WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The challenger for City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez's 10th district seat has sharp words for the incumbent.
Community activist Miguel Estrella, who is running to unseat Rodriguez, blasted the councilman for forgetting the needs of working class residents after being elected and said Rodriguez has "done nothing" to improve the district.
"[Rodriguez is] a guy that used to talk like the 99 percent," but "once he was elected then he acted and behaved like the one percent," Estrella told DNAinfo.com New York.
Estrella, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1979 and ran unsuccessfully for the state assembly in 2010, said that under Rodriguez's watch, Washington Heights has gone in the wrong direction. Estrella said the councilman couldn't secure badly-needed funds for the neighborhood and has instead focused all of his efforts on stumping for State Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
"How can you reelect a person that hasn't done anything?" Estrella asked. "Just because he has the support of the senator? That's unacceptable and I think the community is very clear that he doesn't deserve to be reelected."
Rodriguez spokesman Russell Murphy refused to engage in a war of words with Estrella, instead inviting residents to the councilman's state of Northern Manhattan address on April 21.
"Council Member Rodriguez takes the opportunity to serve Northern Manhattan very seriously," Murphy said. "That is why he makes a point to let his community know about his role in balancing the budget and restoring funding to numerous initiatives in the community and around New York over the past four years."
Since moving to Washington Heights 34 years ago, Estrella, a John Jay College and New York Law School grad, said that he has helped immigrants apply for affordable housing and keep Hispanic youth out of prison.
Estrella, who is married with three children, has been endorsed by outgoing City Councilman Robert Jackson, with whom Rodriguez has feuded with in the past.
Rodriguez holds a clear fundraising advantage early in the race. Campaign finance records dated March 15 show the incumbent has raised over $85,500 in contributions. Estrella, meanwhile, has raised just $8,900.
If elected, Estrella said he would work to build more rent-controlled housing in Washington Heights. He also said he would work with small businesses to help them get bank loans and develop strategies to grow, all while listening to the concerns of residents.
"I'm going to be a representative of the people," Estrella said. "They're going to tell me what they think the agenda is, I'm going to tell them what I think the agenda is, and together we will put a plan together and move the community forward."