Five candidates vie for 18th Council seat

Amanda Farias
Amanda Farias

The Bronx Times Reporter sent questions to each of the candidates running in the 18th Council District Democratic Primary on Tuesday, September 12.

In an effort to provide voters with more information to make better-informed decisions, questions and answers from the five candidates running can be found in this article.

On the ballot are Michael Beltzer, Ruber Diaz Sr., Amanda Farias, Elvin Garcia and William Moore.

BTR: Councilwoman Annabel Palma is funding the creation of a Business Improvement District in Castle Hill. Will you continue her efforts to support it and do you see any other business areas that could benefit from a BID?

Beltzer: As a former merchant organizer that worked on Castle Hill Avenue, it is surprising that the merchants would agree to a BID before the merchants association is fully functioning.

I would like to see at least five years of continuous merchant association business before a BID is formed in the district.

Diaz Sr.: I am an enthusiastic supporter of Business Improvement Districts. I have seen the results in my district and elsewhere in the borough.

They are a win-win situation, and I am happy to support them wherever they may be forming.

Farias: There is a BID along Westchester Avenue that could be expanded, and I would also put efforts towards creating a BID along White Plains Road, including a push to bring a supermarket to the shopping center near Lafayette.

I would continue the work of Councilwoman Palma to fund and create the BID in Castle Hill as well.

Garcia: A BID in Castle Hill is a step in the right direction but we also need to support small business and create other business improvement districts in the other main corridors of the district along White Plains Road, Westchester Avenue, and Soundview Avenue.

Moore: I will continue any and all funding given to the newly created BID in Castle Hill.

In addition to that, I will be very supportive to the formation of more BIDs throughout various commercial strips in District 18.

My philosophy is that a strong and robust BID will provide the necessary backbone to strengthen small businesses and create a more attractive character of business unity in the district.

BTR: Parkchester is a large housing development in the 18th CD. Condo owners recently saw a significant common change increase for roof repairs. What kind of assistance do you propose for Parkchester to help them absorb future unexpected increases?

Beltzer: Being that Parkchester is a private complex, there is little that can be done by municipal government to help.

I believe leadership and residents need to demand Parkchester North and South do a total assessment of needs so a capital borrowing plan can be proposed and residents can approve and plan accordingly.

Diaz Sr.: I was very involved in that issue, and was lead complainant in a lawsuit involving the increase. We managed to work out extending coop owner payments for the maintenance increase – which was a temporary one – for those owners who were able to show financial need.

I will always seek to work with management to verify the need for any maintenance increase – temporary or otherwise – and see whatever financial relief formula can be worked out for those who may need it.

Farias: I would create oversight over the condos in the district to ensure the money paid in maintenance fees is being used properly, and a reasonable amount is being charged for the repairs.

Garcia: Parkchester residents should receive tax abatements for necessary improvements like roof repairs.

We can help secure this tax support by supporting smarter, more energy efficient improvements.

It’s the right thing to do and will lower costs all around for residents.

Moore: I would seek grant assistance from the NYC Housing and Preservation and Development to shelter Parkchester residents from unexpected maintenance increases.

I would also work with the state legislative members to get assistance from the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal department.

Additionally, I would also earmark funds from my discretionary budget to offset or absorb future unexpected increases to Parkchester residents.

BTR: York Studios recently built a new movie studio facility in Soundview? What other industries would you like to see set up shop in the district?

Beltzer : Light manufacturing such as 3-D printing and more maritime industry.

Diaz Sr.: Anything that is environmentally sound and brings local jobs, jobs, jobs, including training programs.

Farias: I support all industries that provide good paying jobs with benefits so employees can actually support a family.

I would encourage more manufacturing and industries that deal with green energy and sustainability, including the manufacturing of solar panels.

I would like to see more incentives for entrepreneurs to open up businesses in the Bronx. This includes establishing a 100% tax break for a new business’ first three years, which tend to be the most tumultuous.

Garcia: I want to be an advocate to small businesses in the district. Small businesses help prevent gentrification and provide good jobs to local residents. I hope to increase the number of small minority owned businesses in the district that are owned, operated, and staffed by people already living in the community.

