WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — When other elected officials around the city were giving their state of the district speeches back in the summer, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez decided to postpone his — citing a flurry of staff changes, zoning battles over the controversial Sherman Plaza project and plans to increase bike lanes in the area.
But this Sunday, Rodriguez is planning to move ahead with his speech — at the Salome Ureña Campus on 4600 Broadway — to look back at all he's accomplished and what he still plans to do.
“I love to hold this State of the District in spring, but I couldn’t leave knowing that I could lose the opportunity to show one or two things out of the year,” Rodriguez said. “I’m committed to continue bringing all the information, everything that I do.”
Rodriguez's chief of staff, Carmen De La Rosa, launched her campaign — and won — for State Assembly for the 72nd District seat this year. The councilman also spent months grappling with critics in the community and then in City Hall over his shifting stance on the mayor's proposed zoning changes at Sherman Plaza, which he ultimately did not support.
And in March, Rodriguez launched the first citywide #CarFree initiative that closed down city streets for Earth Day.
Rodriguez, who said he ran his campaign in 2009 on dignity, honesty and transparency, said he plans to share his experience working with the city's Economic Development Corporation — which is spearheading the mayor's rezoning and affordable housing plans, including the city's upcoming Inwood NYC Neighborhood Study that could lead to rezoning parts of the area — adding that in the seven years he’s been in office, he’s been careful when it comes to spot rezoning.
“When it comes to the opportunity on East of 10th Ave., I’ve also taken the sentiment of my community when they said, ‘We don’t want a spot rezoning, but we’re open to discuss a more comprehensive plan,’” Rodriguez said of the city's Inwood NYC plan, which would alter zoning in the area in exchange for more affordable housing. “That’s what I’ve been focusing on for more than a year — the east of the 10th Ave.”
But east of 10th Avenue is only one area of many areas Rodriguez said he’s exploring when it comes to affordable housing, adding that the latest legislation he’s supporting is also very important. Rodriguez is sponsoring a package of bills with Public Advocate Letitia James and Councilman Jumaane Williams — known as the "Housing Not Warehousing Act" — intended to keep track of empty units and hold landlords accountable to register these empty lots.
Rodriguez also plans on announcing a new plan to allow community members to play a bigger role in how his participatory budget is divided and bring better ideas of how the money is allocated, he said, declining to go into details until Sunday's speech.
“An elected official is someone that has to be accountable, and is elected to share as much as possible how we make decisions of distributing funding starting at the local level,” Rodriguez said. “An elected official that has to be transparent to the constituency that we represent."
Rodriguez added the largest message on Sunday will also be education — “not just in the classroom” but also when it comes to “arts, music and sports in the whole community.”
“Education is the center. Education — for me — is education in the classroom, educating ourselves about our rights, educating ourselves when it comes to respecting each other, educating when it comes to creating better opportunities for small businesses… Education is something that unifies everyone,” Rodriguez said.
To that end, he said, he has been working with the city to do more workforce development programs out of their office at 516 W. 181st Street — including getting the Robin Hood Foundation to participate in order to expand the program to people who don't live in the immediate vicinity. In particular, he said, the program has been working with a focus on supporting and training up small business owners.
Rodriguez said he also plans to discuss his successes on the City Council's transportation committee, including a plan to add protected bike lanes along Dyckman Street between the Hudson River to the Harlem River.
He also secured a pedestrian crossing at Dyckman Street and Broadway with handicap-accessible technology to help blind New Yorkers safely cross the street, he said.
He plans to discuss his expanded goals for Vision Zero, and how he wants to be in the “business of saving pedestrian and cyclist lives.”
The State of the District will take place Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. at the Salome Ureña Campus on 4600 Broadway.