Who’s running in the special election for city council district 11

As New York City prepares for one of its largest election cycles in recent memory, there is one city council race that will directly impact the northwest Bronx’s District 11 which encompases the neighborhoods of Bedford Park, Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Norwood, Wakefield, and Woodlawn.

There are six candidates poised to replace former Councilman Andrew Cohen, who has moved on to a judgeship at the start of 2021.

Those running in this Tuesday, March 23 special election include: Eric Dinowitz, Mino Lora, Dan Padernacht, Jessica Haller, Carlton Berkley, and Kevin Pazmino.

The Bronx Times asked each candidate a few questions to get to know them:

Eric Dinowitz

Eric Dinowitz.Courtesy of Eric Dinowitz campaign

Why are you running?

As a public school special education teacher for almost 14 years, I saw that the needs of our children extended far beyond the walls of the classroom. As a former Chapter Leader for the UFT, I saw that the needs of my colleagues extended beyond the Principal’s office. And as Chair of Community Board 8’s Aging Committee, I’ve seen that the needs of our seniors are not being met. All of these experiences in public service inspired me to run to bring real change to the community I grew up in and am now raising my family in. 

What you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

I was a public school special education teacher for almost 14 years, including at the JFK and Walton campuses in the Northwest Bronx. I was born and raised in the district, and am now raising my family here. I live in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

COVID-19 Vaccines: As we fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not vaccinating people fast enough or in an equitable way.

Education: Our schools are not providing the resources our students need to thrive. The school to prison pipeline is an issue I would take on immediately. 

Accessible transportation: The Bronx is underserved in terms of transportation options, and I am committed to bringing more accessible transportation to my district, especially for older adults and people with disabilities.

Saving our small businesses: Our small businesses were struggling even before the pandemic. My plan for helping our businesses recover is to immediately reinstate the NYC Small Business Emergency Grant Program 

What will you do differently than Councilman Cohen?

One of my goals is to expand upon his constituent services, and make my office the best resource to anyone in need in my district. I have done significant constituent services as a neighbor and as a Democratic District Leader, and I will build upon that community outreach. My office will help constituents connect with city agencies, legal services, and state and federal offices for any assistance they need. I also come from a different background than Council Member Cohen, including my experience as a public school special education teacher. I will look to solve problems through that lens, with the welfare of my students, workers, seniors, and people with disabilities in mind. 

What’s your political experience?

I am currently the Democratic District Leader for Assembly District 81.

What endorsements do you have?

I have been endorsed by elected leaders including Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Congressman Ritchie Torres, State Senator Jamaal Bailey, State Assemblymember Chantel Jackson, Council Member Mark Treyger, Council Member Kevin Riley, and Council Member Danny Dromm. 

I have been endorsed by several unions, including the UFT, New York City Central Labor Council, 32BJ, DC37, HTC, Uniformed Firefighters Association, Local 2507-EMS Workers, RWDSU, SEIU NYC Local 246 and BAC Local 1 and 7.

I have also been endorsed by groups such as the Stonewall Democratic Club, the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club, the Bronx Democratic Party and the Liberty Democrats.

Mino Lora

Mino LoraEmmanuel Abreu

Why are you running?

I understand many of the challenges district residents face because I’ve lived them. I’m an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who built a new life here. I’ve worked minimum wage jobs, spent a decade without health insurance and recently survived COVID. I’m running to represent a district that is majority working-class and people of color, half of us are Latino and third of us are immigrants. As an artist and organizer, teacher and nonprofit executive – running for office was never part of my plan. But I kept seeing the same injustices over and over again. So here I am! If I’m elected, I’ll be the first Latina and immigrant to represent the District.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

I’m an educator and the executive director of People’s Theatre Project – a social justice arts nonprofit delivering free programs to 1,000 Bronx and Upper Manhattan students a year. I founded PTP during the 2008 recession, using the $400 I saved from waiting tables, and built it into the million-dollar organization it is today. I have kept programs running and my staff employed during the pandemic.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

New York City in general and the Bronx in particular were the national epicenters for the pandemic and that hit poor, working and minority communities, like most of District 11, the hardest. As we prepare to build a more resilient and humane city, we’ll need the people most affected to be empowered in decision-making processes that work toward justice. Failing to engage tenants, immigrants, small businesses owners, students, frontline and essential workers, at minimum, would be a dereliction of duty by every elected official in NYC. As Councilwoman, I will listen carefully to the people of the district as I fight for:

  1. Small business relief and recovery. I will urgently work to pass the City Council’s various small business recovery programs.

  2. Housing that is affordable. NYC needs to determine affordability levels by using local or neighborhood-based median income rather than Area Median Income because the AMI fails to adequately house residents at prices they can afford.

