EXCLUSIVE: Incumbent vs. incumbent brawl brewing

Kingbridge ice plan another step closer to reality
Councilman Cabrera at the Bronx Borough Board meeting, informally voting for the KNIC plan amid allegations he tried to shake down developers.
Photo by David Cruz


A couple of nasty potential political challenges are brewing in the Bronx, and they’re all about incumbents looking to take out incumbents.

City Councilman Fernando Cabrera will announce shortly that he is forming an exploratory committee to weigh challenging west Bronx state Senator Gustavo Rivera.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Annabel Palma has been talking to various folks about her chances of taking out long-term South Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano. Other names floating in that potential dust-up include state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo.

But at this point, the only race we might take seriously is that potential Cabrera-Rivera brawl.

Cabrera could find some strong backing by candidates looking to fill his council seat in a wide-open special election.

As for Serrano, with nominating petition gathering due to kick off March 4 for the June 2 congressional primary, any Serrano challengers would have to get into high gear mucho pronto.

Even so, Serrano has recently stirred himself from hibernation, suddenly cranking out a blizzard of press releases and jumping into a number of local community issues.

If you listen to some politicrats, both Rivera and Serrano could be vulnerable, with neither having much of a political organization or funding to beat back a strong challenger.

Serrano, in fact, has rarely had a primary since he was first elected in 1990.

But even though County is ticked at Gustavo and Jose for various sins and annoyances, we’re told Party Boss Carl Heastie will still offer the machine’s services – such as they are these days without union help – to both Serrano and Rivera in gathering petitions.

The old rule about always backing your incumbents apparently still holds in the Bronx – unless they are patently indictable, i.e. former West Bronx state Senator Pedro Espada, who the party ignored, paving the way for Gustavo to topple.


When Soundview Councilwoman Annabel Palma wound up without a committee chairmanship under new Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whom she had challenged for the post, we wrote that Annabel purposely took a pass. The day after the chairmanships were handed out – or not – she griped she was left out.

But Annabel now backs us up, saying “My main interest was in keeping chairmanship of the General Welfare committee, and when it wasn’t on the table, I didn’t want another chairmanship.”


With now ex-Morrisania Assemblyman Eric Stevenson convicted of bribe receiving, add a few more wannabes looking at the open seat.

We previously reported the Democratic machine favorite du jour is attorney Marsha Michaels, even as former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin has been going around trying to find some love.

We’re told local 79th A.D. male and female district leaders Wilbert Tee Lawton and Cynthia Cox supposedly have their eyes on the prize in what could become a free-for-all primary race, given that some of the contenders for the recent local City Council seat won by County-backed ex-Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson are also weighing runs.


Former Riverdale City Councilman Oliver Koppell sounding like a candidate with press release taking aim at Senate co-leader Jeff Klein over report cohort Republican leader Dean Skelos will block Mayor de Blasio’s pre-K plan from coming up for a vote.

“The only reason Senator Skelos is allowed to block this and other progressive legislation is because of his backroom deal with Senator Jeff Klein,” sayeth Ollie, who most likely will face a Man of LaMancha uphill fight to unseat Jeff, the entrenched leader of the Independent Democratic Conference. Ollie called upon Jeff to “immediately renounce his self-serving agreement with Senator Skelos and rejoin the Democratic Conference.”

To which we would say FAT CHANCE.


Canned. Glad to hear that Beergate up at the Four-Seven detective squad in Edenwald has gone flat, thanks to new Commissioner Bill Bratton ordering shoofly cops to can it, veteran cop reporter Murray Weiss writes at dnainfo.com.

Seems former Bronx, and now (soon-to-be-ex) citywide Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski went all CIS when a shoofly captain out of Bronx Boro with no love for the squad boss there found four empty beer cans in the trash and a six-pack in the fridge in the bunk room. While booze in precincts is a no-no, this case was more a grudge match than a scandal.

Second in command. Gotta hand it to PC Bill Bratton for political savvy. He’s keeping former Bronx Boro commander Rafael Pineiro as his first deputy commissioner. Bratton scores on a couple of fronts. He makes points with the city’s Hispanic electeds and population, and while former PC Ray Kelly was a micro-manager, not leaving that much to do for Pineiro, the new PC is known for giving commanders more free hands and responsibility, also not leaving that much for Pineiro to do.


Calm down you folks in Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj’s district. After we ran a short item last column about Mark returning $25,000 to the state in unspent office funding, a lotta local groups inundated his office with phone calls, griping those bux coulda helped them out. Relax. The money was strictly limited to his district office budget, not for community funding.


Feb. 16 – Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan

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