EXCLUSIVE: Former assemblymember Javier Nieves throws hat in 38th District Council race

The race is on!

Former State Assemblymember for the 51st Assembly District Javier Nieves has informed this paper that he has decided to run for the 38th District Council seat against Councilmember Carlos Menchaca.

Nieves, a long time Sunset Park resident who graduated from Pratt Institute where he studied architecture, has been an activist in the neighborhood long before and after he became assemblymember in 1990. He now plans to bring his experience to the mix.

“What I’ve seen is that the leadership that is currently existing is not very vocal,” Nieves said. “I think there’s something to be said for people that are vested in our community, who have a history of involvement and who really care about what goes on in our community.”

Nieves believes his knowledge and care for the community separate him from his opponents. “I don’t think anyone out there that’s running that has the experience that I have in community organizing,” he said. “I was vocal back then when I got elected, I’m still vocal regarding the same issues. I will not waver on what our community needs and I think it’s a community for all of us.

“What we’ve seen recently is a lack of experience has cost Sunset Park a great deal,” he went on. “We haven’t been blessed with the best city councilmember with the last few ones we’ve had including one who had the highest rating of absenteeism in the council (Sara Gonzalez).

“We thought Menchaca was going to be this independent voice,” Nieves continued, “and we saw, not only with the issue of the waterfront lease agreement, that he pretty much signed our waterfront over to EDC without our community getting much in return.”

Bringing back jobs that benefit the community is essential to Nieves’ platform. “One of the comments that I hear constantly from the community is that none of the [new] jobs are coming to people in the community,” he said. “We need someone strong who gets along with the power brokers and knows how to cut deals and bring those resources to bear, and I believe I’m that person.”

The homeless issue in Sunset is also important to the former assemblymember. “We have these hotels popping up all over the places and Sunset Park has been inundated with this homeless crisis,” he said. “I have lived in Sunset for over 35 years and I have never seen this type of situation. You get off at the 45th Street train stop and, for the first time, there are people sleeping on the benches and certainly they need help.”

Nieves also is concerned about affordable housing. “My question is always, affordable for who?” he said. “The quality of life in our neighborhood has started to deteriorate to the point where the only people that it benefits are those developers that want to create confusion so they can gobble up the properties.”

Nieves said he understands the struggles from his own experience. “I grew up in a family of 10 and we were very poor,” he said. “I was the first in my family to graduate college. I know what it is to be hungry and cold but I also had the good fortune of having loving and caring parents who came from Puerto Rico to make a better life.”

Besides Nieves, attorney Delvis Valdes has also declared his candidacy for the seat; in addition, Crain’s has reported that Gonzalez has filed paperwork to run.

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