Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill) gave what will almost certainly be his last State of the District address this past Saturday in front of a small audience He used his time to list his accomplishments, remind us of the havoc wrought by COVID-19 in the district and answer questions about his next steps after leaving office.
Rodriguez began by imploring his constituents to support him in his push to pass the “Our City, Our Vote” bill. The bill would allow permanent residents and work permit holders to vote in municipal elections, which is known as the Our City Our Vote bill. Rodriguez is one of the principal advocates for the bill, which he sees as a fundamental right.
“First, we must allow permanent residents and work permit holders to vote in municipal elections. Why? Because you pay taxes,” he said.
The subjects of representation and inclusion permeated his speech. Rodriguez is one of the most renowned Dominican-American politicians in Manhattan, along with U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan, Bronx), who represents New York’s 13th District which includes Rodriguez’s city district. Throughout the speech, he reiterated his pride in his heritage and his status as an immigrant.
“Fighting runs in our blood and DNA as immigrants,” he said.
Rodriguez also spoke about his efforts in getting 500,000 dollars for development in Northern Manhattan. During that segment, he received pre-recorded video messages of support from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D), U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan, Bronx), Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D) and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (D).
The speech was followed by an extensive Q&A session – which he began on a rather dark note, reminding attendees of the way that COVID-19 ravaged his district.
“I’m telling you here right now; the country left the poor to die, including many people from our neighborhood,” he said.
His district is one of the hardest hit in Manhattan, which suffered a death rate of 235 per 100,000 people – well above the borough-wide average of 157. Naturally, many of the questions revolved around financial aid. Rodriguez admitted that they were unlikely to receive any federal help until the new administration takes office in January; in the meantime, he said, constituents should maintain precautions as fears of a second wave became more urgent.
“We have to prepare for the possibility that the worst of the pandemic will happen within the next few weeks,” said Rodriguez. “Therefore, we have to social distance, wear a mask, we have to disabuse ourselves of this notion that we’re making progress.”
Another constituent asked him what his plans are after he leaves office next year. Rodriguez said that he hasn’t made a decision yet, but would support and uplift candidates in next year’s elections.
At the conclusion of the evening, he bid his hosts goodbye with an elbow bump and walked off stage with a huge grin on his face.