District 15 Central Bronx

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Joel Rivera, Dem 8,864 - 82 percent
Luana Malavolta, Rep 1,073 - 10 percent
Edwin O. Ortiz, Ind 823 - 8 percent

Primary Election Results

Joel Rivera 7,984
Edwin O. Ortiz 3,765
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Joel Rivera

The Candidates:

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Luana Malavolta has not filed
Contributors to Edwin Ortiz
Contributors to Joel Rivera

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 15

Campaign Update - 2001 Primary

The Campaign that Never Ends

The polls had barely closed in the Bronx last February when State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. began planning the next campaign. Espada's candidate, Edwin O. Ortiz Jr., had just lost to the Joel Rivera, the choice of the Bronx Democratic organization. But Espada seemed unfazed. "The minute Edwin Ortiz got 44 percent of the vote, I decided that meant that we can make that difference up," Espada told reporters.

So a mere seven months later, Rivera and Ortiz will face each other again in the primary, joined by Bronx attorney Winston Rouse. And if Rivera wins he could face a third challenge in November from Ortiz, who has staked out the Independent and Conservative lines. Republican Luana Malavolta is also running.

All this means that Rivera will have run in three campaigns all while still a college undergraduate. Ortiz is also studying for his BA but, in his mid 30s has had other jobs as well. The 23-year-old Rivera, who cites no paid employment prior to his $90,500-a-year council post, is a political science student at Fordham, getting credit for his "life experience" in Council. His father, Jose, held the seat for 13 years before running successfully for State Assembly in 2000.

While the two leading factions in Bronx politics fight over who will control the District 15 seat, the two other candidates, Rouse and Malavolta, each hope that what they see as their independence and experience will help them pull out a surprise victory. Neither has any campaign money to speak of -- Malavolta says it's too difficult to ask people for their money as well as their vote -- but argue this is not an insuperable barrier. And both are minorities in the area: Malavolta as a Republican, Rouse as an African-American in a predominantly Hispanic district

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district, click here.


  • Hispanic: 66%
  • Black, non-Hispanic: 22%
  • White,. non-Hispanic: 7%
  • Asian: 4%

Median income: 45th out of 51

Unemployment rate: 17%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

Rouse, an attorney and former New York City police officer and Secret Service agent, said he decided to run back in February when Rivera and Ortiz were seeking his vote. "The issues in the Bronx are severe," he says, "and one reason is the quality of people" in public office. Rouse is particularly hard on Rivera. "What is he doing for the community? He's living off the name." But he notes that Ortiz's campaign literature focuses on his support from Espada, not his own qualifications.

Arguing that repeated attempts to reform the public schools have failed, Rouse strongly supports school vouchers that would give parents money they could use to send their children to private schools. "In law," he says, "we have a concept 'what is in the best interests of the child?' Here we have a concept, 'what is in the best interests of the system?'" He says he would focus on reducing pollution and public education in an effort to bring down high asthma rates in the area and would fight two planned electric generators.

At least some of Malavolta's campaign springs from what she views from her apparel store off Arthur Avenue where she sees "people in and out all day long." She is focused on quality of life issues, seemingly small matters, such as garbage and noise, that can add up until, she says, they drive people away from the area.

Malavolta hopes to involve private local organizations, such as the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden, in providing after-school programs that would be funded with private grants. These institutions, she says, "are eager to introduce kids to the things they stand for."

Even though the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, Malavolta says she has a good chance of getting elected. Noting that Ortiz is running as a Conservative, she asks, "How can he possibly make the Republicans into villains?"

Posted 7/28/01

Campaign Feature - 2001 Special Election

Student Councilman?

Joel Rivera holds a unique qualification to represent the 15th Council district. The area of the central Bronx has the most students of any district in the city. And the 23-year-old Rivera is a junior majoring in political science at Fordham.

But one thing sets Rivera apart from the 24,909 other students in the district: He is the son of Jose Rivera, who served on the City Council from 1987 until he won election to the New York State Assembly in November. On February 20, voters in the 15th, which has one of the highest rates of unemployment and lowest income levels in the city, will chose a new council member in a special election.

In his quest to take his father's place and become the youngest city council member ever, Rivera has the endorsement of Bronx Democratic leaders, including party chairman Roberto Ramirez, who vacated the assembly seat now held by the elder Rivera.

Rivera's strongest opponent seems to be Edwin Ortiz, 33, who describes himself as a long-time activist and founder of Edwin Ortiz and Associates, a firm that helps people navigate bureaucracies. Ortiz has the backing of State Senator Pedro Espada, a Ramirez foe.

Julio Munoz and Juan Ramos have also filed for the race with the Board of Elections. Munoz and Ortiz both served on Community Planning Board 6, where Joel Rivera's mother, Ivine Galarza, is now district manager.

Since this is a special election and therefore technically non-partisan, each candidate has had to create a party to run under. Rivera represents what is officially named the Unity Party; Ortiz, Peoples Choice; Munoz, the Better Neighborhood Party; and Ramos, the Community Action Party. As far as could be determined these exist in name only. None of them, for example, have listed phone nunmbers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ortiz and Rivera differ sharply on Joel Rivera's fitness for office. "You can't come into our community and expect to benefit from what your father's done or hasn't done," Ortiz says. "This is not a monarchy."

But Rivera says he's "in a good position because I had the opportunity to grow up in the community and see community concerns." Now, he says, he has the chance to "give something back."

The two men also differ about the elder Rivera's performance. His son says that there has been "good leadership in the Bronx" and that he'd like to "insure that the good work continues to get done."

Ortiz, though, assails Jose Rivera's record, saying that the district's Tremont Avenue commercial strip has languished, while similar areas in the borough have revived. "What continuity are they (the Riveras) talking about?" he said.

