District 15
Central Bronx

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District 15 - Joel Rivera
1901 Southern Blvd, Bronx 10460
City Hall: (212) 788-6966
District: (718) 842-8100
Fax: (718) 365-5267

Committee Assignments:
Finance, member
Housing & Buildings, member
Land Use, member
Rules/Privileges & Elections, member
Standards & Ethics, member
State & Federal Legislation, member
Planning, Dispositions & Concessions, member of Land Use Subcommittee

The Most Amazing Year of My Life

By Joel Rivera

One year ago, I left school at Fordham University to run for New York City Council in a special election for the seat my father vacated. I was 22 years old and became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. A few weeks ago, I was named majority leader of the council, which makes me youngest majority leader of any legislative body in the nation.

A lot of people say, "How can we entrust this government position to a 23-year-old?" And my response is often to ask, "Did you vote for Senator Chuck Schumer?" Not many people remember that Chuck Schumer was 23 when he was first elected to the State Assembly. I am not saying that I am Chuck Schumer. He has proven himself over the years, and I am just starting out. But I do believe I have the vision and the heart to work in government.

I like to think that my political aspirations began when I was five years old. My father was elected to the New York State Assembly, and he took me to his office. On his desk was a nameplate that read J. Rivera. I saw it and I sat down in his chair. My father took a picture, which I still have today. At 15, I started an organization of urban young Democrats to get young people to register to vote. I have worked for the Bronx Democratic organization. I volunteered on many campaigns including former President Bill Clinton and former Mayor David Dinkins.

The role of the majority leader is first and foremost to be the voice of the Democratic caucus within the City Council. My vision for the majority leadership position is to speak with each individual council member to see what their agendas are, what laws they want to pass, and what financial needs they have in their districts, and then to be their voice to the Speaker of the City Council. In the past, the same person held the speaker and the majority leader positions. This year for the first time, the two positions were split. I believe the speaker decided to appoint me because the council has so many new members that he is inundated with meetings, overwhelmed with the city budget, and all that he needs to be doing.

In addition to my role of majority leader, my main job is to represent the 15th council district, which includes neighborhoods like Fordham, Belmont, East Tremont, and West Farms. My district is extremely diverse -- we have affluent and poor areas, we have people of all races, and we have a number of critical issues.

My top priority is education. We currently spend $11,453 per child on education in New York. Some say this is too much; some say this is too little. But I think we need to do more and pay our teachers salaries that are competitive with Nassau County and Westchester County. This year the city faces huge financial challenges, but our priorities have to be firm. We cannot put the burden on the backbones of our children. If we want to see them excel, we have to give them the proper resources.

In my district, we have a great educational opportunity in the Kingsbridge Armory. The Kingsbridge Armory is one of the largest facilities in New York, and it is currently being underused. We can house 1,800 to 2,000 students inside the armory, which would take a large amount of stress off the overcrowded schools in Community School District 10. The future of the armory is in limbo. There are many competing ideas about how to use the building, including developing it into a shopping mall. I am not in favor of this idea, even though I love economic development. But in this case, we already have Fordham Plaza a block away that has a lot of mom-and-pop businesses that would falter if a mall opened. And there would also be huge problems with traffic. There is already too much congestion in Kingsbridge now. If we build a shopping mall, we are going to have 18-wheeler tractor-trailers coming up and down our small streets, which would be chaos.

Another pressing issue in my community is the fact that we are one of the poorest communities in the Bronx. I want to see that changed. I have a good relationship with the mayor, who I endorsed in the last election. I also have a very good relationship with Speaker Gifford Miller, and I was also one of the first to endorse him for the position. I plan on using my relationship with them to focus on the needs of the community, schools, senior citizen centers, and youth centers. We need the police to be more motivated in the community and in their investigations to prevent crime.

Last year, I organized a campaign against the opening of a "hot sheet" motel that charged for rooms by the hour and would have brought prostitution and drugs to the area. We brought in community groups and picketed in front of the building. We worked with the State Department and the Giuliani administration and were able to close the hotel for a long enough period of time so that it was no longer profitable for the owner. Now the property is up for sale. Many people said it could not be done, but I learned that by working hard a lot can be accomplished.

This has been one of the most amazing years of my life. I have been through four elections: the special election last February, the September 11 primary that was cancelled, the rescheduled primary, and the general election. Campaigning is the most difficult part of the job. Now I just have to be mindful of what my community needs. I don't believe that I can do wrong as long as what I am doing is for the people. That is what I have been elected to do.

Joel Rivera represents the 15th district in the Bronx. Updated February 18, 2002.

Community Boards for District 15
Community Board No. 5
Bronx Community College, Philosophy Hall-Basement 5
University Ave., and W. 181st St., Bronx, NY 10453
(718) 364-2030
Mr. Kenneth Fogarty, Chair
Mr. Xavierl Rodriguez, District Manager
Community Board No. 6
1932 Arthur Ave., Rm. 709, Bronx, NY 10457
(718) 579-6990
Ms. Wendy Rodriguez, Chair
Ms. Ivine Galarza, District Manager
Community Board No. 7
229A E. 204th St., Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 933-5650
Ms. Nora Feury, Chair
Ms. Rita Kessler, District Manager
Community Board No. 9
1967 Turnbull Ave., Rm. 7, Bronx, NY 10473
(718) 823-3034
Mr. Enrique Vega, Chair
Mr. Francisco Gonzalez, District Manager
Community Board No. 11
1741 Colden Ave., Bronx, NY 10462
(718) 892-6262
Mr. Dominic Castore, Chair
Mr. John Fratta, District Manager

Community Plans for District 15 (PDF format)
197-a plan - Partnership for the Future Plan (Bronx Community Board 3)

Comprehensive Community Revitalization Plan - West Farms CCRP (West Farms Task Force & Phipps Community Development Corporation)

Ethnic Makeup and Political Registration

Ethnic Makeup

Political Registration

Public Schools

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

High Schools

To find out what school district you live in, call the Board of Education at 718-935-2000 or link to Public School Reports

Police Precincts

Although many precincts cover areas solely within one City Council district, there are many which overlap with other districts. In most cases the overlap of precincts among districts is no more than a few blocks. Wherever there is overlap, we have made sure to alert you.

City Parks
Click thumbnail for larger image of parks in this district

Learn more about the condition of the city parks in your district at the New Yorkers for Parks (PDF file).

Community Gardens

Click for larger image
Find out more about community gardens from
the Council on the Environment of New York City

Historic Districts and Landmarks
Learn more about the historic districts and landmarks in this area.

The Waterfront

map listing suggestions for use and improvement of the waterfront in this district from the Metropolitan Waterfront
Alliance. (pdf format only)