NEW YORK—Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo has been in the New York City Council representing District 17 since 2005. Her district includes the communities of Mott Haven, Port Morris, Melrose, Hunts Point, Longwood, Morrisania, Crotona Park, Claremont Village, Concourse Village, Woodstock, West Farms, East Tremont, Soundview, Clason Point, and Bronx River. Arroyo came into office after 15 years of work in health administration in the public sector, and 8 years in the private sector.
What was your biggest achievement in 2013?
Some of the initiatives that Council member Arroyo worked on since she was elected in 2005, was to empower the tenant groups advocating for public housing and to raise their level of participation.
“They’re the leaders, the president, the vice president, but in their positions they can advocate,” Arroyo said.
She started working with some of them six years ago, and each one then taught another one, now she meets with tenant leaders in different developments to make sure that they’re all speaking the same language and moving in the same direction.
She has been working with the government, Department of Homeless Services (DHS), and locals to get the property owners to fix their units, and to “do the right thing.” This fixing up of the units includes making sure there are no holes in the walls, that there’s heat, hot water, and a front door that locks.
“The condition that some people live in, in this city, is horrendous,” she said.
What will you be focusing on this year?
Arroyo will continue working on the new public housing developments and making sure that they have been funded for their security systems, like cameras and intercom systems. Working with the new administration, Arroyo will begin talks about the education system, the lack of parent engagement, and how the Department of Education (DOE) gets managed. Another issue to work on is putting the millions of dollars in capital funding for park improvement into action.
“For some people the quality of the park in their neighborhood is a real, serious, concern,” Arroyo said.
Somewhere in the long and winding maze of the bureaucratic city system hangs a $5 million fund for the improvement of 52 Park.
“They haven’t spent a single penny of it,” Arroyo said.
What are some of the issues your constituents are concerned about?
In Arroyo’s district, people are mostly raising issues about affordable housing. The council member has been meeting with Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the city’s housing preservation arm. The income brackets for the housing squeeze out her constituents from eligibility for the housing as they earn just a bit more than required to qualify. Arroyo is also educating her constituents about their choices as consumers, how to maintain a good credit score, and how to prepare young people for higher education. Underemployment is another issue in the district. Arroyo wants to raise people up with education and opportunities, but wishes that those who do, “stay and build from within.”
“Not everyone who has come from the South Bronx has failed. They become upward mobile, and then move out, and get replaced by someone who’s looking for upward mobility,” Arroyo said.
If you had a coat of arms, what would it be, and why?
If Council member Arroyo’s shield had four parts, she would have them represent her values. “Show up and Pay attention,” “Clear,” “Consistent,” and “Keep my word.” That’s what she describes herself in real life also, as a mother, a sibling of 6, and as a boss.
Epoch Times is interviewing members of the 2014 New York City Council to find out what their biggest achievements were last year and what they hope to accomplish in this one. For a list of all council member articles in this project, click here.