SNAPSHOTS | Pierina Sanchez: From the West Bronx to Harvard to City Council

NYC Councilwoman-elect Pierina Sanchez at a rally against domestic violence.
Photo Jason Cohen

Continuing 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. 

Pierina Sanchez

Age: 33


Political ideologyProgressive Democrat

Fun fact: Black belt in Karate

NYC Council District 14 has been led by Democrat Councilman Fernando Cabrera since 2010. But, in January, new blood will fill his shoes as Democrat Pierina Sanchez succeeds the longtime term-limited councilman.

District 14 covers a stretch of the west Bronx along the Harlem River, including the neighborhoods of University Heights, Fordham, Morris Heights and Kingsbridge.

The councilwoman-elect, who attended Harvard and Princeton and worked at the Obama White House and City Hall, spoke with the Bronx Times about the need to improve education and the rise in crime.

According to Sanchez, there are many issues in her district, but in order to create a better future the school system must be improved. The best schools should not only be in Manhattan, she said.

“There are so many barriers in this neighborhood and parts of the Bronx,” Sanchez said.

The lawmaker understands certain affluent communities will always have more resources, but the NYC Department of Education must make all schools equitable. People should not have to ride a bus or subway an hour to go to a public school or sell drugs because a school lacks after-school programs.

Making matters worse, is that many buildings are dilapidated, have old books and lead paint.

“What does it look like to make all schools that are within a five-minute walk of you a good school?” she said.

Sanchez, who feels like she won the “lottery” with the path her life has taken, has seen firsthand how the criminal justice system can fail people. As she entered the doors to Harvard University, one of her friends was walking into prison. Additionally, she knows many young people who were locked up for marijuana offenses. Now, those people can’t get jobs, have records and their lives have never been the same.

“What we are facing here, is a system that sets us up to fail,” Sanchez said.

While she grew up “ducking bullets” as a kid, Sanchez said it was only a handful of people involved in criminal activity. However, the open-air drug dealing and constant shooting today is quite alarming. She hopes with better funding in schools and more programs, things will improve.

“We want to have all those opportunities that change the trajectory of the lives of our kids and help our parents and work to make our communities safer,” she said.

If you haven’t already done so, read our previous Snapshot on 34-year-old Councilman Kevin Riley. 

Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.