Tag Archive | "Gustavo Rivera"

At Bronx town hall, concerns about criminal justice, housing

Bronx state senators address their constituents on Thursday, Sep. 12.

THE BRONX, New York—Vivian Young has lived in the Bronx her entire life, but now, at 65, she’s worried about what it would take to remain living there.

“I love it here,” Young said at a town hall at Monroe College in University Heights last Thursday night.

She said affordable housing for seniors is getting harder to come by.

Over 40 borough residents attended the town hall hosted by Bronx state senators. They expressed concern over health, housing and criminal justice.

Young is also concerned about public health, noting that the Bronx has high diabetes rates.

In the borough, 16% of adults have diabetes, according to New York City Health Department data. Only 11% of adults in the city as a whole have the disease. The department notes that around 164,000 adults have not been diagnosed.

Steven Pacheco, 29, a student at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, wanted to hear about how lawmakers were prepared to handle marijuana convictions, rehabilitation into society, and market access, concerns rooted in racial inequality.

“The culture is rich, the people are beautiful,” Mr. Pacheco said of the Bronx. “[But] it’s the last borough in everything.”

Over forty residents appeared to express their concerns.

Sen. Luis Sepúlveda spoke on the legal system and its treatment of people of color. As the chair of the Crime and Corrections Committee, he said he had visited 13 facilities, which had conditions he described as “an abomination.”

Five state senators from the Bronx listened to residents’ concerns, but they also publicized their own accomplishments during the recent legislative session.

Sen. Gustavo Rivera said he was proud of legislation that “codified the ACA in law.”

As lawmakers touted accomplishments throughout their speeches, attendees applauded.

To get something done in the legislature, said Sen. Jamaal Bailey, “you have to go through the Bronx.” He is the Chairman of the Codes Committee. Each of the legislators at the town hall  chair a committee.

In the 2018 Midterm elections, Democrats picked up eight seats in the New York Senate, gaining control of both branches of the legislature and ending the divided government. This allowed them to pass 248 laws, according to official counts.

While just over 40 people showed up, in addition, one in five were staffers for legislators or Monroe College. The moderator opened the panel over a half hour late.

Freshman Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, occasionally sipping from a jar of kombucha, explained how she reestablished the Ethics Committee after years of hiatus. She also held sexual assault hearings.

After the event, Ms. Young expressed disappointment that Sen. Serrano was late due to parent conferences at school. 

“I think he could have just stayed home,” she said.

However, she was encouraged that by Sen. Rivera’s efforts at health care legislation.

According to Sen. Rivera, there’s more to do. “[We’re] just getting the training wheels off.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, PoliticsComments (0)

Don’t vote for me

Dan Padernacht, a former candidate for the 33rd Senate district, sits in his Bronx office.

Dan Padernacht, a former candidate for the 33rd Senate district, sits in his Bronx office.

Dan Padernacht stood next to the turnstiles of the Mosholu Parkway subway station yesterday, greeting early-morning commuters with political fliers and a grin that masked any disenchantment over his washed-up campaign for state senator.

The 34-year-old Bronx real estate lawyer was in the unusual position of convincing voters to cast their ballots for his former political rival, Gustavo Rivera. Padernacht teamed up with Rivera when he realized he couldn’t win, in an effort to take down the incumbent in the Democratic primary race for the 33rd Senate district, Pedro Espada, Jr.

So there he was at 7:20 a.m., the day before the primary, dressed in an unassuming dark brown suit, standing alongside Rivera and Councilman Oliver Koppell, trying to be the least popular political figure amongst voters.

Two days before he officially withdrew from the race on Sept. 5, the New York Times endorsed Rivera, calling Padernacht a distraction and questioning his understanding of state issues.

“What I wanted to do from the very beginning was just kind of tell people, ‘These are the candidates. Come out and vote,’” said Padernacht, who admits to now having a jaded view of journalism. “I tried doing that as long as possible. Then it came to a point where a lot of papers only wrote about me being a spoiler and that was it.”

Padernacht had also suffered another setback a day prior to the Rivera endorsement. A 1,300-plus word New York Times article entitled, “Critics Root for Espada’s Exit, but He’s Dug In,” reported in passing that Padernacht had done pro bono legal work for State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., an Espada supporter.

“The truth is I’ve never done pro bono work for Senator Díaz himself. The truth is I was part of a pro bono program, which was set up by the New York state attorney who was assigned to Rubén Díaz,” Padernacht said of his work in the summer of 2008 with lawyer Luis Sepulveda, who is a current candidate for the 76th district state assembly seat. “Basically, at that point, they were trying to say, ‘Well, you were doing free legal work for Senator Díaz,’ which wasn’t true. I was doing legal work for poor people who couldn’t afford an attorney.”

Padernacht thought his portrayal in the media would confuse voters. He predicted he could take second place in the race, but that Espada would still win. Estimating that he held about 3,500 votes that could go toward defeating the state senator, Padernacht did what he thought was best for the community where he was born and raised. He tried to serve the greater good.

Rivera was grateful, at least. “It shows the kind of community activist that Dan is,” Rivera said of his withdrawal. “We feel that there hasn’t been true representation here, because we have somebody who does not respect the people here. The best way is to get rid of Espada, and the best way to do that is together.”

By 8 a.m. Padernacht had parted ways with Rivera and company and headed back to his law office. He strolled past P.S. 95, his own elementary school on Sedgwick Avenue, where he attended before J.H.S. 143 and Fordham Preparatory High School.

About a quarter mile further he walked into a group of buildings by Giles Place historically known as the Sholem Aleichem Houses, where he grew up, lives and works.

His office is in the ground floor of a five-story brick walk-up, and the walls are covered in memories: diplomas from Fairfield University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, and John Marshall Law School in Chicago where he earned his law degree.

Encased in glass above his desktop computer rests the orange T-shirt he wore for the 2009 ING New York City marathon. Padernacht ran as a member of Fred’s Team, a program that supports the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Written in pen along the front are the words, “In Memory of Howard Padernacht,” his father who first came to the housing complex in 1949 and died of throat cancer almost a year and a half ago.

His mother Pamela, who still lives in the same complex, is a second grade teacher at Our Lady of Angels; and his two brothers, Steven and Michael, work out of their shared office.

“When they talked about how Gustavo’s the favorite and everything, they hadn’t walked through this neighborhood,” said Padernacht’s younger brother, Steven, who described his act to back out of the race as noble. “This is our area.”

“I had a core of people here in these buildings. It’s people I’ve known for a very long time,” said Padernacht, who also serves on his local community board. “For me, I’m just disappointed.”

He had to pull down his large vinyl banner for candidacy that was hung on the corner of Sedgwick and West 238th Street. He’s taken down signs, recorded robocalls, and updated his Facebook to show he’s now backing Rivera.

Aside from personal appearances, the only other way to spread the word is through the very institution on which he remains skeptical: the media.

“What I’ve learned over the last few months, right or wrong, the media has huge influence on elections,” Padernacht said.

Today, Padernacht plans to vote up the street at Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation Center. He’ll see his name on the ballot, and he’ll have to place a vote for someone else. As for the rest of his supporters, he’s unsure where they’ll fall.

“Now what they’re going to do, I don’t know,” Padernacht wondered. “Will they stay home? Will they go vote? Will they vote for Gustavo? I don’t know.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Northwest Bronx, PoliticsComments (2)