On Monday, June 8, Senator Pedro Espada Jr. hopped the aisle to vote with the Republican Party and pitch Democrat leaders out of power. Espada, elected to represent the northwest Bronx in 2008, heads the Senate housing committee but, according to some, has suffocated pro-tenant legislation, including a bill to repeal vacancy decontrol – a loophole that allows landlords to escape rent regulation.
On Friday, June 12, close to a hundred Bronxites struck back. They marched in front of the senator’s non-existent district office at Fordham Plaza and chanted “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Pedro Espada’s gotta go!” There are 77,000 rent regulated apartments in Espada’s district alone.
Well before the Monday, June 8 coup, Espada drew the ire of his constituents. In April, he used a baby to shield his face from a video camera outside his house in Westchester County. In May, he addressed fat cat landlords at the Water Club in Manhattan, signaling support for the real estate lobby.
“He was supposed to open a district office,” said Bedford Park resident Millie Colon. “He hasn’t. He was supposed to live here. He doesn’t. Espada is drunk on power.”
Espada has referred to the June 8 coup as a bipartisan gesture and a boon for Hispanics.
“He’s not doing anything for the Hispanic people,” said Luis Aponte. Aponte is a resident of transitional housing. In 2000, Espada was accused of using $200,000 from the Soundview Health Clinic to pay off a campaign debt. In 2005, clinic employees were found guilty of using taxpayer funds to aid an Espada campaign.
“[Espada] got elected by idiots who didn’t check his background,” Aponte said. “He is living in a mansion. I am living in a shelter. He better listen. We will take him down.”
On June 12, Ramona Santana of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition asked Espada to hold an emergency forum, to speak with his constituents face-to-face.
“Rest assured, I am fully aware of the important affordable housing issues before the legislature,” Espada replied. “In fact, as chairman of the Housing Committee, I have already passed more legislation to enhance affordable housing than any other housing chairman in the last 20 years. The faster my Democratic colleagues participate in our new reform coalition government, the faster we can debate and vote on housing issues.”
Rossi didn’t vote for Espada or his 2008 opponent, Efrain Gonzalez, who pled guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud in May.
“He picked the right election,” said Bernice Williams, a resident of Webster Avenue.
On June 12, Williams asked Espada to rescue the Mitchell-Lama system.
“I’m irate,” she said. “I voted Democrat. I helped win the Senate and now [Espada] is taking it away from me. We’re here today to put pressure on him and he doesn’t seem to care. I don’t know what planet he’s from. Not this one.”