Rolling out our new series of political “Snapshots,” the Bronx Times sat down with each of the Bronx’s recently elected officials for a discussion on their 2022 legislative agendas and issues of importance to their districts.
Political ideology: Pragmatic Democrat
Fun Fact: “I’m in love with the underwater world.” Before the pandemic Feliz became a certified SCUBA diver and went scuba diving in the Bahamas.
City Councilman Oswald Feliz was elected in a March special election — replacing Congressman Ritchie Torres — and then re-elected to his own full term on Nov. 2. Feliz represents the city’s 15th Council District in the Bronx, which encompasses Bedford Park, Fordham, Mount Hope, Bathgate, Belmont, East Tremont, West Farms, Van Nest, Allerton and Olinville.
Feliz, a lifelong resident of the Bronx and former housing lawyer, spoke with the Bronx Times about issues affecting his district: gun violence, housing and education.
The lawmaker said there has always been violence in the borough, but today, there are shootings in broad daylight, and it seems that everyone has a gun.
“What is happening in our neighborhoods is completely [and] utterly unacceptable,” Feliz said. “We’ve seen gun violence skyrocket, especially in low-income minority neighborhoods.”
He said too many repeat offenders are being allowed back on the street and this must end.
According to Feliz, not only does the state need to enact stricter gun laws, but the lack of resources in schools and communities plays a major role in the violence. If children don’t have a YMCA, job training programs or well-funded after-school clubs, many often get into trouble, he said.
“We’re losing our kids to the streets when we don’t give them other options,” he added.
The councilman said the pandemic not only exposed the digital divide in the city schools system, but showed how schools are not equitable.
While Brown v. Board of Education happened several decades ago, Feliz said schools in NYC are still segregated. Schools in low-income minority communities should have the same resources as those in the wealthy Upper West Side, he said. Feliz added that high-performing schools should allocate 20% of its seats for kids from disadvantaged communities.
Looking ahead, the councilman hopes the city realizes that this is a digital age and students need laptops to learn, not just during a pandemic.
“COVID affected our city in every single way, including our education system,” he said. “The digital divide in the Bronx is well documented.
The other issue plaguing many Bronxites is the lack of affordable housing. What is affordable for a family in Manhattan is not the same as the Bronx, Feliz said.
“We need affordable housing for all, including the low-income families,” the councilman said.
If you haven’t already done so, read our previous Snapshot on Riverdale City Councilman Eric Dinowitz.
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.