Click for larger image
Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Miguel Martinez, Dem 11,684 - 77 percent
Nilda Luz Rexach, Rep 1,783 - 12 percent
Ydanis A. Rodriguez, WF 1,210 - 8 percent
Giovanni A. Puello, Ind 452 - 3 percent
Miguel Martinez 4,116
Roberto Lizardo 3,773
Ydanis A. Rodriguez 3,110
Victor Morisete-Romero 2,267
Fransesca Castellanos 547
Tirso Santiago Pina 393
Giovanni A. Puello 390
Ruben Dario Vargas 273
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Guillermo Linares (can't
run in 2001)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Francesca Castellanos
to Roberto Lizardo
to Miguel Martinez
to Victor Morisete-Romero
to Tirso Santiago Pina
to Giovanni Puello
Nilda Luz Rexach has not filed
to Ydanis Rodriguez
to Ruben Dario Vargas
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
10 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org
Five Candidates, Four Issues, One Nationality
It is a neighborhood that has long been one of the most important
campaign stops for any presidential candidate - any presidential
candidate from the Dominican Republic that is. Dominican immigrants
and their children make up the vast majority of District 10 in
Northern Manhattan, and there is every sign that the influx from
that Spanish-speaking island in Caribbean, which has been taking
place over three decades, will continue. But one thing is new.
The residents are becoming U.S. citizens. And so now the Dominicans
of District 10 have turned their attention to their own neighborhood,
which encompasses Washington Heights and portions of Inwood and
Marble Hill across the Harlem River to the north, an area largely
working class and home to many small privately owned businesses,
especially groceries and retail stores.
All five City Council candidates are of Dominican descent, and
all of them Democrats, looking to take over from Guillermo Linares,
the first Domin ican-American City Councilmember.
More immigrants have moved into the neighborhood since 1992 than
anywhere else in the city, mostly from the Dominican Republic
but also from Russia, South America and China. This massive immigration
has lead to overcrowding in public schools and in the neighborhood
as a whole, a housing crunch, and problems getting affordable
medical treatment. There are also strained relationships with
police officers. These are the issues that the candidates are
concerned about - and the fields in which most of them have worked
in one capacity or another in the community.
"The biggest issue is housing," said Miguel Martinez, a former
Democratic District Leader who is now the Harlem program director
Horizon, which offers services to victims of domestic violence.
Only three percent of residents own the houses they live in, the
lowest rate of home-ownership in the city. "We want to focus on
building affordable housing," Martinez said, "and maybe rezoning
some areas from commercial to residential." All the candidates
are also ardent advocates of rent stabilization laws
School District 6, which includes George Washington High School,
is the most overcrowded in the city, said Ydanis Rodriguez, a
former public high school teacher.
"We need to build more schools, get better teachers and more
resources," Rodririguez said, "And increase the number of after
school programs, both in weekdays and Saturdays. We should also
increase programs that are connected with the colleges. There
should be a real bilingual education."
The problem with health coverage in this area is two-fold. As
Miguel Martinez pointed out, many undocumented workers are afraid
of applying for health coverage and revealing their illegal status.
It is hard enough to find affordable health coverage for many
new legal immigrants who don't understand the system, especially
for many college students who only work part time and are not
"The Childhealth Plus health insurance program should be expanded
to the age of 21," said Victor Morisete-Romero, the director of
the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans. "There are
over 21,000 youth who'd be covered because right now it doesn't
cover that age gap."
"We should also have more school based clinic programs that offer
preventive medicine to children. There are seven in Washington
Heights right now," Morisette-Romero said. "They are relatively
inexpensive, and save money in the long run."
The last time the neighborhood got world-wide attention was in
1992, when a police officer shot a young Dominican named Kiko
Garcia, which led to three days of rioting, and much ill-will
with the police. But the relations between the community and the
police have improved since then. "It's a work in progress," Morisete-Romero.
"We need more minority officers in minority neighborhoods. It
creates a different atmosphere if somebody can communicate to
an officer in their own language."
Ydanis Rodriguez would hold "more open town hall meetings with
the community and the police. Do it regularly, every two to three
months so the police and community can get to know each other."
It is too early to pinpoint a front-runner, but it is likely
that the voters may be split by the endorsements of two influential
Incumbent City Councilmember Guillermo Linares has endorsed Victor
Morisete-Romero. Adriano Espaillat, a State Assemblyman whose
assembly district includes District 10, has endorsed Miguel Martinez.
The two politicians represent rival activist factions in the area.
On the other hand, these are not the only candidates with political
connections, and political experience. Roberto Lizardo, the president
of Community School Board 6, has run for City Council before,
in 1997. Giovanni Puello held various positions in the office
of Manhattan Borough President C.
