Highbridge Assemblywoman Gibson to announce for City Council

EXCLUSIVE – Bronx state Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson will announce shortly that she’s running for the City Council seat from Highbridge.

The seat, which also covers parts of Melrose and Morrisania, is being vacated by term-limited Councilwoman Helen Foster, whose father Wendell held the seat for several terms before her three terms there.

Sources said that Gibson will announce her candidacy Feb. 1 at a location yet to be determined.

She is serving her second full two-year term in the Assembly after having won the seat in a special election when Aurelia Greene stepped down to become deputy borough president. The 77th A.D. also covers the heavy voting base of Concourse Village, as well as Claremont Village and the Forrest Houses.

Gibson could possibly face a crowded field of challengers in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary, though she is expected to have the party’s backing for the council seat, which pays $112,000 annually compared to $79,000 in the Assembly.

Foster’s 16th Council District is likely to shrink once the city Districting Commission submits its final proposed lines and they are approved by the City Council in February.

East Harlem’s 8th Council District is expected to expand dramatically into the South Bronx, taking in a major portion of Mott Haven and the lower third of Foster’s current district, effectively creating an added Bronx seat. It could also mean current East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito facing potential Bronx challengers in this year’s primary.

With a heavy African-American population in Highbridge, some political quarters have called the district “a black seat,” but Gibson, who is African-American, is expected to face both black and Latino challengers.

Gibson will still retain her Assembly seat while running for the council seat. If she wins the council seat in the November general election, it’s likely her Albany seat will be filled sometime in February, 2014.

The Bronx Democratic Party leadership will have a major say in naming her successor, who will have a major advantage running as an incumbent later that year for a full two-year term.

As for an elected switching their seat from Albany to one in City Hall – and vice versa – there is ample precedent, said Doug Muzzio, political guru and government affairs professor at Baruch College.

The most recent Bronx list would include councilman/former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell of Riverdale, former assemblyman, state senator and recently disgraced northeast Bronx ex-Councilman Larry Seabrook, as well as similary disgraced former east and west Bronx state Senator Pedro Espada.

“There’s nothing unusual about trading going down in office – at least geographically,” said Muzzio. “The bottom line is, you get out of Albany – in more ways than one – and get to sleep in your own bed.”