Council member Ritchie Torres was elected to New York City Council in 2013 to represent District 15 which includes neighborhoods of Belmont, Tremont, Fordham, Pelham Parkway, Van Nest, West Farms, Mount Eden, and Olinville.
What was your biggest achievement in 2013?
Torres was a tenant organizer and was the first Housing Director working for Council member Jimmy Vacca. Growing up in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) house with his mom, Torres identified with people in low-income families living in poorly maintained public housing. Torres investigated a building where illegal construction in the basement caused structural damage in the middle of the night and organized a tenant group. The group was able to recover over $90,000 in violations from the landlords.
What will you be focusing on this year?
Torres was appointed as the chair of the Committee on Public Housing, which he calls a dream come true. He will be responsible with overseeing NYCHA, an agency managing the largest stock of public housing in North America.
His primary concerns have to do with removal of mold in public housing. “It’s something I want to investigate fully,” he said.
The emergency boilers installed in houses affected by Superstorm Sandy, which have a reputation of breaking down easily under extreme temperatures, will also be addressed.
What are some of the issues your constituents are concerned about?
In terms of the major issues his constituents are most concerned about it comes down to housing and jobs. Torres wants to leverage the resources of the community to improve the earning power. He supports the expansion of minimum wage and paid sick leave. He wants this to be the standard across the city.
“A job is your greatest hope of lifting yourself out of poverty,” Torres said.
If you had a coat of arms, what would it be, and why?
For Council member Torres, the highest virtue is working hard.
“It’s not intelligence, it’s not creativity, it’s the hardest workers are the best elected officials,” he said. In high school his mascot was a lion, so he said he has grown up to have “a heart of a lion.”
“Heart is about love,” Torres said. “I see this not only as a job. I see it as a vocation.”
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.