Virginia Fields. Ydanis Rodriguez led a student union at CUNY
budget cuts and has the current edge in fundraising.
With the candidates having such similar backgrounds and voters
representing similar interests, the races will likely be decided
by a handful of votes, most of them Democrats, most of them Dominican.
Six new candidates have entered the City Council race in district
10, and while most are Democrats and Dominicans, the pool of candidates
has expanded to include Puerto Ricans and Republicans.
For the most part the candidates remain focused on four issues:
schools, housing, affordable health care, and police/community
relations. Roberto Lizardo, president of Community School Board
6, said he will continue to fight for equal distribution of city
funds and resources to students in Upper Manhattan who he says
have not received their fare share. Lizardo has been working with
Robert Jackson, a candidate in Council district 7, who helped
bring a lawsuit by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which ordered
the state to give more money to New York City's schools.
Lizardo also plans to open up more after-school programs and
youth centers so children can have a supervised environment to
play in. "If you look around kids don't even have a basketball
court, they improvise using garbage cans and milk cartons," said
Lizardo. "And these kids are easy targets to someone with a gun,
or someone selling drugs."
Giovanni Puello, who has served as the Manhattan Borough President's
liaison to Northern Manhattan said his main priorities are housing
and economic development. He plans to create an employment vocational
training center where local residents, particularly high school
drop-outs, can acquire needed skills in order to enter the labor
market. "We have in Washington Heights what the national economy
needs," said Puello. "We have human resources, young and healthy
people for the labor force."
Puello also plans to introduce legislation that would transfer
city-owned property to tenants as a way to keep rent down, while
also providing training for tenants on how to manage and care
for their property.
Tirso Santiago Pina said the biggest problem he sees in his community
is education, but that the problems begin before the children
reach school age. "When we don't have a strong family and the
mother has to live alone that is difficult for her, and then we
don't have a strong teacher in that school, and then we don't
have a strong principal," said Pina. He feels the curriculum has
to be changed in schools to be more culture centered, so children
have more Hispanic and African-American role models. "In the Spanish
community we don't talk about Hispanic heroes and we have to talk
about that," said Pina.
Francesca Castellanos, who grew up in Washington Heights and
is of Puerto Rican descent, said there is a divide between different
Hispanic groups that is evident in incidents with police officers.
Castellanos said Puerto Rican officers sometimes clash with Dominican
residents and vice versa, and no amount of police sensitivity
training helps. She feels police officers should be required to
finish a four-year college because college provides a chance for
people to become more educated about other cultures. She also
wants to work on expanding the power of the City Council so any
city council member can introduce a bill and not just the Speaker
as is the present policy. "If you don't get along with the Speaker
then that's not fair because your bill will never be introduced,"
The lone Republican candidate, Nilda Luz Rexach, said she is
running as a Republican because the party tells you how to help
yourself and help others. "When I tell people about what the Republican
Party stands for they immediately ask if they can switch over,"
Rexach said. She added that there are more Republicans in the
district than many think, especially in the Cuban and Jewish communities.
Francesca M. Castellanos grew up in Washington Heights
and attended Lehman College where she received her bachelor's
degree in Political Science and Sociology. She is also a certified
rape crisis counselor, immigration counselor and interpreter and
has worked for the city in the private sector and in not-for-profit
agencies. She has organized tenants association in her community
helping tenants obtain much needed repairs in buildings and gaining
assistance rent abatements and reductions.
Roberto Lizardo is currently President of Community School
Board 6 and supervisor of the lead poisoning prevention program
of the Department of Health of the City of New York. He received
his bachelor's degree in Bilingual Bicultural Education from Lehman
College and his postgraduate degree in Lead Poisoning Control
and Prevention at Cornell University. He was co-founder of the
Latin Caucus at New York University. He has also worked as a drug
prevention counselor for the Washington Heights Coalition of Community
Miguel Martinez was a Democratic District Leader and a
bilingual teacher for six years before being appointed to Community
Board 12. He received his bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice
Planning and Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
and continued his post-graduate studies in Urban Policy. He is
currently the Program Director for Victims Services in Washington
Heights and Harlem Child Care/Domestic Violence Network. He is
also now working on a series of community forums that provide
information and resources to parents whose children have been
affected by asthma and lead poising.
Tirso Santiago Pina (no information available).
Victor Morisete-Romero worked for ten years in the office
of Councilmember Linares and is currently the executive director
of the Association of Progressive Dominicans. He established the
Amber Charter School and helped create the Twenty First Century
Academy for Community Leadership, a dual language public school.
