Continuing our 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.
Neighborhood: Concourse Village
Political ideology: Progressive Democrat
Fun Fact: She is a turtle mom, with two pet turtles named Purple and Squirt.
Althea Stevens, the freshman City Council member representing the Bronx’s 16th District — which includes the Claremont, Concourse, Concourse Village, Highbridge, Morris Heights, Mount Eden and Morrisania sections — is diving headfirst into a new chapter of her life: politics.
And it’s a chapter that she didn’t think would be written, originally.
A teen mom by her junior year of high school and a woman of color — a population that has been traditionally denied and shunned from local and public political offices — Stevens said the deck was stacked against her in her first bid for public office.
“I’m not supposed to be here. This system isn’t set up for a women of color (to succeed), especially a teen mom,” Stevens, a first-time elected official said to the Times. “But during my campaign, I had people come up to me and say that they voted for me or joined on my campaign because they had a candidate who looked like them, identified with them and connected with them. That’s pretty special.”
Stevens is one of five women in the Bronx City Council delegation, an increase from two women the year prior. Stevens handily won her first bid for public office capturing 90% of the vote in November 2021 and now plans to use the seat to improve the day-to-day quality-of-life concerns in District 16, which is includes some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.
“For me, it’s addressing the noise complaints, garbage concerns, and offering that sense of community that I think is missing in my district,” she said. “I get tired of hearing how we’re the poorest congressional district … because I want to empower my constituents, make them feel safe in their community and a part of the local political process.”
Stevens represents a large chunk of the South Bronx, an area generationally plagued by crime, food insecurity and housing strife, as well as an overabundance of homeless shelters in the area.
District 16 is home to more than 1,100 shelter units for families with children—more than any other City Council district, by far. Stevens said she plans to oppose any new proposed shelters in the area, citing issues with the city’s propensity for adding short-term shelters, in lieu of promoting permanent affordable housing.
In the arena of housing policy, Stevens has a strong track record that includes her work with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Tenants Association, working to improve affordable housing and providing sustainable options for low-income families and individuals. Stevens wants larger city investment in NYCHA for public housing, while working also with other community-based organizations to stabilize rents and recalculate median area incomes.
Another issue Stevens will look to address is the dearth of access and resources in South Bronx, particularly resources to aid Bronxites against COVID-19 variants. Stevens already worked to secure COVID testing sites in the Highbridge and Morris Heights sections and hopes for more COVID testing sites throughout District 16, which carries some of the borough’s lowest vaccination rates.
Read our previous Snapshot with Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez, who lives in Throggs Neck and represents several communities in the east Bronx.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at email@example.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.