WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A lifelong Inwood resident whose role as president of an NYPD precinct council was mired in controversy announced that he is running to unseat Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
Democrat George Espinal, 30 — who was ousted from the 34th Precinct Council in 2013 after a series of controversial events — said he wants to return to work for the community.
“I can’t sit by the sidelines anymore and see this councilman destroy our neighborhood,” Espinal told DNAinfo New York, adding that he wants his record and work to “speak for itself.”
Espinal, who became a community board member at 18 years old, went on to win the precinct council role three years later and remained working for both until he was 27.
He said he has remained active in the community through the Department of Youth & Community Development's Neighborhood Advisory Board, which “provide[s] residents of low-income communities with an opportunity to help the Department of Youth and Community Development identify funding priorities,” its website says.
Espinal said former Congressman Charles Rangel originally appointed him to the role and that current Congressman Adriano Espaillat reappointed him earlier this year.
“The community is hurting and people are being displaced at record number, small businesses closing are at a record-number high,” he explained. “There are a lot of issues that have not been addressed in the last eight years, and I think it’s time for new leadership, new blood.”
“What we’re looking at with the neighborhood rezoning and development, it’s not a community plan," he said. "It’s hurting people and people can’t afford it."
Espinal said he’s aware people are still judging his ability to lead based on reports of him misusing funds from the precinct council budget, as well as encouraging residents to rally against restaurant owners on Dyckman Street for apparently siding with an opponent in his run for district leader.
“I want people to challenge me on my record and the things I’ve really done,” he said, calling allegations against him “lies and the innuendos.”
Espinal was listed as a candidate by the Board of Elections, though he still requires 1,250 signatures of support for his campaign in order to run for the District 10 seat, which covers parts of Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill in The Bronx, a BOE spokesperson said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Espinal said that his team had collected 600 signatures. The deadline for getting the required amount is Thursday night, the BOE said.
Councilman Rodriguez, who has held the office for the past eight years, won his 2013 re-election bid with more than 91 percent of the votes.
"Council Member Rodriguez's record of success speaks for itself and we are happy to match it against anyone looking to represent uptown," his spokesman Russell Murphy said.
"We're confident that given the tremendous record of success in improving northern Manhattan over the past eight years, voters will continue to support Council Member Rodriguez for another term."