- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf BxNN EXCLUSIVE: A Potential Espada Challenger Emerges | Bronx News Networkbronx

Monday, February 8, 2010

BxNN EXCLUSIVE: A Potential Espada Challenger Emerges

Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter speaking at a July 15 Kingsbridge Armory rally 
at Our Lady of Refuge Church. (File photo by Adi Talwar)

By Alex Kratz

Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a Bronx activist who became the face of last year’s strong community push for living wage jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory, is exploring the possibility of making a run at the state Senate seat occupied by Pedro Espada, Jr.

In the past two weeks, in preparation for a possible run, Pilgrim-Hunter has begun assembling a team of advisors and has quietly reached out to potential donors and supporters.

“The next few weeks will basically be a stress test to see what kind of support is out there for me,” Pilgrim-Hunter, 53, said in an interview over the weekend. “But I am taking steps to prepare myself should I decide to run. Because one thing is for certain: if I get in, I'm getting in to win. And it’s as simple as that.”

So far, Pilgrim-Hunter said she has received positive feedback, including this accolade from the head of the retail workers’ union.

"Desiree is someone I know well from the Kingsbridge Armory campaign, where for years she fought for community benefits including living wages and workers' rights,” said RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum in a statement provided through a Pilgrim-Hunter advisor. “She has proven herself to be a strong and effective advocate for the community. The RWDSU is proud to have worked with her."

Pilgrim-Hunter was reluctant to offer specific criticism of Espada, who became Senate majority leader last summer after siding with Republicans in an ugly power struggle that highlighted the state legislature's dysfunctional political culture. (Espada was rewarded with the title of majority leader in exchange for returning to the Democrats.)

But she did not have a problem attacking Albany’s sinking reputation.

"No one is happy with what's gone on in Albany over the past year or so. People are angry and distrustful of the process,” Pilgrim-Hunter said. “But my message would be, in spite of these feelings, we cannot simply just look away. Because if we don't pay attention to politics we get the candidates we deserve.”

In 2008, Espada defeated incumbent Efrain Gonzalez who was, at the time, awaiting trial on federal corruption charges. Espada soundly defeated Gonzalez but garnered less than 5,000 votes.

This would be Pilgrim-Hunter’s first foray into politics. She does, however, have some experience running for office.

Three years ago, Pilgrim-Hunter led a successful campaign to replace the executive board at Fordham Hill, a large co-op development near Fordham Road, which counts among its 4,000 residents Assemblyman Jose Rivera and former City Councilman Israel Ruiz, Jr. In the process, Pilgrim-Hunter was elected board president and has helped stabilize the co-op's shaky finances.

For the past five years, as a vocal leader for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, the area’s oldest and largest grassroots organizing group, Pilgrim-Hunter has fought to alleviate school overcrowding, taken on Wall Street for its role in the foreclosure crisis and played a crucial role in fighting for responsible development at the Kingsbridge Armory. The Village Voice recognized her in November as one of the city's “unsung heroes” and has been honored by Congressman Jose Serrano for her community work.

Her nascent effort has already attracted support from different parts of the district, which stretches from Kingsbridge to Mount Hope.

Concerned that no one had yet surfaced to run against Espada, Kingsbridge Heights resident Jack Marth invited friends and neighbors, including allies of Pilgrim-Hunter's, to his house last month to discuss the race. Marth, an attorney who directs the legal clinic at Part of the Solution (POTS) in Bedford Park, and even considered running himself lest Espada run unopposed, believes Pilgrim-Hunter will attract broad support.

“A lot of people who haven't been involved in political campaigns are very interested in this campaign and want to put a lot of time and effort into it,” he said, adding that tenants' rights advocates like himself who are disappointed in Espada's record as chair of the Senate's Housing Committee will be drawn to the effort.

Yorman Nunez, who mounted a volunteer-fueled campaign for City Council in the 14th District last year before pulling out over the summer, says his campaign's experience will now be put to good use.

“My race was about getting the people of the community trained and ready to elect people from the community,” he said.

Asked for comment, Espada's spokesman, Franck Laboy Strongbow said, “Frankly, I think it’s a little early to be commenting on potential candidates.” He added, “I think that even those who disagree with Senator Espada on certain issues would agree that he has been, on the whole, good for the district.”

