Politics

The Point previews City Council election

A dozen teens from The Point’s youth leadership group, A.C.T.I.O.N., gathered with a smattering of adults on Jan. 27 in the community center’s dance studio to watch BronxNet’s live feed of a public forum introducing candidates for the open 17th City Council district seat.

Contrary to the buzz at Pregones Theater in Mott Haven, where the forum took place, the gathering at The Point was sparsely attended despite advance publicity.

One candidate who drew some attention was 25-year-old Amanda Septimo, a former A.C.T.I.O.N. member who until recently worked as Rep. Jose E. Serrano’s district director, and is the youngest of the 11 candidates vying for the seat held until Dec. 31 by Maria del Carmen Arroyo.

Longtime Hunts Point resident Carl Van Putten, 83, said he was intrigued by Septimo.

“I like Amanda’s background right now. While she is very young, it shouldn’t be held against her,” he said.

Most of those who had gathered and were of voting age said they were still undecided on a candidate. Audrey DeJesus, 55, cited transportation as a top priority, and said replacing Arroyo after her 10 years in office would be a tall order.

“Whoever wins now, they’re going to be under a microscope,” said DeJesus, who was Arroyo’s neighbor growing up.

Each time Septimo made mention of the programs and initiatives The Point has spearheaded over the years, the thin crowd cheered. A.C.T.I.O.N.’s director, Rebecca Rosado, said the teens would be following the race with particular interest on issues such as gentrification and criminal justice, both of which spurred multiple questions at the forum.

“These are the issues that affect them most closely because they see them in their lives,” Rosado said.

While the district will soon have its first new City Council member in more than a decade, the election has yet to make a splash in the district.

Michael Beltzer, 30, a politically active Soundview resident who came to watch the screening, said he tried handing out fliers for the event at a nearby subway station, but no one took them. Beltzer, who said candidate Julio Pabon was a mentor to him, said it was “unconscionable” for Arroyo to resign two years short of the end of her term to take a lucrative job in the private sector.

“The people of the Bronx deserve better than that,” he said.

Rosado, who doesn’t live in the district, said it is vital that whoever gets elected be active in the community and that interacting with constituents should be a top priority.

“I want to actually see your face up and down these streets on a regular summer day,” she said.

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