My name is Ydanis Rodriguez and I am the New York City Council Member representing Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill. This is the first entry of my new blog on Uptown Collective and I’d like to thank Led Black for giving me the opportunity to use this space to discuss issues important to both myself and the community of northern Manhattan. For those who know little about me, I was born in Licey al Medio in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to the United States when I was 18 years old. I have lived in New York City ever since and have been an advocate for progressive change and social justice in my time here.
After completing my education at City College, I helped to found Gregorio Luperon High School, a bi-lingual high school in Washington Heights, where I taught for 16 years. Throughout my life, education has been one of the issues most important to me and I believe it is the key to a better life. It opens many doors for people that would otherwise remain closed.
As a council member, I have been a strong advocate for immigration reform, with the hope of creating a more inclusive system for the millions of undocumented people living in this country that contribute greatly to our society; for affordable housing and tenants’ rights, especially in northern Manhattan. We currently have a housing crisis and people are moving out of the neighborhood thanks to high rent prices and neglectful landlords For equality and higher funding for education, something that is a personal issue for me and many families uptown who want to reverse the trend of poor performance in our schools. I want to increase the number of Black and Latino kids who attend college so that they may one day become our leaders and role models. For small businesses in the community that are the backbone of any neighborhood and supply the economic drive that keeps our neighborhood functioning and developing. And finally, the political and social empowerment of the people of northern Manhattan, a burgeoning neighborhood that has seen a revival in the past decade, one that I support and hope to see continue through strong civic engagement and community building projects.
As for what I am focusing on right now and for the future: I have a platform of 5 initiatives that I believe are important for bettering the community. The first is working on bringing affordable housing to northern Manhattan; second, improving the level of college readiness among students of northern Manhattan and across the city; third, improving the health and wellness of our community—a community with one of the highest levels of obesity in the city; fourth, creating more jobs so that we can get our unemployed workers back on their feet; and finally, keeping the community clean and beautiful through community clean up days and neighborhood empowerment from the ground up. If we as a community can rally around these initiatives, northern Manhattan will be an even better place to live. I love this area and I believe it can soar with the help of all our residents.
This is one of the most unique communities in the entire city and one that I am proud to represent. We have beauty, talent, intelligence and a vibrancy that can be seen on every face I pass on the street. We have amazing entrepreneurs, educators and filmmakers; athletes, artists and activists; and writers, singers and dancers, all of whom create the one of a kind culture that is uptown. Whether you’re of Latino, Black, Jewish, White, or Asian background, the consistent and unique culture found in of Northern Manhattan creates a welcoming atmosphere. The feeling can be felt from the pastelito vendors on the corner of 181st St. to the owners of great businesses like 809 on Dyckman. It can be heard on the streets with the reggaeton blasting from car speakers or from the wonderful music of the choruses in our schools. And it can be seen in the beautiful artwork of our hundreds of visual artists, who use the world as their canvases.
It is with these sentiments that I seek to reach out to my community so that we may become more familiar with each other and build upon the ties that link our community together. I will be posting on Uptown Collective regularly in the future, concerning issues that I feel are important, as well as issues that you bring up to me that are important to you.
Once again I am grateful to Uptown Collective and Led Black for allowing me to become part of this movement. It is an innovative way of keeping the people of northern Manhattan informed with what is going on in the community and the city. Knowledge is power and it is important to be aware of things going on that can affect you or your neighbors.
With that being said, I want you all to take initiative in your community to make it an even better place to live, to lift up your spirits even higher and to engage one another about how to be the most productive and positive citizens you can be.
Thank you, Pa’lante!