In an attempt to make our public office holders closer to their communities, Parkchester Times has decided to engage them in direct and exclusive interviews, discussing issues directly affecting residents of their individual communities. Hence, we have decided to kick off this very important engagement with William Rivera, the District Manager for Bronx Community Board 9 where Parkchester Times in located.
So who is this man and how far has he gone as a public office holder, especially in the Bronx? Read the below interview with the Chief Editor of Parkchester Times, Mutiu Olawuyi, to know what he has to tell us about himself, Bronx CB9 and his achievements so far as the District Manager.
PT: Tell us a little bit about the Bronx Community Board 9?
W. Rivera: Community Boards are the most localized NYC agency, that is a recommendation body and acts as the ambassador of their communities. Boards have several responsibilities and can be effective in making their neighborhoods a better place to live.
Community Board 9 is the largest community Board in The Bronx with over 200,000 residents. We also have a very large number of NYCHA Units. Our Board is comprised of nearly 40 unsalaried Board Members who run the show, appointed by the Bronx Borough President. The Board elects a District Manager to run the day to day operations and facilitate its vision.
Our Board is constantly re-engineering and innovating and is one of the best Boards in NYC.
PT: How about your experience as a public office holder? How did you become the District Manager of the Bronx Community Board 9?
W. Rivera: The Board creates a hiring committee which administers a very transparent and comprehensive process to select a District Manager. I was elected by the Board in 2015.
Since then it has been a lifestyle not a job. It has been a great pleasure and honor to represent our community’s best interest. Every day I go above and beyond, working long hours, improving our District one block at a time
PT: Since you became the District Manager of one of the most diverse communities in New York, what have you done so far in the area for unification of members of your community?
W. Rivera: Great question! Proudly, our community Board Members represent our diverse district. Our Board Members live in different areas of our communities and represent all our different backgrounds. In addition, my office staff are all minority women, doing incredible job in various capacities for the community.
Furthermore, we partner and host several cultural events and plan to host even more moving forward.
PT: Undoubtedly, health issue is a major challenge to most communities in Bronx. What steps have you taken and what steps are you taking to curb or drastically alleviate these health issues?
W. Rivera: We have several health issues such as asthma, obesity, and infant mortality.
Unfortunately, our Board does not have the teeth or resources to make significant policy changes, we are a recommendation body.
Our yearly budget is an estimate $248,000 a year and about 95 percent of that goes to salary. We are under staffed and under budget.
However, we constantly shed light on these issues and work together with our elected officials, health groups and movements like Lifestyle Lifespan, and hospitals to make our District and The Bronx Healthier. We have a social services committee were we discuss healthier eating and education, so a healthier Bronx is paramount in all our policies.
We partnered in several health events, just recently we partnered with Montefiore hospital to have an infant mortality event and Healthy Eating Day in Parkchester.
We have done a great job working with Universities, private & public entities, urban planners and other groups to bring additional resources to tackle many issues in our Community.
We have the most congested corridor in the USA at the Cross Bronx Expressway and Bronx River Parkway. This situation has plagued massive amount of emissions hurting our children and residents, with no cure in sight.
With limited resources I created the Cross Bronx Expressway Initiative, a round table of entities to come up with short and long term solutions. We just added Rep. AOC to the table and I hope to continue our agenda.
PT: Bronx generally is known as the most dangerous Borough in New York City. What are you and your colleagues doing to ensure public safety in the Bronx Communities?
W. Rivera: Public Safety is extremely paramount and our Public Safety committee constantly has robust conversations on how we can make our district safety.
We have one of the best relationships with our Police Commanding Officer and our neighborhood officers. I talk to the 43 PCT almost every day on crime and I am very involved with problem solving. We partner with all our NYPD Community build a block meetings, which are all listed on our face book.
Constituents constantly contact our office with quality of life issues and we input all complaints in a new software program to track our service requests.
I am also an NYPD Auxiliary Police Sargent for 21 years, and community police is a passion of mine.
PT: Obviously, homelessness is another issue to battle with in your community board. What exactly are you doing to reduce the rampant homelessness in the community?
W. Rivera: We participate and promote the NYC Count for homelessness to ensure that we get the proper resources. We have a homelessness epidemic and the Mayor is the person who sets the policies and procedures, including shelter locations.
Some tangible initiatives! We work with community partners to deliver thousands of pounds of food and hygiene bags to all our homeless shelters.
I am constantly working with the NYPD and small business to identify homeless individuals in need, especially in the winter. I sit on all the shelter Community Advisory Committees in our district and where we work together to ensure our shelters are effective and successful.
PT: What impacts have your Board made to ensure equal accessibility to education and empowerment, especially for the youth?
W. Rivera: Our Youth and Education Committee is constantly having the conversation to empower youth. I am a huge supporter of the youth. We have Youth Yankee Scholarship Awards, wherein we honor a great number of youth at our Annual Appreciation Dinner and we keep in touch with all our youth groups in the district. More so, we work with our NYPD Youth Officers, NYPD youth cadets (explorers), JROTC Military Cadets and much more.
I was elected the youngest Chairman when I was a Board Member. The links here will tell you more.
PT: How often do you engage the community members on issues that directly or indirectly affect them?
W. Rivera: Every day I am working with residents on an array of issues. We created an internal software program “Community Board Management System” (CBMS) to assist with tracking service request and constituent matters.
We also have regular Community Board Meetings and special town hall meetings.
PT: Apart from the achievement mentioned earlier, as the head of the Community Board 9, what other things have you achieved so far?
W. Rivera: We helped create RAP4Bronx a community initiative to help distribute over a half a million pounds of food in our district and the City of New York. See links below.
PT: How important was the November 3rd Presidential election to you and your community?
W. Rivera: Of course it wasn’t only important for our community; it was actually the most important day for all Americans. My office play a major role in the sensitization of voters, and I must say we were very happy with the early voting and the election day turnout.
PT: What do you hope to achieve before the end of your tenure?
W. Rivera: I want to have a remote (webex) community town hall meeting for every neighborhood and a comprehensive newsletter ending the year.
PT: What final message do you have for members of the Bronx Community Board 9?
We are going through some difficult times and we will always be here to support those in need. We are more than a community Board.
PT: Thank you for your time with Parkchester Times.
W. Rivera: It’s a pleasure, and I thank you too for having me.