Moore: I would like my district to be home to more technological and green energy industries. We need wind and solar industries in my district.

Elvin Garcia
Elvin Garcia

We need a factory in this district to tap into these industries to create permanent jobs for technicians skilled in this endeavor.

The Bronx is a hands-on borough and I am confident my district residents are ready to make a median income of over $75,000 a year.

BTR: What plans do you have to address the district’s older housing stock?

Beltzer: I will work with the community to pass a comprehensive community based plan that will include protecting the affordability of existing housing stock, like I have with Park Lane, a Mitchell Lama complex.

I believe we can also get capital monies from new development to address capital needs in the older housing stock.

Diaz Sr.: I have been a leading advocate for affordable housing, which can also include renovation to many existing properties in the district and across the borough and city.

Farias: With fewer dollars coming from the federal government to help with funding of NYCHA, and buildings falling into disrepair, we need to push the city to allocate money from the budget towards the maintenance of our housing stock.

We need to also create a fund that goes towards maintaining and upgrading our older housing stock.

I would offer up increasing the hotel tax fractionally to help jumpstart this fund with a dedicated funding stream.

Garcia: The district’s housing, especially in NYCHA, requires immediate improvements.

I plan to use a portion of my discretionary funds to clear the backlog of NYCHA repairs and work with HPD to find new revenue sources to fund ongoing improvements to housing.

Moore: I will seek tax abatements to redevelop all older housing stock in my district.

I will also work with the city’s Department of City Planning, Department of Buildings and Community Board 9 to bring all aging housing stock up to code and equip them with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

BTR: It is documented that the Bronx plays host to more supportive housing than other parts of the city. Do you think this is fair? If not, what would you do to address this issue?

Michael Beltzer: No, it is not and as per the NYC Charter Fair Share criteria we are doing more than enough.

I will work to plan our community and push back on the overdevelopment of supportive housing.

Ruben Diaz Sr.: Everyone has the right to housing.

The Bronx has done more than its fair share.

Things have been looking up in recent years, but we still need to focus on Bronx job creation and education – including adult vocational training – that can lead to people improving their economic situation so they can afford decent housing.

Amanda Farias: Having such a high volume of supportive housing in the Bronx means that people don’t have access to necessary resources like reliable transportation, healthy food, good jobs, and healthcare.

I would push to have a more even distribution of supportive housing throughout the five boroughs, and advocate to have more of them located in communities with the infrastructure to provide the necessary support to those seeking help from supportive housing.

Elvin Garcia: While we need to provide families with supportive housing, ideally in the neighborhood they formerly lived, the Bronx is doing far more than its fair share.

The City Council needs to work with the borough presidents, community boards, and mayor’s office to find more equitable sites to create new supportive housing.

William Moore: I find it unfair that the Bronx is almost always the first to be selected for more supportive housing.

I believe all boroughs should take on their fair share. I will fight to stop the city from giving greedy slumlords money for transitional housing.

Instead, I will support a Nehemiah Housing Plan to build affordable housing for the homeless and lower income families.

I will not stop just there, I will force the NYC Housing Authority to stop warehousing empty apartments and filled them with homeless families in need.

BTR: Please provide a list of any endorsements.

Beltzer: Bronx Progressives; Local 1407.

Diaz Sr.: New York Daily News; Detectives Endowment Association; Correction Officers Benevolent Association.

Farias: Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley; Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal; District Council 37; National Association of Social Workers; National Institute for Reproductive Health; Planned Parenthood; Citizens Union; Empire State Humane Voters; National Organization for Women; Run for Something; Streets PAC; Vote Pro Choice; 504 Democratic Club; Filipino American Democratic Club; Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club; Muslim American Democratic Club; Black Lives Matter Caucus New York Social Justice PAC.

Garcia: Tenants PAC, NYS Democratic Party Vice Chair Christine Quinn; Councilman Danny Dromm; Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell; Assemblywoman Deborah Glick; LatPAC and the National Latino Officers Association.

Moore: New York State Reform Party; the New Parkchester Democratic Club; District Leader Omar Adams, 87th Assembly District.

Michael Beltzer
Michael Beltzer

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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