Cultura y conciencia

The Bronx Democratic Political Machine Does Not Endorse Assemblyman Nelson Castro

Nelson Santana

By Nelson Santana

July 5, 2010

Politicking in NY:

In this case the political machine in the Bronx does not support Assemblyman Nelson Castro, the first politician of Dominican descent to be elected to political office in the Bronx.

Traditionally, the political party in power in New York City has been the Democratic Party.

The size of the Dominican population in New York makes it impossible for this relatively new group to be ignored, thus becoming a force to be reckoned with to such extent that other groups are taking notice. Specifically in the Bronx, the Political Machine knows all too well that Dominicans comprise the largest population group in the borough. Sadly enough the Political Machine in the Bronx is part of the Democratic Party, the same political party that Nelson Castro is a member of, representing the 86th district of the Bronx Assembly.

Too Intelligent and a Legitimate Threat to the Throne of the Old Guard and Their Disciples

The Bronx Political Machine decided not to endorse Assemblyman Nelson Castro, the first person of Dominican ancestry to be elected to political office in the Bronx. This young politician is a threat to the many politicians who have spent years in power and he also poses a threat to the young politicians who rose to power through the backing of the politicians from the old guard.

According to the voter Jonathan Diaz, “Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. believes Castro to be a legitimate threat to his post as Bronx Borough President.”

The Democrat Hector Ramirez, who is half Dominican and half Puerto Rican, is running for Castro’s seat in the assembly. Members of the Bronx Political Machine have not supported Nelson Castro. Therefore, it is safe to hypothesize that the Bronx Political Machine, which includes the powerful Diaz family, is endorsing Ramirez.


Photo: Assemblyman Nelson Castro at center


Parents and Children in Power

The older politicians seldom want to step down, but when they do – to acquire a more prestigious seat – they ensure to leave their children or other puppets in their seat.

Currently, the Reverend Ruben Diaz represents the 32nd district of the Bronx as a state senator. His son, Ruben Diaz Jr. is the current president of the Bronx.

Congressman Jose Serrano represents one of the most densely populated Hispanic districts in the southwestern region of the Bronx. His son, José Marco Serrano, is a state senator in New York.

Considered a political figure of authority in the Bronx, Assemblyman Jose Rivera represents the 78th district. Rivera rose to power in 1982 and in 1987 left his post as assemblyman to run and win the election as councilman for the 15th district. Afterward, he left his post in the city council and in 2000 his son, Joel Rivera, became the district’s new councilmember. In 2004, Naomi Rivera, daughter of Jose Rivera, was voted into the assembly’s 80th district in the Bronx. At present time, Jose Rivera represents the 78th district in the assembly.

Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo represents district 84. Her daughter, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, is the councilmember of the 17th district in the Bronx.

The Espada family is another family that has integrated into politics, however, this family’s honor has been tainted by corruption. State Senator Pedro Espada has been the most successful of all. His son, Pedro Gautier Espada, is a former councilmember. Jose Espada, brother of the state senator, was at one point district leader, a volunteer position. Unlike other political families in the Bronx, Espada family members have been forced to leave office due to corruption.

Political Corruption

According to sources Castro has strayed away from several of his fellow politicians because he understands that he is master of his own destiny and will not open the door to any unfavorable circumstance that may smear his name as other politicians in recent months.

State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. represents the 33rd district in the Bronx. In June 2009 he was involved in a river of controversy when he was at the center of a coup in the Senate when he left the Democratic Party to join the Republican. He returned to the Democratic Party the following month in July after he was elected Majority Leader of the Senate of the State of New York. But the controversy does not end there. In April 2010 the Attorney General of the State of New York Mario Andrew Cuomo filed a lawsuit against Espada because in the past five years Espada has stolen more than $14 million with the assistance of family, friends and employees of the Senate.

Another Bronx politician, Efrain Gonzalez, was sentenced to 84 months in prison after pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts and two wire fraud counts as he used funds from nonprofit charities for his own personal use.

Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, grandson of Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, was sentenced to one year in prison for embezzling $115,000 of federal funds to a nonprofit organization.

The Lone wolf

Castro has spent his short political career as a lone wolf. Unlike others who seek the spotlight for the opportunity to shine at public events, Castro does the complete opposite to the point where at times those in attendance have no knowledge that this young man is a politician, let alone be aware of his presence.

First, Castro does not demand a seat at public events and oftentimes chooses to stand for hours to interact with the public, and not only with his constituents. Contrary to other politicians, Castro does not request the microphone, something admirable considering the fact that most politicians do so abruptly and to the point where they can put down the organizers of the event if they do not allocate time for unexpected politicians to speak.

Thus far Castro has no regrets. The assemblyman acknowledges that he does not have the backing of the Bronx Political Machine. He also acknowledges that he is guilty of this as he has always tried to maintain a distance from other politicians to keep his image free of corruption and equally important, not to serve as a puppet for others.

The Abandoned Borough

In comparison to the other New York boroughs, the Bronx is considered the poorest.

According to the sociologist Dr. Ramona Hernandez, Dominicans who reside in New York are the poorest group in the city [1].

Dominicans in New York by the Numbers

1. Largest Latino group enrolled in the City University of New York (CUNY), New York’s public university and least expensive. More than twenty five thousand people of Dominican descent have graduated from this institution [2]

2. Lowest household income of all groups in New York [3]

3. Highest unemployment rate among all groups in New York [4]

Traditionally, Dominicans in the United States have had the greatest political achievements in the city of New York, specifically in Manhattan, but even more specific in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. Former councilmembers Miguel Martinez and Guillermo Linares, current councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat are some of the Dominican politicians that have left their mark in Manhattan.

Matters have been different in the Bronx, however. Few Dominicans have run for office and only Assemblyman Nelson Castro has been able to pull off a victory.

On the other hand, the times are changing, especially now with the change in demographics in which people of Dominican descent comprise the largest group of residents in the Bronx. It is only a matter of time before there is adequate representation in the city and state legislatures. 2009 saw Yudelka Tapia, Carlos Sierra and other Dominican candidates lose to their opponents in their political battles, though those were hard-fought battles.

Politicians in Bronx regions where Dominicans comprise the majority are not representative of the Dominican population.

There is speculation that veterans and new entrants to politics alike such as Yudelka Tapia and James Duarte will run for office in the upcoming elections scheduled to take place in September and November.


Currently, the Bronx Political Machine is going through a difficult time since various politicians from the old-guard will lose their political post as they are embroiled in corruption. Efrain Gonzalez lost his chair and Assemblyman Pedro Espada is well aware that within a few months he will be sentenced for his crimes. Interestingly enough, according to a trustworthy source, Espada and the Political Machine have chosen an apparent heir to his throne – and for the first time recognize the importance and power of the Dominican vote.

[1] Hernandez, Ramona and Francisco Rivera-Batiz. Dominicans in the United States: A Socioeconomic Profile, 2000. New York: CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, 2000.

[2] The City University of New York (CUNY) has two offices in neighborhoods populated by Dominicans: Washington Heights; and between East Concourse Avenue and Fordham Avenue in the Bronx.

[3] & [4] U.S. Census Bureau. United States Census 2000.