Stanley Fritz calls himself an “aggressive optimist.”
That’s fitting, considering the group he’s the city campaign manager for — Citizen Action New York.
The grassroots organization has been active for more than 30 years, according to Fritz, and now has eight chapters and affiliates in major cities across the state. It champions community issues like public election campaign financing, racial justice, progressive taxes, quality education and affordable health care.
Those are all matters that deeply affect Riverdale and other parts of the Bronx, Fritz said, which is why Citizen Action is coming Jan. 17 for what it’s calling a “Community Power Hour.”
Scheduled for 6:30 p.m., at the Riverdale Steak House, 5700 Riverdale Ave., the power hour is expected to give the organization a chance to share how the community can muster political clout on the ground level by organizing, pressuring elected officials, and pushing for legislation under a president they don’t agree with.
Citizen Action found its way to the Bronx about a year ago, Fritz said, but has stayed primarily in Hunts Point, Parkchester and Eastchester. Now it’s finally finding the west side of the borough.
“People are looking for ways to get involved, so really, this meeting is a way to gather up interested neighbors to help them learn more about the work we’ve been doing and show them how, through local politics, they can be very effective in resisting and fighting the Trump agenda,” Fritz said.
While many people want change, they’re not exactly sure how to accomplish it, Fritz said. That’s where Citizen Action steps in.
“A lot of people think it’s the New York city council, the mayor, and that’s it,” Fritz said. “They’re not in-tune with state politics, and they don’t realize their state senator, Assembly member, the governor, have a say and can influence things like the subways, housing, what kind of funding and assistance we’re getting for opioids, homelessness issues.”
Fritz sees groups such as NYCD16-Indivisible not as competition, but as opportunities to collaborate.
“These are just names,” he said. “What it really is, is people in the community who want to make a difference. We’d be happy to talk to them and work with them. This is a big tent.”
And they’re interested. Becca Lish, of the local Indivisible group, said there are resources that can be shared, and that fighting among like-minded organizations is not the way to go.
Those groups, Lish said, “don’t necessarily have territory. They grew up out of people waking up when Trump was elected. Some have been around for decades, some are new. Some are big, some are small. People are interested in working together on their own concerns and others’ in a very collaborative way.”
Certainly, the broader sense of disenfranchisement is not particular to Riverdale or any one part of the Bronx. Still, Fritz said, the borough is an epicenter for many of those problems.
“A lot of the conversations are happening here,” he said. “And to be quite honest, most of the major players for New York state politics are in the Bronx” — Sen. Jeffrey Klein and Assembly speaker Carl Heastie, for example.
While Citizen Action approaches its work differently depending on each neighborhood, the goal remains the same.
“People in Riverdale are not all rich and living in mansions,” Fritz said. “They see issues they care about, and whether it affects them directly or indirectly, if the Bronx is doing bad, Riverdale is doing bad, because we’re all interconnected — whether we like to believe it or not.”