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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Out and About With Gustavo Rivera, an Espada Opponent

Gustavo Rivera, a state Senate candidate, talking to potential petition signers

Early yesterday morning, State Senate candidate Gustavo Rivera and a handful of his volunteers worked the rush hour crowd on the downtown platform of the Fordham Road 4-Train station. 

They were after signatures so that Rivera can get on the ballot.

One exchange went like this:

Volunteer:  "Are you a registered Democrat living in the Bronx?"

Middle-aged man: "I don't vote. All the politicians are crooked."

When asked the same question, several other commuters pretended not to hear, and walked on, eyes straight ahead - the kind of response (or lack of) that beggars on the subway often elicit. 

Still, not everyone was so unresponsive. 

Joshua Iscoa, a local resident and computer programmer who was heading to work, even let a train pass by as he listened to Rivera's pitch.

Typically, that pitch begins with Rivera informing the potential petition signer that Pedro Espada, Jr., the current office holder, is a bad guy who has abused his position. Rivera then reels off a few of his own accomplishments: how he's an experienced educator, how he helped Obama get elected, and how he's worked for several other pols with stellar reputations, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Speaking afterwards, Iscoa said he signed Rivera's petition because "some of his qualifications sound legit."  He liked that fact that Rivera has been a teacher for many years and that he's Hispanic. "He's an Hispanic guy, you know, only a Hispanic person can understand immigration," he said.

PhotobucketFor Rivera to get on the Democratic primary ballot, he needs a thousand Iscoas. With a thousand signatures, he'll be able to challenge Espada, and anyone else who makes it, on primary day, Sept 14.  (Community activist Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter; Fernando Tirado, the district manager of Community Board 7 who's on a leave of absence from his job; and Daniel Padernacht, a lawyer, are also running.)

According to Rivera, he and his team have already surpassed this number, but they're not letting up.  Signatures can be challenged by other candidates, and ultimately thrown out by the Bronx Board of Elections, if they are illegible; if the voter signed another candidate’s petition on an earlier date; if the voter is, say, a registered Republican when the candidate is a Democrat; and for myriad other reasons.  It makes sense, then, to gather as many signatures as you can. The deadline for filing is July 15.

Whether these signatures turn into votes remains to be seen, but Rivera, an easy-going 34-year-old, said he's had a positive response from the public.  "[There's] a recognition that Pedro Espada needs to go," he said.  "We're letting them know there's another option."

"The entire state has been grossly disserviced by his opponent," says Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, a volunteer and adviser to Rivera who was present yesterday morning. "This is one of the races that everyone should care about."  

Lorris Ritter, who was alluding to last summer's Senate coup, which Espada helped orchestrate , said most people don't realize how powerful and influential state legislators are when it comes to housing (rent laws, etc), the MTA, peoples' taxes, and more. 

All the more reason, she says, to elect someone who has Bronxites best interests at heart.

For more on Rivera, here's a recent article that appeared in the Norwood News.


  1. I met Mr. Rivera the other day and he was a gentleman. Happy to see BNN give him some coverage.

  2. I think it's becoming quite apparent that Gustavo Rivera is the strongest candidate in this race and the only candidate who can actually beat Pedro Espada, Jr. in the 33rd district.

    While what that random person said may be misinformed or unjust, I think that is the mindset of the majority of the people in the district. Just the way it is. Either way, it doesn't detract from the fact that Gustavo is clearly the the most experienced and knowledgeable candidate to take over Espada's seat from day one.

  3. While you are posting as "Anonymous" (6/27/10 12:03:00), your words are almost exactly those of an administrator at Mr. Rivera's Facebook page:


    Here's what the administrator said:

    "It's becoming quite apparent to everyone that he is the strongest candidate in this race and the only person able to beat Pedro Espada, Jr. in the 33rd District."

    I hope I am wrong to assume this post is coming from someone in Mr. Rivera's campaign, because I am very disappointed in this commenter's demeaning assessment of "the mindset of the majority of people in the district." You really think the majority of us think "only a Hispanic person can understand immigration" -- a position you admit is "misinformed"?
    I live and work in the district. Professionally and personally, for decades, I have had the opportunity to interact with the many and varied people who live in the 33rd. Even with these roots I would not be so presumptuous to assume I could speak so authoritatively about a majority mindset. On the other hand -- what I can say from the 1000s of people I have met in this district that grows more and more diverse each day, is that Mr. Iscoa's words do not sound like a true reflection of the people of the 33rd I know. In fact, I'd wager that even Mr. Iscoa would welcome the opportunity to revise his remarks to arrive at a more balanced statement that acknowledges the diversity of immigrant experiences that make up the Bronx.

