Recently installed west Bronx Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia faces primary competition from CB5’s Pooi Stewart

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Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia, pictured, is facing a primary challenge from Community Board 5 secretary and teacher Pooi Stewart.
Photo courtesy Yudelka Tapia

As state Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia has her eyes on re-election in Assembly District 86, teacher and Community Board 5 secretary Pooi Stewart also has her eyes on the west Bronx seat.

The 86th Assembly District covers parts of the west Bronx, including University Heights, Fordham, Tremont and part of Morris Heights.

Tapia, who calls herself a “Progressive fighter” for her community, said that as a lawmaker she has been able to push for bills and funding that echo her efforts as an activist prior to becoming an elected official, she said in an interview with the Bronx Times.

The state legislator, who lives in Tremont, won an uncontested special election in November 2021 to finish the Assembly term of former Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, who announced his resignation in August.

A former union leader and community organizer, Tapia came to the west Bronx from the Dominican Republic more than three decades ago, where she has raised her four sons.

“I love my community,” she said. “I could have left many years back and moved to another community, moved out of the Bronx, and I never did because I believe that our communities — our Black and brown communities, our poor communities, — they don’t believe that they deserve to live with dignity and they don’t know how to fight for their rights, for the things that they are entitled to. … I thought that they needed a voice because they couldn’t fight for themselves.”

Tapia unsuccessfully ran in Democratic primaries a handful of times before being nominated for last year’s special ballot by the Bronx Democratic Party. In 2009 and 2021 she sought the 14th City Council District seat, now held by Councilmember Pierina Sanchez. In 2013, she ran for the 86th Assembly District seat after the Campaign Finance Board fined her $47,774 in campaign finance violation penalties and ordered her to repay $59,931 of public matching funds — because proper documentation wasn’t filed when required — from her 2009 run, according to Norwood News reports. Tapia at the time cited her treasurer-son’s health issues for what a spokesperson told the Gotham Gazette were administrative issues.

But now that she’s officially representing the district, the Bronxite has various points of pride in the work she’s been doing. She cited wins in the Assembly budget, from Foundation Aid, which she said she marched to Albany two times for during the decades-long fight for equitable school funding, to home care worker wage increases, which will help Black and brown women workers, she said, adding that she plans for the rates to be raised again next year.

She also cited expanded healthcare for undocumented seniors and mothers, childcare funding and gun control legislation as points of victory.

“Many of the things that we did are things that I’ve been fighting for for many years and for me, I’m very proud that I was part of it,” she said.

If she is re-elected, the Assemblymember plans to advocate for this year’s unsuccessful good cause eviction bill.

She also plans to push for more affordable housing to be built — 100% affordable housing — to bring stability to Black and brown families living in distress.

Also an immigrant, Stewart was born in Malaysia in 1973 and immigrated to the United States at age 17.

Pooi Stewart, pictured, is challenging incumbent Yudelka Tapia. Photo courtesy Friends of Stewart

The teacher’s platform spotlights more police, safer streets, new charter schools and affordable housing, as well as health care and a path to citizenship.

The mother-of-three also says the city should repair subway stations, improve platform lighting and invest in artificial intelligence technology to ensure trains run on time.

“The subway is not an appropriate dwelling for the homeless, emotionally disturbed or mentally impaired,” her campaign website says. “They should be removed from subway platforms and provided shelter in a facility that offers food, shelter, medical care and mental health services.”

Stewart believes more, better-trained police will make neighborhoods safer, as well as “undercover narcotics agents to infiltrate dangerous gangs and drug cartels” and “an end to get-out-of-jail-free cards.”  She says that since the borough is known for the worst housing, crime, health care and poverty in the state, it should be a priority for city and state aid.

Attempts to reach Stewart were unsuccessful.

Members of the New York State Assembly make $110,000 annually plus per diem and their terms last two years.

The Democratic primaries for Assembly will be on June 28.

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