Even for the diverse, immigrant-heavy Bronx, Pilgrim-Hunter’s background is unusual. Born to Guyanese parents in London, she immigrated to New York City from Lagos, Nigeria in 1962. For the past 25 years, she has lived in the Bronx, where she has raised her two daughters and continues to live with her husband. She recently became an American citizen.

After witnessing the overcrowding in her daughter’s high school, John F. Kennedy in Riverdale, Pilgrim-Hunter, who has worked in cosmetics and fashion retail and as a welfare-to-work counselor, decided to join the Coalition and demand more space and smaller classes at public schools.

Pilgrim-Hunter, now a member of the Coalition's executive board, advocated turning part of the Armory site into four new public schools with 2,000 new seats.

This past year, Pilgrim-Hunter became the public face of the Coalition’s and Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance’s (KARA) effort to guarantee living wage jobs at a revamped Armory, which the city was planning on turning into a shopping mall.

After it became clear the city and the developer would not guarantee living wage jobs, Pilgrim-Hunter and KARA successfully lobbied to have the project scrapped. In December, the City Council killed the proposal in a rare and overwhelming defeat of a Bloomberg-backed development project.

Pilgrim-Hunter said the rejection of the Armory plan sent a message to the mayor and developers. “Development should be about creating a partnership with the community,” she said. “[The mall plan] was not a true partnership.”

If she runs, Pilgrim-Hunter said she will make the community a partner in the political process as well.

“For me, politics is about making sure the community’s voice is part of every conversation or policy decision in Albany,” Pilgrim-Hunter said. “It’s about being faithful to the best interests of this community, and putting the people first. If I get into this race, the people of this district will know that my loyalty to them is not for sale at any price."

Jordan Moss contributed to this article.


  1. I'm glad she is someone who is from the community, who fights for the community. I will keep an eye on this one. Mrs. Hunter seems incredibly strong and able to take this, especially if the community and unions support her.

  2. If she really lives in the Bronx, if she is honest, is she can remain honest, if she will not be "bought," if she will represent her community, if she will not give away "free" food to get on the ballot, if she has no personal agenda - she'll get my vote.

  3. I'm so excited that an actual Bronx resident, who has the years I've known her given selflessly of her time to make the Bronx better, is considering running for this seat! Run, Desiree, run!

  4. Should she decide to run (And I encourage you to run Mrs. Hunter!), it already appears that she has gotten your vote Anonymous 1:55pm. We need to beat this Espada creep!

  5. "I've Been dying for someone to try to take Espada out, Hopefull Miss Hunter puts together a strong campaign.I would would work on it"

  6. Listen people, i want espada out just like the rest of us but there has to be much more competition then this women right here. This has to be a joke. He may be what he is but its going to take someone much more skilled and someone that has more experience then just a community activist

  7. I'm confused by the comment above. Espada and alot of the Bronx's politicians have alot of experience and what exactly have they done but sold the Bronx to the Yankees. "Experience" isn't that what Hillary Clinton ran on. I think the political scene in 2009 showed that experience leads to stagnation on the economy, healthcare, and almost any form of legislation. It's not experience we need but new ideas and fresh perspectives, that's why Ms. Hunter will definitely have my vote.

  8. Desiree fits the profile of what this district needs. Someone who doesnt have the experience of politics as usual in the bronx(corruption, scandal, indictment, etc.) and is grassroots. I hope she decides to run and starts soon, I will vote for her... against Espada... I am willing to be out on the streets volunteering doing what ever needs to get done to win! Go Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter!

    let me know how I can get involved. bronxbomber7686@gmail.com

  9. Hey, anonymous Espada shill who claims we need someone who is "more than just a community activist,." Didn;'t a "community activist" just win the presidency in a landslide? So your lame attempt to cast aspersions on "this women right here" ain't gonna fly, Espada shill.

  10. Sorry but if you click the links that the article provides, I think you will see she is MORE than qualified. As the president of Fordham Hill she had to manage a budget in the millions. In K.A.R.A. she had to work with unions, electeds, and community based organizations. Finally, as an ACTUAL resident of the 33rd senate district and for over 20 years I might add, she knows what the neighborhood has been through (and her children got an education here so she probably understands the frustrations of parents in the school system). In my opinion that makes her more qualified than practically any Elected official in the Bronx that first ran for office. Definitely more qualified then Espada.

