The race for the Bronx Borough president has continued to heat up with a number of serving city council members declaring their intentions to battle it out in what promises to be a crowded and competitive Democratic primary set for June next year.
Victory for anyone one of the candidates in the Democratic primary will all but certain guarantee them of being the next office holder in a borough that is heavily Democratic.
Current Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr who has held the position since 2009 when he won in a special election, is term limited a result that appears to be shaping up the race to be an interesting one.
Among the candidates that have declared interest to replace Ruben Jr include City Council member Dr Fernando Cabrera, City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Victor Gutierrez and City Councilman Rafael Salamanca.
Parkchester Times recently caught up with Council Member Dr Cabrera who shared his vision for the poorest Borough in the city.
Dr Cabrera who boasts of being the longest serving council member in the Bronx also has additional responsibilities which include being the majority whip leader in the council and a chair of government operations committee at the council.
“Out of all the candidates, I have been working in The Bronx for much longer. We have passed over 40 pieces of legislation. When I just started as a council member in 2010, my district had the worst unemployment 23.5 % back in March; we brought it down to 5.7%. We have more funding than any other district for education. All my parks are funded. We have seen the transformation. We gonna need during this COVID era, somebody who is going to replicate that throughout The Bronx. We gonna need a leader. Everything falls on leadership,” said Dr Cabrera.
Born in the Bronx before migrating to Puerto Rico with his parents at the age of four, where he lived until the age of 14 when his parents relocated to California owing to his brother’s illness, Dr Cabrera later found his way back in the Bronx as a 25 year old.
On his return to the Bronx, Dr Cabrera set up a church-the New Life Outreach Internatinal, took up counseling as a profession and has been involved in a number of vocational activities in the Borough.
“I have always volunteered in vocational works. I don’t get paid by my church. I do it because I love it and because serving people has always been my passion. Since I became a substance abuse counselor and school counselor, I have worked in every high school here in The Bronx- helping kids deal with drug addiction and then I became a college professor. I understand the value of education. I have a doctorate in counseling. I understand the world that we are living in right now as a former college professor and former school counselor. I want to address those issues. I was at Mercy College where I run the graduate and mental health counseling program. I started the first mental health program in the State of New York and I started the first online program which is so relevant right now when so many students are learning online,” said Dr Cabrera.
Dr Cabrera noted that following the devastating effects that COVID-19 has had on the communities, tough times lied ahead and that the Bronx needed a leader who would tackle those challenges head on.
“If the people want someone who is real, who is going to lead by serving the community and bring the resources that are due to the Bronx. Tough times lie ahead. I am the only official who has worked in a recession at city council and we got through it. I know what it takes. In the middle of the last recession, myself and other council members were able to start the cure violence programme, the only new initiative. I know that it takes action and innovation…and those are the kinds of issues that I want to bring in so we can have a better Bronx,” he said.
Dr Cabrera said the Bronx has been cheated out of resources for so long and that the borough needed someone who would work hard as president.
“It is not equitable; that’s why we are last when it comes to health. We have a health disparity, crime issue, educational issue in terms of schools and housing problem. We need someone who is going to work hard and the only way you gonna know if that official is ready for the job, is to look at the track record. I am ready for the job. I was made for this,” he said.
Having lost his mother to the COVID-19, Dr Cabrera said he knows the pain struggle and sorrow the families affected by the coronavirus were going through.
“We gonna need someone who is gonna turn the pain into purpose, soomeone who has the passion for the Bronx. I was born here in the Bronx. I have been able to work with every single community. I wanna be able to unite people. I wanna work with every community regardless of religious background, race. My coalition is made up of people from all over the community working together. We are very proud of the works we have done such as passing the bill of rights, the school environmental bill in the city council. I have worked very well with my fellow elected officials,” said Dr Cabrera.
On New York Police Department and community relations that have strained over the years especially among the people of color, Dr Cabrera said there was a need to adopt a balanced approach.
“People in the community are asking for public safety and at the same time they want to be treated with respect. For me I think we could have both. For example the Cure violence program where we have been able to work with gang members and ex-gang members whom we provided with jobs and other services, I worked with the NYPD to be able to establish a great relationship with inspectors. Everybody wants safety. If you don’t have safety, people run out of the district and take the families elsewhere. Businesses run out. We cannot afford that right now." he said. "I have been working with the NYPD to be able to connect with the community and that’s what the communities are asking for. I am glad that we could accomplish both. I am the only one with a track record to bring down the crime rate to 66 percent out of all the people running right now. I bring results and action not just rhetoric and that’s what we need nowadays. Everyone is trying to go in the same direction. Both the NYPD and the community want a good relationship at the end of the day. The police department right now is made up of black and brown police officers and so I think that we need to have systems and structures, narratives and venues where they could have communication. They need to have monthly dialogue, honest discussions and come to a happy medium where everyone will be happy,” said Dr Cabrera.
Dr Cabrera is a family man who has been married to his wife Elvia for 33 years with two children.
“I have five grandchildren. I still feel like 25 years. My son graduated from Columbia University and my daughter from Lehman college right here in the Bronx. They both help me in the work of the church. I am half Puerto Rican and half Dominican, married to a Mexican. I have a daughter in law who is Asian so we are the United Nations family,” concluded Dr Cabrera.