but today I want to thank him for being a trailblazer in Latinx politics,” Torres said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Serrano’s son, Senator Jose M. Serrano said he woulnd’t be trading his state work for a chance at Congress mainly due to travel implacatons and time spent away from his family.

Upon the news, Congressman Serrano also reflected on his successful journey from Puerto Rico to Washington DC.

“To have gone from Mayaguez (Puerto Rico), to Mill Brook Houses, to the New York State Assembly, to the halls of Congress is truly the American Dream. I am honored to have had your trust over the years,” the congressman concluded.

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