Meet Senator Gustavo Rivera’s new chief-of-staff.
Bronx native Katrina Asante is running his operations in the 33rd Senate District, which includes the neighborhoods of Kingsbridge Heights, High Bridge, East Tremont, Crotona Park, Claremont, Fordham, Belmont, Van Nest, and lower Morris Park.
Asante was hired by the senator in 2011 as a community affairs representative for Community Board 6, and when the district was redrawn in 2012 her area expanded to include Van Nest and lower Morris Park. Soon afterward, she was promoted to deputy chief-of-staff, overseeing the team of community affairs representatives.
In these roles she attended local meetings and events to learn about the needs of constituents and keep the senator informed. To Asante, communication is key to meeting the needs of the district.
“You want to make sure you’re always in communication with your community leaders and district managers,” said Asante.
The office uses the information they gather to create policy that is relevant to the district and its constituents, she said.
“We bring district issues to Albany, not the other way around,” said Asante.
Her team is continuously working to advocate for residents, many of whom receive housing assistance or social services. There is a significant number of people in the district facing homelessness, said Asante.
“Housing has been one of our top issues,” she said.
The senator’s office holds forums about housing that people can bring questions to, as well as forums about knowing your rights, domestic violence, and bullying.
“These are issues that are very important to us, and we continue to educate the community on them,” said Asante.
Another key issue in the area is unemployment, she said, although the numbers are decreasing.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” she said.
Asante said she knows what it’s like to be between jobs, and just a few years ago found herself on welfare and facing eviction.
Her advice for those in a similar situation is to not give up.
“Continue to stay focused, continue to network,” she said. “And you must keep hope in your heart.”
She said she never imagined that when she was struggling in 2011 she would be a chief of staff to a state senator just a few years later.
Before that episode, she worked as a Child Protective Specialist with Administration for Children Services for eight years, serving an area of the Bronx that overlaps with the 33rd Senate district.
The experience gave her a strong understanding of the area and the needs of it’s residents.
“Now I have the ability to advocate for constituents and fight for issues I understand,” said Asante.