  4. Hello Jack,

    This is the volunteer of which you speak of. I donate, volunteer hours and have been raising money for Gustavo of my own accord since his announcement because I know he is the best candidate to beat Pedro Espada, Jr. While that mindset may not be of the "majority" (I believe your wonderful story and hope it to be true), it is for an upsettingly large number of people as the piece so illustrated. And while the people of Gustavo's campaign continue to fight those who have the "I'll support anyone who is a Latino" mindset in the district, they also have to fight the people who instinctively say "anyone is better than Espada." These are ALL wrong. We must support the candidate who best - most experienced, knowledgeable and able to do more for the district. Thankfully, the campaign has already changed a great number of people's minds just by stating some of the very many and vast accomplishments that Gustavo has done, without the need to bash anyone else running in this race...okay, so maybe a few punches are thrown at the current disgraceful state senator.

    It's clear the latest respectfully and not so respectfully derogatory (if there can be such a thing) comments made about Gustavo is just another campaign's last grasps for the lead. Fortunately things keep looking better and better for Gustavo and I'm very much looking forward to the next few days. I hope you'll continue to check out the facebook group and become a fan. I and so many others are!

  5. I didn't realize that Gustavo was still running.
    Does anyone know where I would have read that he had dropped out of the race? Maybe I had just read that he left Gillibrand's office before he was going to be let go. That's probably why she is not supporting him. Considering all that Pedro Espada has done, I'm sure Gustavo's act of malfeasance was minor. It would be great to have some alternative to these two guys. Maybe it's Tirado that has dropped out, which is too bad since he is at least ethical.

  6. The piece quotes one person saying something we can agree is misinformed. I fail to see how the piece illustrates that an "upsetting large number of people" share any mindset.

    Are there people with tribalistic attitudes within the district? -- I know there are. But I also know this is an increasingly diverse district where we honor this diversity and work together within and across our differences. Just looking at the other campaigns for the 33rd I see strong evidence that tribalism is not winning the day here. I've seen Latinos carrying petitions for Dan Padernacht, the only white candidate. I saw a diverse crowd of supporters at Fernando Tirado's announcement event. Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter's campaign is run by a dynamic group of young Latinos and has a very diverse group of supporters.

    In the absence of real data -- I think representatives of Mr. Rivera's campaign, especially ones who live elsewhere, should refrain from making such broad claims about our "mindset" in the district.

  7. Yes, I can tell you where you read that. In the campaign office where you created that lie. Is that really the best you can do? Accuse him of...something. The desperation of these campaigns is really becoming palpable.

  8. Jack, you are right. Since I don't live in the district, I'll refrain from speaking about the "mindset" and making broad, unsubstantiated claims.

  9. It's very unfortunate that we have to admit there are people who still continue to think this way. Needless to say, it's not just something that plagues the Bronx. That is why the election of President Obama was such an amazing sight to see.It was wonderful to see people from all races, age groups, religions etc. all getting together in support of one candidate and one progressive ideal.

    I think we've seen something very similar in this race to a much smaller degree. It's great to see young folks from across New York City becoming active in politics - petitioning, creating events, using new media all to support their candidate of choice, like the 20-year-old young lady here. I think this is a great sign about the future of activism in our country.

    As a friend of this campaign, I'm eager to see what will happen in the next few weeks. Congratulations on all of your hard work. ¡Si se puede amigos!

  10. Why did Gustavo leave Gillibrand's office? Legitimate question.
    Are there any reporters at the Bronx News Network?
    I'd like this discredited. Why isn't she supporting him? Reporters need to look into this so people just don't make false claims.
    Let's be respectful and wait for the investigative reporters to do their job before we start rumors about my candidate or any others.

  11. Thanks Salvador.
    I'll try to live up to that and not inadvertently exclude so many people who live in the district. When you are an outsider sometimes your eagerness to support a candidate makes you forget that you may not be as knowledgeable as you think you are.

  12. If you're not from the district than you shouldn't become active in any of the campaigning? If that's what you're trying to say then I can't disagree more. I think it's clear through Espada's reign that one man from the Bronx affects all of New York.

    I personally understand what you're trying to do and thank you for what you just said though.

  13. As a mom with kids in public school and living in a rent controlled apartment, I look forward to what Gustavo can do for us as someone who is an educator and still lives in a rent controlled apartment in the Kingsbridge area himself.

  14. Anyone who has helped get Barack Obama elected gets my vote!

  15. David,
    I appreciate your support. Those of us from outside the district support Gustavo. That is where his main financial support comes from and that's ok. He doesn't have a base in the district. He may not have gotten involved until a few weeks ago and he may have had some falling out with Gillibrand, but he has a better chance than Tirado to beat Espada.

