City Council District 10
Ydanis Rodriguez’s questionnaire
Education: B.A., Political Science; M.A., Bilingual Education
Ydanis Rodriguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, came to New York in 1983 and immediately became very active in organizing and New York politics. During his time as a student at City College, he organized student movements and lobbied government against tuition hikes and budget cuts for the college. After he graduated, he became a founding teacher of Gregorio Luperon High School, offering bilingual education and successfully lobbying for improved school facilities. Mr. Rodriguez decided to run for office because he wants to restore the community’s faith in its elected officials and motivate residents to be engaged in the decisions being made in the district.
On government reform, Mr. Rodriguez, who is supportive of most of Citizens Union’s agenda, described his dedication to bringing integrity back to the district, where he said they have been tarnished by recent events leading up to the resignation of former Councilmember Miguel Martinez. He stood firmly against the council vote to extend the number of terms elected officials could be elected to office and was part of the lawsuit against the action. He said any change to term limits should have gone to the voters in a referendum. In response to the member items funding issues that were of particular relevance given Mr. Martinez’s departure, Mr. Rodriguez said he would not create a nonprofit to provide community services, and would provide funding to only those organizations that have well established track records of helping the community.
With regards to education, Mr. Rodriguez said that he would work to increase education opportunities. Rodriguez believes the city can better use the resources it has to reach out to parents, like changing the way Parent Coordinators in schools are selected so that they are not directly hired by school principals. They should not serve as only gatekeepers, but actually help parents obtain information and be more involved. He would also work to provide school programming for children under five years old within the district, so that parents would not have to seek those services elsewhere. Mr. Rodriguez wants to place a vocational school in the district as well, to provide training to the community and small businesses on how to properly establish their business.
Mr. Rodriguez said other top issues if elected would be to increase the community’s involvement in the budget process, protect tenants’ rights and improve public health. He would continue his community work with assisting tenants, and his work with Nos Quedamos, a nonprofit community development corporation in the South Bronx, to help provide legal support for constituents. Mr. Rodriguez said he would push for the establishment of a public clinic in the district, increase information about health insurance, and health and nutrition education. As a related issue, he would like to expand the number of farmer’s markets to provide his constituents with more accessibility to fresh and healthy foods. Mr. Rodriguez’s energy, passion, and commitment, both past and present, to his district and its constituents are what makes him Citizens Union’s preferred candidate.
Francesca Castellanos’ questionnaire
Age: Not available
Occupation: Spanish Interpreter
Education: B.A., Political Science
Francesca Castellanos is a community organizer who has lived in the 10th district her whole life. Her three most important priorities are housing, education, and nutrition. She currently works as a freelance Spanish translator for the Department of Aging which allows her to interact with the elderly. Her most important priority, and most likely reason for running for office, is to bring affordable housing to her district as she has been a tenant advocate and organizer for a number of years. In her district there are only three major public housing complexes, and a few other assorted buildings. Many landlords within the district have warehoused many of the apartments and she sees this as an invasion on available housing. She believes many people have left her district because it is extremely hard to find affordable housing, and the cost of living is extremely high.
Her second most important issue is nutrition. She says there are very few supermarkets, and it is tough for the poorer people in her neighborhood to purchase the correct nutrients. Besides being extremely expensive, residents must travel far to find fresh food. Many issues have arisen from lack of nutrition within the district such as rising diabetes and high cholesterol. The final issue she would focus on is education. While she believes that there are enough schools in her district and that overcrowding is not an issue, she does believe that schools should offer civics classes, which would increase children’s respect for other human beings and animals. She believes that to make an impact Albany must allow the city to decide rent increases and revise the ERSTADT laws. She thinks New York City should also lobby Albany to receive more home rule power. With respect to the city council discretionary funding issues, she believes that transparency is extremely necessary because it is hard to fathom how elected officials get away with funding phony organizations and breaking the law. She also said it should be clear to all elected officials that they cannot fund groups where their family has a senior role.
Ms. Castellanos believes she differs from the other candidates because she was raised in the district and has lived there for many years and has a lot of personal experiences working with people from all over the district. Her main obstacle to winning, she believes, is a corrupt board of elections and a corrupt system of elections in the district. Citizens Union believes that Ms. Castellanos was a good candidate with a real understanding of housing and nutrition issues, but ultimately did not choose to prefer her in the primary race because there were other more experienced candidates with the ability to be possibly more effective representatives for the district if elected.
Richard Realmuto’s questionnaire
Occupation: Self-employed attorney
Education: B.A. – New York University; J.D. – University of Bridgeport School of Law
Richard Realmuto is a lawyer who believes that the city needs to return to fiscal conservatism to save money in the city, which was a major issue for him. His second major issue is economic development in Washington Heights. He believes that there needs to be more commercial development combined with community development for the area to succeed. He brought up the example that there is no Barnes and Nobles in the district in which he lives and no place for children to go play or learn.
Mr. Realmuto also believes that his school district needs to be improved. Although he acknowledges that mayoral control has done a decent job in restructuring the school system and likes that there is one person to hold accountable, he thinks parental involvement and the power of local school boards need to both increase. Parents move out because the school districts were not strong enough to teach their kids. Lastly, he believes noise was a major issue in the district.
He stated that he did not know much about many of the issues presently in front of the council. He said as an attorney he would be able to understand the bills and read all of them. He said that while he does not have an intricate understanding of the budget, he believes that there are places where there is waste that can be cut. He wants to increase the retirement age and increase small businesses especially home-run businesses. He sees real impediments in the 10th District with the ability of an insurgent candidate, like him, to make any progress and win election.
Overall, while Citizens Union enjoyed meeting with the candidate, at this time his lack of familiarity with city council operations and budgeting issues does not make him a strong candidate to hit the ground running and be the strong leader the district needs as is necessary during this difficult time both for the city and the district.
Cleofis Sarete’s questionnaire
Occupation: School Teacher
Education: M.S., Education
[Candidate could not be scheduled for an interview.]