To the editor:
We are members of the steering committee of Northwest Bronx Indivisible. However, we write as individuals, and not as representing either the entire steering committee of Northwest Bronx Indivisible, or its wider membership.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera has represented the 33rd Senatorial District in the New York state legislature for the last 11 years. He is running again to represent the newly redistricted 33rd. If he wins, he will represent 70 percent of his old constituents as well as new constituents from further west in the Bronx, including some in greater Riverdale.
During his time in the state legislature he has, most notably, been one of the original sponsors — with Assemblyman Dick Gottfried — of the New York Health Act, legislation that would bring vitally needed health care to all New Yorkers regardless of income or employment status.
He also has been a strong advocate for tenant rights, especially at a time when working and middle class New Yorkers are being priced out of their homes because of sky-high rents.
We write to correct the record on assertions about Sen. Rivera’s legislative record that have surfaced in the heat of the campaign leading up to the statewide Democratic and Republican primaries on Aug. 23. It is not true that Mr. Rivera is in favor of defunding the police merely in the name of defunding. He has, instead, championed an increase in resources for mental health workers and services that would free police to go after real criminals instead of spending their time bringing those suffering acute mental distress to hospitals.
He is also in favor of supporting youth and community programs that have been shown to reduce crime, and has worked on legislation to reduce the trafficking of guns from out of state.
He has been criticized for voting against bills prohibiting institutions of higher education — including CUNY — and student groups from using taxpayer money in support of activities connected with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that targets Israel.
Sen. Rivera has met with and listened respectfully to members of the community about this sensitive issue.
He has explained that his votes were for the protection of the right of freedom of speech, a cornerstone of the First Amendment. It is irresponsible and a misrepresentation to label his votes as anti-Israel.
Defending the Constitutional right of free speech is critical, especially in university communities where the freedom to debate difficult issues gives democracy its best chance to thrive and prevail.
We need Sen. Rivera’s leadership now more than ever. We urge you to vote for him on or before Aug. 23.
The author writes on behalf of a group that includes Silvia Blumenfeld, George Diaz, Carol Foresta, Daniel Guenzburger, Kathryn Solomon and Aaron Stayman