Both Rivera and Ortiz cite a long list of community issues. Perhaps reflecting his status as a student, Rivera says he's concerned about education, particularly decreasing class size, keeping and attracting teachers and establishing after-school programs. His other interests, he says, include combating racial profiling by the police and creating affordable housing.

Ortiz, who says he began organizing tenants in the district when he was 17, lists the main issues in the 15th as housing, health matters, jobs and the quality of life, particularly drugs. He says one of his main goals as a council member would be to bring money into the community.

Certainly, the 15th has more than its share of problems. The median household income is $28,643, and some 44 percent of the residents are eligible for Medicaid. Of the district's students, 93 percent qualify for school lunch, while only 26 percent score at or above the national average in reading.

Whoever wins the election could have only a short respite from the campaign trail. The special election is a non-partisan contest in which whoever wins the most votes -- even by the slimmest of margins -- takes the seat, but only for the remainder of Jose Rivera's term. So there could be a primary fight in September and a general election contest in November. By then, Joel Rivera might be a senior trying to figure out what to do after graduation.

Posted January 2001

Note: Rivera won the special election in February.

Candidate Biographies

Luana Malavolta is a life-long resident of the district who owns a woman's clothing store off Arthur Avenue. A former member of Community Planning Board 6, she has been active in the Arthur Avenue Merchants Associations and in the 48th Precinct Community Council.

Edwin O. Ortiz Jr. is a long time community activist, who has worked on a variety of issues including housing, tenants rights and youth concerns. A former member of Community Board 6, he is founder and executive director of Young Adults Against Drugs and Alcohol. Before joining the Espada camp, he worked for a number of politicians allied with the Bronx Democratic organization, including Roberto Ramirez and Adolofo Carrion. He ran for State Assembly in 1998.

Joel Rivera was elected to City Council in a special election last February. The son of former Councilmember and currently State Assemblyman Jose Rivera, he is a Fordham University student majoring in political science. He has been involved with several community organizations including Not in My Neighborhood You Don't, Friends of Crotona Park and Tanima Productions, a youth cultural organization.

Campaign Trail

The Norwood News asks the candidates running for City Council a series of questions. If you are elected to the City Council, will it be your only job or do you plan on holding another position as well? What are your three top priorities? What specific proposals do you have concerning these priorities? As an elected official, what improvements would you propose for the Williamsbridge Oval park? Do you support the 1 percent for parks proposal? How do you propose to help solve the overcrowding problem in School District 10? Where will you have your district office? (Norwood News)

Edwin Ortiz has accused his opponent in the City Council race, Joel Rivera, of improper use of public funds in his campaign. Ortiz alleges that Rivera's mother, Ivine Galarza has misused her power as a member of the Board of Community Planning (Board 67) by spending city money from the planning board's budget to mail out campaign literature for her son. Galarza was not surprised by the allegations, countering that Ortiz fabricated the claims. "I don't doubt that Ortiz took an envelope that my office sent him and stuck any campaign literature of my son's inside it," she declared. Rivera dismissed the accusations, saying that Ortiz "has no credibility" and is "only trying to confuse the voters" (El Diaro)

City Councilmember Joel Rivera called the jailing of his father, State Sen. Jose Rivera, as well as Rev. Al Sharpton, Bronx Democratic Party chief Roberto Ramirez and City Councilmember Adolfo Carrion "a total injustice." The four were arrested for trespassing on Navy property to protest the shelling of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. (Newsday as reprinted by Newsmax)

City Councilmember Joel Rivera says he and community groups will fight plans for a proposed motel in the northeast Bronx. The community is afraid that the motel at 420 Morris Park Avenue will bring prostitution and drug trafficking back to the area. Community leaders are also concerned that the motel could eventually house homeless families. (Bronx Times Reporter)

Joel Rivera's victory in the special election for City Council from the 15th District is not surprising. What is surprising, considering the Bronx Democratic organization's support for Rivera, is his relatively small margin of victory. But forces aligned with State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., who supported insurgent candidate Edwin Ortiz, can find little comfort in losing the race in this district, nor in the way in which the race was conducted. (bronx.com)

22-year-old Joel Rivera savors his win as the youngest person ever elected to City Council. "I am nothing but a child within the village of the 15th Council District," he told supporters at Bronx County Democratic headquarters. "This campaign was 22 years in the making." Meanwhile, state Sen. Pedro Espada, who backed his rival, announced plans to run for Bronx borough president, in a continuing showdown between the Espada and the Ramirez political factions in the Bronx. (Daily News)

Among the many children seeking to follow their parents into City Council, Joel Rivera, son of former Councilmember Jose Rivera, got a head start when he won a special election on February 20. (Daily News)

In the special election in the 15th City Council district in the Bronx, a 22-year-old junior at Fordham College has been elected to his father's old seat. Joel Rivera received 2,937 votes, or 57 percent, while Edwin Ortiz received 2,246 votes, or 43 percent, according to unofficial tabulations by the City Board of Elections. It is a win as well for the Bronx Democratic Organization and its leader Roberto Ramirez. (NY Times) (Daily News)

Special Election in District 15 in the Bronx next Tuesday pits two political science majors against one another for a seat on the City Council. (Daily News)

Race for special election to the City Council in District 15 in the Bronx exposes rift in Democratic Party. (Daily News)

Three candidates are running for the vacant city council seat from District 13. The article includes biographical information on Joel Rivera and Edwin O. Ortiz Jr. (Norwood News)

Many of the District 15 candidates have served on Community Board 6 -- or their mother has. (Inner City Press' Bronx Reporter)

District 15 race represents another round in an ongoing political feud. (Daily News)

Special election to be held to fill Jose Rivera's council seat (Norwood News)


Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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