  3. Fully-funded and equitable public schools. Cutting $707 million from the DOE budget in FY21 is a moral failure.

  4. Prioritize the availability of green public transportation in all areas. Public transportation, especially bus service, should be expanded to eliminate transportation deserts, and bike lanes should be expanded to connect more Bronx neighborhoods.

What will you do differently than Councilman Cohen?

The first job of whoever wins the special election will be working on the City budget. I will not accept an austerity budget, a budget full of cuts for essential services for the people of New York City. I will work with State legislators to fight for fair taxes for the super wealthy, who gained billions of dollars during the pandemic, while millions of New Yorkers lost their jobs.

What’s your political experience?

In my role on the Leadership Council of the New York Immigration Coalition, I brought my students to Albany to fight for school and adult literacy funding, met with Senator Schumer to successfully advocate for the inclusion of immigrants in COVID relief, and partnered with the Governor’s Office to ensure vaccinations didn’t wouldn’t include invasions of privacy by ICE.. When the City’s summer youth employment program (SYEP) was cut from the city’s budget, I brought together 14 arts and culture nonprofits to create a free virtual arts camp for over 200 children and secured the funding to operate it.

What endorsements do you have?

Working Families Party, CWA District 1, New York Immigration Coalition Action, The Jewish Vote, Citizen Action of NY, No IDC NY, Run for Something, Downtown Women for Change, and Deputy Leader & Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

Dan Padernacht

Courtesy of Dan Padernacht

Why are you running?

“Dan understands that the choices we make today will determine how we rebound from the pandemic. Dan is running for City Council because our City needs experienced leaders that understand how government works and who can make difficult decisions. Dan is the only attorney in the race and the only candidate who has run a city agency,” Padernacht said in a statement.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

Padernacht was born and raised in the Northwest Bronx. He grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Kingsbridge and attended P.S. 95, J.H.S 143, and Fordham Prep. Dan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Fairfield University and a Juris Doctor from UIC John Marshall Law School.

During school, Dan represented the United States in the International Negotiation Competition for Law Students in Singapore.  After law school, he opened a law practice in Van Cortlandt Village. Dan’s family has lived in our community for three generations.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them? What would you do differently than Councilman Cohen?

“Dan understands that the choices we make today will determine how we rebound from the pandemic. Dan is running for City Council because our City needs experienced leaders that understand how government works and who can make difficult decisions. Dan is the only attorney in the race and the only candidate who has run a city agency,” Padernacht said in a statement.

What’s your political experience?

For 12 years, Dan has been a member of Bronx Community Board 8 (CB8). Dan was head of the agency for 3 years as Chair of the Board. Dan has also acted as Chair of the CB8 Traffic & Transportation Committee for 8 years and Vice-Chair of the Land Use Committee for 4 years.

His tenure on the Board includes roles on the CB8 Aging, Executive, Housing, Hudson River Greenway, Law, Rules & Ethics, and Public Safety committees.  Dan also served as Chair of the Croton Filtration Monitoring Committee.

What endorsements do you have?

Padernacht’s endorsements include: Assemblyman Michael Blake, Bill Samuels, Dionel Then and the Northwest Bronx Democrats.

Jessica Haller

Why are you running?

I am a climate activist, tech entrepreneur, and working mom of four.

I’m running because NYC is facing a health crisis, an economic crisis, a housing crisis, the crisis of systemic racism, on top of the climate crisis, and I know how to create solutions to address them all.

The Bronx needs a leader with the experience and ability to deliver for this community. I’ve started companies and created jobs. I’ve led non-profits. I’ve worked with the NYC government to improve constituency outreach.

I will be an independent voice to stand up to the political machine that has failed us, and deliver a more resilient, sustainable and equitable city.

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

I am a working mom of four that left the corporate world to address the growing threat of climate change, even before anyone was asking the questions about what to do about the crisis.  I’m an entrepreneur who creates solutions that work. I’ve lived my entire life along the 1 train and moved to the Riverdale section of the Bronx to raise my family back in 2000.

I’ve organized communities in this district for The People’s Climate March, to create a Farmers Market, to improve interfaith dialogue.  I’ve worked for cleaner air, better health care, and to elect bold leaders. The future of our district is bright, now we just need to elect someone with the fearlessness to lead.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

First: we need economic recovery rooted in justice. I’ve put forward the Bronx Pandemic Reconstruction program, which would create 10,000 jobs by offering unprecedented training opportunities through green technology and infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and child and elder care jobs.

Second: we must increase affordable housing. We must equitably distribute affordable housing throughout the district and city and make sure it’s built sustainably.

Third: the climate crisis. Across the city, we must pass a faster and broader implementation of the Climate Mobilization Act. I will reverse historic environmental injustices that have left the Bronx with some of the highest asthma rates in the country, and invest in green jobs and infrastructure.