  16. Why say that Gustavo had a serious falling out with Gillibrand? Is that supposed to be news? Everyone knows that -- big deal. So what if he left under a cloud. Espada is no saint either. We need to support Gustavo because he can win. If some reporters dig up dirt on Gustavo then they will be responsible for another Espada term. Is that what this district wants? Gustavo is far from perfect, but he can win.

  17. There was no falling out. Gustavo left his position to dedicate himself to the campaign. Is this the only way you can get your candidate to win, by spreading falsehoods? Good luck! And good luck to the 33rd if by chance these are the kinds of people who come into power in Albany.

  18. Gillibrand needs to make a statement.
    What happened? Was it stolen funds, harassment, poor work ethic, laziness?
    What went on that Gustavo was pushed out?
    I plan on continuing to petition for him and donate money, but I'd like this cleared up. We know FOR SURE that Pedro will use this against him.

  19. This is sad, man. People are trying to work for real change not tweedledee for tweedledum. If something went down then enough with the cover-up.
    Politicians know that getting caught ducking for cover is always worse than the crime.
    Gustavo needs to come out with the real truth if he wants my vote.
    I just hope this ain't true. If Gustavo is down for the count, then who'll be the last man standing -- All I know is Pedro's got to, got to go!

  20. It's great to see how many people are invested in this race. Gustavo is getting support from across New York, including many of us who are his neighbors. We know how he has been working hard for progressives for the past 10 years. We know he also lives in a rent controlled apartment and knows the battles we face to support ourselves. We know how much he cares for education since he is a mentor and teacher. And we missed him when he was away getting Obama elected. We know he's our candidate and a true inspiration to young progressives everywhere.


    This is the candidate we support. Go Gustavo Go!

  21. That's cool.
    Go Gustavo.
    It's just a total downer if he turns out to be corrupt.
    I hope its not true. I hate to hear that he lost his job because he did something wrong.
    I'd like to support him, but like some other guy asked, "Why did Gillibrand cut him loose, and how come she's not supporting him?"
    It just seems weird.

  22. When you say he was away -- is that why I never saw him around?
    Now that makes sense. I couldn't figure out how come I never heard of him. He didn't live here for the last ten years. How did he luck into a rent controlled apartment? He must've had some cash to spread around.

  23. There's nothing weird about it. Just because you worked for someone doesn't mean they have to support you. Obviously, Gustavo and Gillibrand don't get on. Just because he was fired or resigned doesn't automatically mean that he is corrupt. People should just back off and let the real reporters do their job. It's probably nothing more than that he did a poor job. He's young and people make mistakes. We need to forgive and forget. No matter what activities Gustavo was involved in, he can't be as corrupt as Pedro.
    So go Gustavo go.

  24. Go Fernando Tirado Go!

  25. As a life long resident of the Bronx...I can tell you that....
    This race is a scam...pura paja...

    Independently Corrupt Pedro ESPADA vs a MACHINE PUPPET Gustavo RIVERA..."aka" Jose Rivera" (sound familiar) it should.....they have been controlling the Bronx for almost 20yrs...
    The nepotism in the Bronx is a public cancer that doesn't produce good politics or politicians...
    Between the Espada's, Rivera's, Diaz's - the Bronx has over 25 years of Status Quo which produces negative results for the residents...
    The only real activism that has happened in the Bronx are the results of Dedicated Activists, like Pilgrim- Hunter...who has been thrown under the bus by the same Bronx Machine who says that another Rivera is the Strongest...
    They sell you a image of a candidate, drain your money, and then Espada get's reelected...
    if that wasn't true, people like the supposed Progressive, Gustavo "Jose" Rivera would have helped Pilgrim Hunter knock off, Espada...
    That's why they keep saying that Gustavo is the Strongest...
    to distract you from the truth....
    that they are all feeding from the same corrupt gravy train....

    mi dos centavos...

  26. It is really sad that people are posing as Gustavo supporters or concerned citizens to spread unfounded rumors about him to save bad campaigns. Talk about unethical. He was not fired nor was ever at risk of getting fired. He left Gillibrand's office only to run against Espada since there wasn't anyone strong enough to beat him. Desiree ended her campaign today since she knew that is true. Hopefully the other candidates follow her lead.

    If some of the posters here ever took the time to do research, they would know that Gustavo is a highly respected teacher with real knowledge and experience supporting Progressive Democrats (Obama and Gillibrand to name a few). He has always been a Progressive Democrat. He isn't a Tea Party (and Pedro Espada) fan pretending to be a Democrat and he isn't a former Republican who stole $14 million from a health clinic.

    Once people get the correct info, I hope they will do the right thing and support Gustavo to make sure Espada doesn't get reelected. Unless that's who they would rather work for.


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