Salamanca easily wins Democratic primary

Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. addressing constituents in Melrose.

Incumbent Rafael Salamanca Jr. cruised to victory in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, defeating retired health care administrator Helen Hines, his only opponent, in a bid to continue representing Hunts Point, Longwood and Melrose in the 17th City Council District.

Salamanca wound up with 4,696 of the votes, to the challengers’ 1,763, and will go on to face Republican Patrick Delices in the Nov. 7 general election. 

Salamanca first won the seat in a special election in February 2016, then was reelected earlier this year under provisions of the special election.

One voter said improved education in the district was the subject she voted on Tuesday, but declined to say who she voted for.

“The Bronx is the poorest borough–lowest scores in reading, math; highest rate of asthma in the city,” said Maureen Wade, standing outside PS 130 in Melrose. Wade has worked in admissions at Barnard and Columbia for more than 30 years.

“Our students are growing up in a competitive world,” she said. “They’re not going to be ready to go to college to compete with their counterparts from Asia. As a child, I had everything: music, gym, academia. The students these days are not well-rounded. My granddaughter would come home with xerox papers. We had textbooks. We’d take pride in covering our textbooks.”

Voter Garry Copitch outside PS 130.

Flanked by his three sons outside the polls at PS 130, another voter, Garry Copitch, 55, said he voted for Salamanca, but admitted, “We don’t really pay attention to local politics. But these people are sometimes the only ones you can reach.”

In the mayoral election, Copitch cast a protest vote.

“He ain’t gonna win” he said of mayoral candidate Robert Gangi, but “there are a lot of issues here.” Copitch was impressed that Gangi is “running against police corruption,” and “high incarcerations of lots of people for weed,” for which he said NYPD locks people up simply to pad its arrest statistics.

A 23-year-old store clerk working the counter at a Melrose Rite Aid pointed to a cigarette ad behind the counter he manned, illustrating why he cast his mayoral vote for Bill de Blasio.

“I like how anti-cigarette he is,” said Alvin Rosario, 23. “The fact that we still sell cigarettes here is ridiculous. I see people come in here and waste $100 a week. Some of them are 21.”

“Crime is the lowest it’s been in years,” he added. “De Blasio doesn’t get enough credit for the good things he’s done. He just gets a lot of flack for the MTA.”

One Longwood voter on Rogers Place left little doubt who she was supporting in the Council election, sporting a “Vote for Helen Hines” t-shirt.

“We definitely need to see more things to help the youth in this neighborhood,” said Nicole Myles.

“You see that school?” she said, pointing to PS 333 down the street. “They closed off the entrance to the basketball courts so now the kids can’t play except when they’re in school. And you see all these new buildings going up? And all these storage units? We need more playgrounds and parks so our kids can play and stay out of trouble.”

Although ambivalent about their candidates, retired Longwood residents Susanna and Jeff Taylor, 60 and 62, cast their ballots at P.S. 130 on Macy Place for de Blasio, though Susanna said she wants to see him reorient his administration’s priorities.

“He spent too much time taking care of these corruption issues instead of taking care of the people of New York City and too much time traveling abroad and traveling in the United States trying to make himself visible when he should have been here trying to take care of us.”

Although she said she “wasn’t real thrilled with anybody,” in the Council race, she stuck with the established candidate.

“I don’t know too much about Salamanca but he sends out those flyers sometimes and I see them, and it seems like he tries to put out information that he’s doing things for the community: brings in funds, giving seniors whatever they need,” she said.

“He didn’t do anything that really kind of pissed me off.”