Candidate says he’s in a long line of South Bronx Puerto Rican activists
City Council hopeful Julio Pabón invoked the memory of Bronx Puerto Rican activists of the past as he officially announced his candidacy at a May 21 press conference at the in Father Gigante Square next to the Hunts Point branch library.
Pabón, 61, will run against incumbent Maria del Carmen Arroyo to represent the 17th District, which includes Hunts Point.
He told some two-dozen supporters at the press conference that he was a restless 12-year-old delinquent throwing rocks at windows in Longwood when renowned community activist Evelina Antonetty helped him turn his life around. Antonetty approached him on the street, Pabón recalled, and handed him a lock. She told him she wanted him to lock school board members into a room where she was running a PTA meeting, so that members could not walk out when South Bronx parents expressed their concerns and grievances.
Pabón said he sees his candidacy as similarly giving voice to local residents who usually go unheard.
“My office is going to be an organizing tool,” he told the gathering, adding that he chose to enter the race in recent months “when I saw no one was going to run” against Arroyo.
The candidate added that the Hunts Point library branch bore special meaning as location as the site of his announcement because Lillian López, another Puerto Rican grass roots activist who fought for South Bronxites’ rights, worked there as a librarian during the 1970s.
East Harlem resident Antonio Robertson, 44, attended the press conference, wearing a Pabon t-shirt, at the invitation of a South Bronx resident.
“Arroyo has been in politics too long,” said Robertson, adding that a key to effective political representation is that “you’ve got to change things up.”
John Rosado, 41, who was born in Hunts Point and now lives in Manhattan’s East Village, said he found out about Pabón’s campaign through a neighborhood organizing event he attended at the Bronx Documentary Center in Melrose. Rosado, a boxer who says he boxes at South Bronx gyms, said he was impressed with Pabón’s direct style as soon as he heard him speak, and signed on to help the campaign.
“Politicians treat us like an LLC,” he said. “It’s despicable.” Rosado said he comes to the South Bronx to work on the campaign a few times a week “to do whatever I can for him,” adding “This is a guy who’s not doing it for the job. I’ll be the first one to criticize him if he turns out to be like the others, but I doubt it.”
Antonia Vega, 69, came from Mott Haven to lend her support.
“If he wins, he’ll do something for us,” Vega said. “The other one who’s in office isn’t doing anything for us.”