He obtained his bachelors degree in Political Science from City
College and a masters degree in Business Administration from Audrey
Cohen College. He is currently finishing another masters in International
Relations at City College
Giovanni Puello, former teacher and Bodega owner, served
as the Manhattan Borough President's liaison to Northern Manhattan
and later as the assistant director of the Northern Manhattan
Office. While in this position, Puello monitored local banks for
compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act and has assisted
the Northern Manhattan Community Planning Board in developing
its community development plan. Puello also served as the head
of the Constituent Services Unit, where he monitored the delivery
of county-wide services for over three million residents and visitors.
He is a graduate of the Center for Conflict Resolution.
Nilda Luz Rexach, a retired school teacher after 35 years,
is also a host to her own one-hour cable television show where
she interviews local artists. In addition she also volunteers
as the artistic supervisor of another cable television show where
they talk about community news and issues. Rexach obtained her
masters degree in Bilingual education from Hunter College. She
is the author of "The Hispanic Cookbook."
Ydanis Rodriguez is the Executive Director of La Union
de Jovenes Dominicanos, Inc. and the founder of Dominicans
2000. As president of Union de Jovenes Dominicanos, Rodriguez
helped create a college preparatory program run from City College.
Rodriguez received a masters degree from City College in Bilingual
Education and taught for several years in New York City public
Ruben Dario Vargas, an evidence specialist in the New
York City Police Department, has run numerous times unsuccessfully
for both U.S. Congress in the 15th district and in 1997 for Manhattan
Borough President. He graduated from City College with a bachelors
degree in political science and a masters from Cornell University
for management and labors relations.
The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race.
10th District (Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill): Councilman
Guillermo Linares, who became the first Dominican-born elected
official in the city, is now leaving, and there are eight candidates,
all of Dominican descent, vying to succeed him. Victor Morisete-Romero,
a former aide to Mr. Linares with a background in bilingual education,
stands out as the most qualified by virtue of his experience and
his proposals. He should serve his district well in a year when
many members are struggling to learn the ropes. He has thoughtful
ideas about improving Council oversight and monitoring the School
Construction Authority. Our endorsement goes to Victor Morisete-Romero.
The New York Times called this one of the ten races to watch.
This district in Washington Heights, the city's Dominican heartland,
has attracted eight Democratic candidates, all Dominican. But
the race is the latest installment in the battle between the surrogates
of the city's two Dominican elected officials: Assemblyman Adriano
Espaillat and City Councilman Guillermo Linares, who cannot run
again because of term limits. (New York Times)
With dozens of City Council seats open and a slew of unknowns
hoping to fill them, candidates can use any edge. Victor Morisete-Romero
may have one. A cable access television station has been running
ads for his Washington Heights nonprofit agency, serving as a
great promotion for his City Council bid. (Daily
With term limits forcing 36 of the 51 City Council members into
retirement next year, an unprecedented number of foreign-born
New Yorkers are already laying the groundwork to run for the vacated
seats. "There is a chance for new blood," said Ydanis Rodriguez,
33, a Washington Heights teacher and activist who's among an estimated
seven Dominican-Americans seeking to replace City Councilman Guillermo
Linares. "I think that would benefit all the people of New York
Last year, Council candidate Nilda Luz Rexach, 71, a former schoolteacher
who calls herself "the Hispanic Johnny Carson," ran unsuccessfully
for State Assembly. She is a determined voice of unabashed conservatism
in the predominately Dominican neighborhood of Washington heights.
In deeply Dominican Washington Heights, a battle is brewing between
old and emerging leaders in the 10th councilmanic district, which
was carved out for this burgeoning Latino community. The council
seat, like 35 others citywide, will become available in 2001 because
of term limits. And two warring political factions are trying
to negotiate a peace to divide up this prime Democratic power
base and oppose a third contender. In 1991, Guillermo Linares,
the current City Council member for the district, scored a major
breakthrough when he became the first Dominican-born official
in the country. His longtime rival, Adriano Espaillat, lost in
the '91 council primary, but went on to win the 72nd Assembly
District seat in 1996. (He defeated Brian Murtagh, who had Linares's
endorsement.) Espaillat retaliated by throwing support behind
Roberto Lizardo--now the local school board president' against
Linares in a 1997 primary. "Mr. Linares and I have not always
seen eye-to-eye," the assemblyman says, "but there seems to be
an effort to reconcile lately." Both Linares and Espaillat are
Democratic district leaders. Linares's club is the Northern Manhattan
Concerned Democratic Coalition, while Espaillat's is the Northern
Manhattan Democrats for Change. According to Espaillat, hosting
a reception for Hillary Clinton at a Dominican restaurant brought
him and Linares closer. "We also worked on hurricane relief for
the Dominican Republic." he says. (Village
An article candidate Miguel Martinez wrote on asthma in Washington