  11. Whenever an issue pops up within the 33rd District, Desiree is one of the first to respond to them. I'd rather have her over Espada, Efrain Gonzalez, Baez, or any corrupt politicians any day.

  12. As North West Bronx Democrats continues the fight for "protecting" The NW Bronx over a 30 year oversight of political mismanagement, we will look at this consideration highly. On a personal note, Desiree, my dear.....(my community activist..lol)...ADVICE #1....for the stress....(Drink water @ Dont change...lol)

    Advice 2........www.westsidebx.blogspot.com......(as if you did not know..lol)

  13. Yorman Nunez got his people ready for a fight goes out there and takes their money.....makes them go up and down the stairs to collect signatures and then sold all that hard work for a JOB....let's hope desiree is different

  14. She has my full support. I was a NW Bx Coalition organizer who still works in the Bronx. I live upstate but care about communities throughout the state and want to see the best possible people representing them. I say go, Desiree. go!

  15. Finally! The Northwest Bronx might get what it deserves - an individual with integrity, guts and dedication who lives in and cares about our neighborhood. I will look forward to doing what I can to support your candidacy Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter.

  16. That sounds just like the nwbcc....live out of state and want to run the bronx so that their banks accounts can continue to groww.....all the latinos they have involve is just a way of putting up a show...

  17. It's amazing(not surprising) the lengths that Espada's groupies are willing to go to protect his horrible reputation. Shame on you because money rules you. Your letting money get in the way of helping to fix this community. These are peoples lives. Not that you guys care. Oh and let me end this by saying, No one in NWBCCC lives upstate. NWBCCC members live in the 33rd Senate District for the most part. And when Yorman bowed out (unfortunately) he was UNEMPLOYED, then worked for something he believed in again (organized against BLOOMBERG) and then became UNEMPLOYED AGAIN!!! Some big job he must have gotten. Shame on you and your boss for the havoc you are causing in my community.

  18. Born and raised in the Bronx, 22 years later I can honestly say watching the political progression and regression that conditions at times look as though they are getting better, and then when we get someone like Espada; Who lives in Mamaroneck and would sell his soul for power things go back to looking hopeless. We certainly can't fool ourselves into thinking he, or anyone of his nature, is going to provide the type of change we need in the Bronx. Bronxbomber you are so right! Mrs Pilgrim-Hunter doesn't have the same experience as the usual "corruption, scandal, indictment, etc.." She does however have the experience of being one of us! A REAL person LIVING in the COMMUNITY! Raising TWO children and married, while SHOWING her GENUINE CONCERN and BEING ACTIVE in the community where it counts most. WE NEED AND INSIDER! She is it! It is CLEAR to me that her passion for the people of The Bronx alone is what we need to make a significant change! It is in her best interest to help us, so it is our duty to give her the resources she needs.. OUR LOGIC and VOTES!! I wish you well Desiree and support your decision 100% -Best wishes!

  19. For reasons of principle, and for strategic reasons, the Bronx County Green Party will not take sides in any Democratic or Republican Party primary elections; however, we strongly encourage Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter to seek the Green Party nomination to run for the NY state senate in the 33rd S.D. on the Green Party line in November.

    The BCGP is currently actively searching for a suitable candidate to oppose Espada, and based on Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter's solid experience as a grassroots community activist and organizer with established roots in the community, her qalifications are, on first impression, outstanding.

    The BCGP believes that there are several compelling reasons for an independent, progressive activist to choose to run on the Green Party line rather than in the Democratic Party primary; and in point of fact, more and more activists are beginning to agree with us.
    Among the more salient reasons:

    (1) If one runs in the Democratic primary and loses, one will, of course, not be on the ballot in the general election in November; whereas by gaining the Green Party nomination, and submitting qualifying petitions, one is assured of a ballot line in November;

    (2) On the other hand, even if one WINS the Democratic Party primary, one may still have to
    FACE OFF AGAINST Espada A SECOND TIME in November; the senator is, after all, a past master at party-label quick change artistry.

