The race for Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s newly vacant seat i, District 17 of NYC Council is getting hot.
A special election likely to take place in mid-Febuary will be crowded with candidates, including Rafael Salamanca, district manager of Community Board 2 and president of the 41st Precinct Community Council.
Even though he has not officially announced his candidacy, Salamanca seems to be the one to beat.
Dr. Ian Amritt, chairman of CB 2 claims that the Bronx County Democratic Party will endorse Salamanca as their candidate.
“The county will make their announcement later this week,” said Amritt “Ralph has gotten the support of many elected officials in the Bronx.”
After having worked with Salamanca for more than five years, Amritt has faith in the candidate’s abilities.
“I think his integrity will set him apart from politicans as usual. He is genuinely caring and I think he would undoubtedly make an outstanding councilman,” said Amritt.
Rev. Dr. Loren Russell, founder and president of the JLR Company, associate minister and Sunday school teacher at Goodwill Baptist Church and the Greater Universal Baptist Church, and vice chairman of the Community League of the Heights also has his eye on the seat.
According to Russell the idea to run for city council came to him the week before Thanksgiving. “I learned to respect these hunches,” said Russell. “This came into my heart and into my mind and I spoke with a few friends who all thought it would be a great idea.”
Russell calls del Carmen Arroyo “a friend” and has worked with her in the past while she was on city council.
If he were to win the coveted seat, Russell says he would focus on economic development and education.
“Our children need to come out of our educational system and be able to compete with anyone in the world” he said.
Russell founded ‘Back In Stride’ Ministry, which helps ex-offenders establish their own businesses and believes strongly in assisting those released from prison to find for a job.
“You can’t ostracize people forever,” said Russell “ That’s how people end up back in jail.”
Of his campaign, Russell says he is currently in the process of putting together a ‘small army’ of people to take on what he calls a sprint of a race.
“I have to catch up and then surpass” said Russell, “This is a hundred yard dash.”
Another contender is community activist Julio Pabon, who ran for the seat in 2013 and consequently lost to Arroyo.
Pabon is co-founder of the South Bronx Congress as well as co-founder of the South Bronx Community Association.
“The scariest thing is developers seeing the south Bronx as a gold mine. There’s a surge of people looking for homes in the Bronx, change is inevitable, it’s going to happen, but when you get developers that don’t care at all about the community, that’s my concern,” said Pabon, “I would like to see developers appeal not only to the community board but also to the community via public forums.”
However, according to Pabon, the biggest issue facing the council district is education.
“I’m not in jail even though I grew up in poverty, and the reason I’m not a statistic is because I was able to stay in school,” he said.
Human Resources Administration director of business development Anthony Sanchez, who says he has had a passion for helping people his entire life, is also interested in the seat.
“There are people living their whole lives in the south Bronx, and now they are being displaced by gentrification,” said Sanchez.
Arroyo’s current chief of staff Joann Otero has announced that she will run for the position as she was already planning to run for the spot in 2017.
The district director for Congressman Jose Serrano, Amanda Septimo, who at 24 would be the youngest council member in the city if elected, has also announced her candidacy.
According to sources Kolaco Acqui, Helen Foreman-Hines, Israel Martinez, and Audrey Dejesus are also in the running.
Councilmatic District 17 includes Hunts Point, Mott Haven, Melrose, and Longwood.