New York City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez — who represents the neighborhoods of Kingsbridge, Fordham, University Heights, Mount Eden and Mount Hope in Council District 14 — and challenger Rachel Bradshaw said housing is a primary issue going into the June 27 Democratic Primary, although their visions differ.
Bradshaw told the Bronx Times she’s running because of concerns she has with the management of District 14 — specifically issues surrounding housing, crime rates, cleanliness and noise levels, and education.
She said she’s been especially interested in politics the last few years, and was encouraged by members of her community to run for City Council. Bradshaw is currently a member of the Friends of Devoe Park and a shareholder of the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation, as well as a Democratic State Committee member and the president of the Northwest Bronx Democrats for Change.
“What I’ve noticed in the past two years, I’ve just witnessed the district, my community, go through an acceleration of disorder and decay,” said Bradshaw, 44. “And I attribute that to our City Council representation.”
In the 2021 election cycle, Sanchez, with the backing of the Bronx Dems, beat out five other Democrats in a primary to secure the District 14 seat after then-councilmember Fernando Cabrera ran unsuccessfully for borough president.
Sanchez, 34, is a first generation Afro-Dominican Bronxite. After making her way through the Bronx public school system, she went on to earn advanced degrees from both Harvard and Princeton. Before assuming her post on the council, Sanchez served as an urban planner at the White House, was a member of Bronx Community Board 5, and worked as an advisor in the New York City Mayor’s office. She currently resides in Kingsbridge.
She told the Bronx Times in an interview that equitable housing, access to education and economic stability are the three issues that remain centerfold to her reelection bid — housing being the most fundamental of them.
“For me, tackling these issues starts with a housing-first lens,” Sanchez said. “Making sure there’s a roof over your head, but also that that roof is one of high quality.”
The chair of the council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, Sanchez said she is currently working to expand the supply of housing vouchers, increase affordable housing options, and crack down on “bad” landlords who neglect their properties.
She said the Twin Parks North West apartment fire in January 2022, which happened just two months after she took office, changed the trajectory of her first term and how she addressed housing. The blaze at the 19-story Twin Parks complex in Fordham Heights originated from a faulty space heater and spread rapidly because of the building’s defective self-closing doors. Seventeen people were killed in the fire, including eight children.
A survivor of a Bronx apartment fire herself when she was just a toddler, Sanchez said the quality and age of housing stock, threat of eviction, apartment code violations and 311 complaint neglect all contribute to housing issues in the district.
“My story was one about tenant harassment and poor housing quality and 30 years later, here we are,” she said. “Similar issues.”
Bradshaw, who is originally from Harlem, but said she’s been living in the northwest Bronx for 17 years, also identified housing as one of the key issues hindering quality of life in District 14.
She said she hopes to introduce council legislation to more strictly regulate shelters and spread them out more evenly throughout the city — criticizing Sanchez for the current volume of intake centers in her district. There were 21 family shelters in District 14 — accounting for 13% of all shelters in the Bronx — under former councilmember Cabrera, according to 2017 data by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness. The issue has been exacerbated even more so now, as thousands of migrants have made their way to New York City and local leaders are scrambling to find them housing. As of mid-May, the city had already opened 150 emergency housing sites to accommodate more than 65,000 asylum seekers across all five boroughs, including eight large-scale humanitarian relief centers.
Bradshaw pointed to shelters that serve houseless men specifically, saying “they come with inter-related mental, psychological and financial issues.” She said if elected, she wants to propose a bill to more thoroughly regulate and establish district capacity limits for shelters.
“We must all play our role in addressing homelessness in New York City, but it needs to be equitable,” Bradshaw said. “The Bronx does not need to be the scapegoat for our homeless epidemic.”
The challenger said another way she plans on tackling housing is through rent to ownership programs — especially for people of color like herself, those without generational wealth, and tenants of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing. She said she’s a proponent of increasing opportunities for people to invest in housing co-ops like the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation — a co-op she has stake in and serves as the board secretary of.
“In the outer boroughs being a co-op shareholder is the definition of affordable housing and the definition of empowering people of color,” Bradshaw said.
According to the latest Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development report on housing risk, the Northwest Bronx — which includes neighborhoods in District 14 — is one of the sectors with the highest threat to affordable housing across New York City. The Bronx was also heavily represented on the city’s Housing Preservation and Development list of apartment buildings with the highest number of open code violations this spring. Many of those complexes were recorded in South Bronx council districts 16 and 17, as well as neighboring District 15.
Housing, Sanchez said, is a gateway issue at the cornerstone of her campaign that will affect the economy, education, public safety and social justice. She said specifically that she’s looking to pass legislation aimed at protecting street vendors and low wage workers, working with the local Precinct Community Council to address crime in the district, and trying to expand universal after-school enrichment and mentorship programs for youth.
“For me, all of this kind of just keeps on coming together for housing, economic development and educational investment as the three legs of what it takes to make our community feel safer, have a higher quality of life, and just make sure that people are living with dignity,” Sanchez said.
Other quality of life issues Bradshaw said she’d like to prioritize include District 14’s poverty and childhood education rates, as well as business and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Bradshaw started her career as a journalist after receiving her bachelor’s in TV and radio from Brooklyn College, and her master’s in media arts from the Long Island University Brooklyn Campus. She later created her own production company, which she still works for. She thinks her diverse background makes her fit to serve as the CD 14 representative.
“I’m not a professional politician, and this is why I think I’m the perfect candidate to move our district forward,” Bradshaw said.
The primary is scheduled for June 27. Use the NYC Board of Elections polling site locator to find your polling location at https://findmypollsite.vote.nyc.
The early voting period is from June 17-25. Visit the Board of Elections website for the full early voting schedule.
Clarification: This story was updated at 5:04 p.m. on June 8 to clarify that Rachel Bradshaw is both a stakeholder and the board secretary of the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation.
Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes