SNAPSHOTS | Diana Ayala sees solace in community center advocacy

Councilwoman Diana Ayala shakes hands with an attendee at a food distribution on Nov. 19.
Photo Jewel Webber

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. 

Diana Ayala

Age: 48

Neighborhood: East Harlem

Political ideology: Progressive Democrat

Fun Fact: She loves to drive alone so she can blast the radio and sing at the top of her lungs. She appreciates a variety of genres, from salsa to country. “I’m very random. My playlist is ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense to anybody.”

After running uncontested in November, City Councilwoman Diana Ayala is set to enter her second term representing District 8, a legislative district which consists of Mott Haven, Highbridge, Concourse, Longwood and Port Morris — as well as East Harlem in Manhattan.

The biggest issue in her district, she said, is gun violence, which she called an epidemic that is continuously growing. The solution? Funding local community-based organizations and expanding their hours and services.

The councilwoman said she secured funding for cornerstone programs in NYCHA’s Mill Brook, Mitchel and Patterson Houses in Mott Haven, which help connect young people to wraparound services and integrate activities with employable skills for the basketball and culinary industries, for example.

“Growing up as a young person in the Lower East Side where gun violence was a real part of our everyday lives, that was what helped me and many of my friends to get out of the community, get a job,” she said. “Staying focused on those opportunities helped us survive. I hope to be able to replicate that.”

Ayala said she secured $15 million for a youth hub in the parking lot of the 40th Precinct between Alexander and Willis avenues at East 139th Street. The center will have health and wraparound services, extracurricular activities and workforce development, serving the many young people who are food insecure and borderline housing insecure in the area, she said, emphasizing building community.

Also during her first term, Ayala pinned down an $18 million commitment from the city to build a community center in Highbridge, which she said is oversaturated with drug treatment facilities, shelters and families lacking social services and after-school activities. The FDNY EMS Station 17 located at 1080 Ogden Ave., will be moving locations — Ayala anticipates within the next year — and then will be demolished so the future center can be constructed, she said.

She also said it’s important to watch out for budget equity for the Bronx. The borough needs more sanitation services and garbage and rats on the Willis Avenue Bridge pose a public health risk, she added.

A supporter of overdose prevention centers, the councilwoman pointed to high rates of opioid-related deaths in the South Bronx and East Harlem. She said she plans to continue to raise awareness about the opioid crisis and bring resources to constituents.

Moving into her next term, Ayala said she will be paying close attention to affordable housing access. Workforce development and forming partnerships with local groups to provide job application opportunities will also be a priority.

If you haven’t already done so, read our previous Snapshot on Parkchester’s Amanda Farias.

Reach Aliya Schneider at aschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.

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