    (3) Turn-out in Democratic primaries has been dropping; and when turn-out is low, primaries tend to be dominated by party regulars, who generally favor incumbents; in the general election, on the other hand, one can tap into a much larger base of independent, progressive voters, many of whom are not even eligible to vote in the Democratic primary;

    (4) Running as a Green on the Green Party line in November, enables an independent progressive to assemble a combined volunteer campaign ground operation from at least three distinct sources working in tandem:

    (a)community activists, including new volunteers;
    (b) Democratic Party independents and dissidents;
    (c) Green Party volunteers, infrastructure services, and expertise;

    The BCGP would welcome holding an exploratory discussion concerning her candidacy with Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter if she is so inclined; and regardless of the outcome of our talks we salute her for her past work, and for coming forward at this time; and we wish Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter all the best.

    John H. Reynolds (for the Campaign Committee)
    Bronx County Green Party

    Green Party activist: 9 years
    Peace, Justice, & Environmental activist: 43 yrs
    Kingsbridge resident, 33 SD, 81 AD: 59 years

  20. Many people with NWBCCC, especially those in leadership, are not from the district. Will this be a minus for Desiree?

    The district is made up mainly of Latinos, will this work against Desiree?

    Espada will not funds to go against Desiree. Also, he is an incubent, who normally win 97% of time.

    Highly doubtful she will receive the endorsement of the Democratic party, since Espada is the majority leader in the senate. She also will not have the support of any of the district leaders.

    What do you think?

  21. K.A.R.A. demonstrated that it had solid support in the community in its campaign against the Kingsbridge Armory project, and in favor of a living wage agreement; so the residency of the leadership of the NWBCCC will not necessarily work against Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter.

    The fact that the district is largely Latino will surely work against Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter given the city's traditional ethnic political divides. It need not be an insuperable obstacle, however, if Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter can convince voters that she has worked, and will continue to work to bridge ethnic and racial divides, reaches out to the Latino community, and shows a genuine commitment to advocate for issues of special concern to Latinos.

    Building up a campaign war-chest adequate to mount a credible run against the well-funded Sen. Espada will be a major challenge, of course.

    Lack of support from the leadership of the Democratic Party will place huge obstacles in Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter's path if she chooses the Democratic primary path; and is just one more
    reason why she should seek to run on the Green Party line.

    ==John H. Reynolds


  23. I'm not sure why one of the anonymous commenters on this blog think most of the NWBCCC leadership don't live in the 33rd Senate District. All of us live in the Northwest Bronx (unlike Espada), and most of us live in the 33rd Senate District (ditto).

  24. As a 30 year resident (in now the 33rd Senate District) and to clear up some of the confusion on this thread. NWBCCC is a wonderful organization created in 1974 to keep the preservation of The NWB.
    As evolution begins, so does the organization. As leaders lead, and get older, younger ones begin to take old-the older ones-step back-and yes-some leave (but not their heart)

    As a Once proud Voting Captain in NWBCCC (1999-2004)I am very honored to see Desiree & Yorman move up-while the older (myself and others on this blog) let them lead-----but most of us are still here

    NOW THE PAID STAFF.........IN WHICH MOST DO NOT LIVE HERE....YES THATS A PROBLEM...Not for desiree....but for NWBCCC....

    As suggested by the community but not yet applied, one hopes NWBCCC abandons the once James Mumm policy of hiring OUTSIDERS and hope that NWBCCC, since their coffers are now overflowing, to share these resources with the long term leadership already established.
    The result=A Stronger Community

  25. I am glad to see someone involved with NWBCCC and Kara run, and she sounds like a dynamic and interesting person. I really want to see Espada gone from our district. I am concerned, however, that she doesn't have a critique of Espada. I think to be an effective candidate she needs to learn more about the things he has done, and how they have hurt the district and the people of the Bx and not just criticize Albany, although for sure it deserves it.

  26. I've never heard of her. But I don't live in the bronx. She sounds like a force to be reckon with.

  27. I have been some problem with my connection and I thought could be my network card, how ever i wasn´t sure. So, I decided to looking for information by internet and try to understand the network problem. I am happy because all the solution which advice this blog are very useful and interesting.
    costa rica investment opportunities gave me another alternatives to do the best investment, but of course i always will need a good network.


Bronx News Network reserves the right to remove comments that include personal attacks, name calling, foul language, commercial advertisements, spam, or any language that might be considered threatening, libelous or inciting hate.

User comments are reviewed by BxNN staff and may be included or excluded at our discretion.

If what you have to say is unrelated to this particular post, please visit our readers' forum.