What will you do differently than Councilman Cohen?

The NYC Budget determines how we allocate our money, and it represents our values. In the 2020 NYC Budget, the NYPD received more than its share of funding versus other social service agencies. I would not have voted to support the 2020 Budget, and I will only support future budgets that promote a resilient, sustainable, and equitable city.

Councilman Cohen also did not support a bill to ban the use of pesticides in our parks. These poisonous pesticides are used more in low-income communities, endangering children’s health. 

What’s your political experience?

Most of my experience is in the private and non-profit sectors, and I worked with the New York City Comptroller’s office under John Liu to develop and implement a system to improve constituent outreach and services. Making systems work better is what I excel at and I will use that experience to make our city services work better for us all. With the budget challenges our city faces, it is critical that we become more efficient and better utilize our resources to create a more equitable and resilient city.

I have written environmental policy platforms for several candidates, including Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in 2018.  

What endorsements do you have?

    • Oliver Koppell; Former Bronx City Councilman and New York Attorney General
    • Melissa Mark-Viverito; Former Speaker of the NYC City Council
    • Ruth Messinger; Former Manhattan Borough President, former Democratic Nominee for Mayor
    • Elizabeth Crowley: Candidate for Queens Borough President, former NYC City Councilwoman
    • Helen Rosenthal; City Councilwoman
    • North Bronx Racial Justice
    • Bronx Climate Justice North
    • Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
    • Open NY
    • Women for the Win
    • 21 in ‘21
    • VoteMama
    • NY League of Conservation Voters
    • Jewish Climate Action Network. NYC
    • Concerned Citizens for Change
    • American Institute of Architects
    • No IDC NY

Carlton Berkley

Courtesy of Carlton Berkley

Why are you running?

I am running because a group of residents in the neighborhood asked me to run for the vacant seat.

Tell us about yourself, i.e. what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

I have been married for 37-years and am the father of three adult children and have two grandchildren. I am a retired NYC Police Detective and a Deacon at the Walker Memorial Baptist Church of the Bronx, New York. I am a small business owner where I teach security guard training along with private investigations. I attend community meetings and neighborhood social gatherings with the residents where we discuss matters important to the neighborhood. I open my place of business for such meetings and gatherings. I also open my business for the teenagers and young adults to have their meetings/social gatherings to listen to their concerns and mentorship. I have been residing in Wakefield for the last 25 years.

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them? What will you do different than Councilman Cohen?

There are so many challenges facing the district. Every area has their fair share of problems from transportation, crime, homelessness, shelters, education parks etc. I will work very hard to bring the necessary relief to the residents. I will make my presence known in every part of the district and not favor one area over another. I will also be transparent in everything I do.

What’s your political experience?

I have no political experience, however I do know that I will make good, just and common sense decisions.

What endorsements do you have?

I have no official endorsements during this campaign other than the residents of Wakefield.

Kevin Pazmino

Why are you running?

Our current governor and mayor have botched the vaccine roll out. I would help to coordinate localized vaccine distribution.  
I do not agree with the defunding or the reallocation of funds from the Police. As management I feel accountability should come from the top down. I do not believe that the problems we see are due to racism. Since the demographics of the police force closely mirror our community. Over 50% of the police force is African American , Hispanic, or Asian. The other 45% is made up of “white” officers of various nationality and backgrounds.
When it comes to schools, I am pro school choice and the voucher program. 

Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in?

My name is Kevin Pazmino and I am a first generation American. My mother is from Colombia and my father is Ecuadorian. I was raised by my mother with my brother in low-income housing in Rockland county NY.
Today I live with my wife and four children in North Riverdale and have lived here for seven years. 
I am a DGA assistant director and have worked in film and TV production for the past 17 years. I decided to enter the political arena because of the mismanagement the democratic party has shown in our state and local municipalities. I am running to bring back accountability to public service. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them? What will you do differently than Councilman Cohen?

The biggest issue we currently face is safely reopening schools and businesses. I am proud to say that the film and tv industry has gone above and beyond, when it comes to its handling of the pandemic. 
 
We have developed protocols that exceed the standards of most municipalities. I would use these protocols as a frame work to reopen safely. These protocols involve: proper education for the public on hygiene and rigorous testing schedules for employees. 

What’s your political experience? What endorsements do you have?

I am not a politician and my campaign does not accept monetary donations. I do not want the people’s hard-earned money. I want their support. I have not sought out the endorsements of any specific union or entity. I am only looking to represent the people of District 11. I have 17 years of experience dealing with union representatives in the film industry. My approach to dealing with unions and other entities is simple. Their members are my constituents. I would look to the constituents of district 11 to participate in their unions and guilds. Through this we can educate each other on our common needs and find ways to accomplish common goals. 
Note: Some responses have been edited for brevity, clarity, and style consistency.

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