WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The race for the District 10 City Council is on, with two candidates throwing their hats in the ring to beat out incumbent Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who is running for a third and final term.
Candidates Francesca Castellanos and Josue Perez are hoping their history in the community, activism and dedication to causes like housing, rezoning and the Uptown workforce, will help them beat out an incumbent who has held office since 2009 for a district that spans parts of Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill.
George Espinal, who announced he was running in July, was removed by the Board of Elections from running after submitting forged signatures, sources said. Espinal and the BOE did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Take a look at the remaining candidates and their platforms below:
For Castellanos, who said she’s in her late 40s, this will be the second time she’s going after Rodriguez's seat. Castellanos got started in politics almost two decades ago when she ran as a district leader. She was encouraged to get involved back then after working for a nonprofit organization in Washington Heights that worked with local tenant associations and seeing firsthand how displacement, high rents and aggressive landlords impacted the community, she said.
Castellanos said what makes her a different candidate is that she has remained active in the community for many decades. “I have not left. I know I can make a difference as I have walked in the shoes of many of the people in the community and still am,” she said, adding that this involvement has allowed her to see the real struggles and challenges the local community faces.
“I also understand the social economical situation of the youth in our community,” she said. “For that reason, I would like to see technical and trades school preparation in high school, [so] that many of these kids can graduate high school with a good paying job.”
Castellanos said she currently has no endorsement yet, just the support of “my neighbors and friends, the people who have always voted for me.”
Perez, on the other hand, is a teacher from Washington Heights and The Bronx, looking at a clean political slate with the support of several Uptown groups, including Save the Inwood Library. Perez said the library and rezoning is one of his largest platforms, although he said education is a key concern of his as well.
Perez rallied with local parents in June to protest State Sen. Marisol Alcantara, after the state failed to fork over $55 million owed to District 6 schools.
It’s this experience as a teacher and local parent, Perez said, as well as realizing the struggles of local families trying to stay in their homes, that motivated him to run and push for more locally.
Rodriguez, who was elected in 2009, has a lot of history of his own, said spokesman Russell Murphy, “passing nearly 20 bills as lead sponsor and another nearly 30 bills as a co-prime sponsor.”
“He has put forward a community-led vision to increase and protect affordable housing in upper Manhattan, employing underutilized manufacturing space to better use,” Murphy said, adding that Rodriguez has also “united disparate community organizations to advocate and organize with one voice through the Northern Manhattan Agenda.”
Rodriguez also passed several bills earlier this year that targeted hookah smoking, a large concern for residents in Northern Manhattan, and pushed for a hit-and-run alert system and hit-and-run reward fund to protect victims of car accidents. He also launched the city’s first-ever car-free initiative on Earth Day last year, which increased the use of public transportation during Car Free Day with more than 30,000 riders higher than the season’s daily average, according to a report.
But Rodriguez’s past four years haven’t been free of controversy either. The councilman has bobbed and weaved through several disputes with locals regarding rezoning in Inwood.
Rodriguez sparked a Twitter war last year, after comparing organizers of a rally against the Sherman Plaza project and Inwood Planning Initiative to Donald Trump. The Sherman Plaza project, developed by Washington Square Partners and Acadia, was a “17-story” proposal that was ultimately shot down in City Council. The Inwood Planning Initiative, however, was launched in 2015 after the city identified Inwood as one of the prime areas for development, and is still in the discussion stages.
Most recently, Rodriguez lost the endorsement of LGBT group Stonewall Democrats after he publicly endorsed Ruben Diaz Sr., a controversial, anti-LGBT candidate running for City Council in The Bronx.
The primary for the City Council District 10 seat is Tuesday, Sept. 12.