UPDATE Eric Dinowitz Joined by Wide-Ranging Elected Officials for Inauguration at Lehman College

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By SÍLE MOLONEY

Eric Dinowitz delivers his inaugural address as city councilman of District 11 during his inauguration ceremony at Lehman College in Bedford Park on Sunday, December 5, 2021.
Photo via Twitter

Editor’s Note: The following is an extended version of the story that appears in our latest print edition.

 

Elected officials from across New York State gathered inside the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College for the formal inauguration of Democrat, Eric Dinowitz, as the city councilman of District 11 on Sunday, Dec. 5. The Bedford Park ceremony was attended by a crowd of over 300 and was streamed live on BronxNet TV.

 

The councilman has been serving in the role since April 2021, having won the District 11 seat in a special election in March. As reported, he went on to win the primary race in June, surpassing his nearest Democratic rival, Mino Lora, for a second time, and on Nov. 30, the New York City Board of Elections certified he won the Nov. 2. general election with 73 percent of the vote share, securing 15,416 votes out of a total of 20,892 eligible ballots.

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In the general election, 17,014 of the total eligible votes in District 11 were up for grabs in Assembly District 81, where the councilman’s father, Jeffrey Dinowitz, has been the elected assembly member since 1994 and which overlaps with City Council District 11. The councilman secured 12,581 votes in this assembly district, with runner-up, Kevin Pazmino, winning a total of 3,013 votes, having run on both the Republican Party and Conservative Party tickets. Meanwhile, the assemblyman is facing a primary challenge from at least two candidates, George Diaz and Jessica Altagracia Woolford, in his bid to retain his seat in June 2022.

 

Among the heavyweights who spoke at the councilman’s inauguration were U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Attorney General Letitia James, who recently announced that she has suspended her gubernatorial campaign and is concentrating her efforts, instead, on her reelection campaign as attorney general, as well as finishing the job on a number of upcoming, high-profile, legal cases, involving former President Donald J. Trump, the NRA, the NYPD, Google, Facebook and Amazon, and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Others included State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), who represents parts of the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, and State Sen. Jamaal Bailey (S.D. 33), chair of the Bronx Democratic Party.

 

After the the councilman’s inauguration, James tweeted, “As an educator, and a labor and District Leader, @EricDinowitzNYC has been a public servant for communities across the Northwest Bronx for over a decade, and I know he will continue this work in the years to come. Congratulations on your inauguration to the New York City Council!”

 

Schumer also shared photos of the event on Twitter, adding, “An incredible day for NYC’s 11th City Council District in the Bronx, swearing in @EricDinowitzNYC!” Meanwhile, Bailey tweeted, “When I met him when we were HS classmates, I knew him as ‘Kara’s brother,’ but he’s established one hell of an identity on his own, as a father, husband, son, and now- councilman. Huge congratulations to @EricDinowitz on his inauguration today! The 11th is lucky to have you!”

 

Other speakers at the event included Bronx congressman, Ritchie Torres (NY-15), former Bronx congressman, Eliot Engel, whose District 16 congressional seat was won last year by Congressman Jamaal Bowman, State assembly speaker and Bronx assemblyman, Carl Heastie, (A.D. 83), city council speaker, Corey Johnson, Bronx assemblyman, Jeffrey Dinowitz, Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr., Bronx borough president-elect and outgoing Bronx district 16 city council member, Vanessa Gibson, Bronx district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, and former Bronx district 11 city council member, June Eisland.

 

A representative from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office also attended the event and delivered remarks on the governor’s behalf. Other attendees included Westchester county executive, George Latimer, several members of the State senate and assembly, City Comptroller-elect, Brad Lander, who, as reported, campaigned in Norwood for Lora, ahead of the district 11 primary, and current and incoming colleagues at New York City Council.

 

The ceremonial oath of office was administered by State Supreme Court justice, Andrew Cohen, who held the district 11 city council seat until he resigned on Dec. 31, 2020, to take up his role as a judge in the Bronx. As reported, the situation was deemed controversial by some given District 11, like District 15, was left without representation, amid the ongoing pandemic for the first three months of 2021.

 

As reported, some people felt the nomination of Cohen to the bench was purposefully orchestrated from within the rank and file of the Bronx Democratic Party to trigger a special election which, as reported, typically has a lower voter turn-out and favors candidates with stronger name recognition which, as reported, was the case for the councilman due to his father’s seasoned political career in the district.

 

The councilman’s inauguration ceremony included a performance by the Celia Cruz Bronx School of Music, led by conductor David West. As reported, the school also performed on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at a separate, tree-lighting event on the Norwood/Bedford Park border. Dinowitz, a former special education teacher, previously taught at the music school.

 

After the official swearing in, the ceremony ended with an inaugural speech by the councilman. Reflecting on the local support garnered through his various elections to date, Dinowitz said his campaign team included some high school volunteers who were not yet old enough to vote.

 

“We had older adults who had voted for decades but never participated in a campaign before, community members who found that they had a voice in the future of our community,” he said. “We brought together a broad and diverse coalition of community members and small businesses, tenants and co-op shareholders and homeowners, elected leaders and union members, from across all ethnic, age, income, religious, and political backgrounds.”

 

Dinowitz said that as a candidate, he vowed to ensure the Bronx would never be left behind. “In the brief time I have served as your council member, I’ve kept that vow,” he said. “Since taking office in April of this year, I have delivered for District 11. We brought composting back to the neighborhood, continue to address food insecurity, saved a school and community garden, secured millions of capital dollars, invested heavily in clean-up services, and provided superior constituent services, while being physically present in every corner of the district.”

 

According to the councilman’s website, earlier this year, following the City budget approval, he confirmed having secured nearly $15 million in local capital project funding. “This includes giving schools in our district over $4 million for technology and facility improvements,” he said at the time. “Our parks will receive nearly $7 million for enhancement and safety upgrades. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will also be spent locally on our senior centers, community centers and organizations to be used for local programming.”

 

In terms of capital funding for schools, $75,000 was allocated to P.S. 95 for technology upgrades, $80,000 for P.S. 16 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 168 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 19 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 207 for technology upgrades, $100,000 for P.S. 24 for bathroom renovations, $75,000 for P.S. 280 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 344 for technology upgrades, $80,000 for P.S. 94 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 483 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 77 for technology upgrades, $75,000 for P.S. 81 for technology upgrades, $75,000 P.S. 86 for technology upgrades, and $80,000 for P.S. 56 for smartboards & technology. $75,000 for M.S. 80 for a technology upgrade, and $75,000 for P.S. 168 for technology upgrades.

 

Other school capital funding allocations for projects included $1,000,000 for a cafeteria at Bronx High School of Science to complete an ongoing project, $125,000 for P.S. 8 for a public address system, $50,000 and $100,000 for a library renovation and upgrade at M.S./H.S. 141 Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy,  $125,000 for cameras at P.S. 20 (a continuation of funding), $300,000 for cameras at P.S. 37 (a continuation of funding), $100,000 for a studio conversion at Bronx Dance Academy, and $300,000 at P.S. 7 to repair auditorium chairs and A/C.

 

Other general capital funding allocated to projects included $225,000 and $3,775,000 for the reconstruction of a staircase at Ewen Park, $800,000 and $250,000 for track renovation and installation at Intech Academy M.S./H.S. 368, $473,000 for new roof exterior work and HVAC at Mosholu Library, $200,000 for the extension and reconstruction of a greenway on Mosholu Parkway, $502,000 for a radiology room for NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx, and $900,000 for two patient elevator upgrades for NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx.

 

Capital funding was also allocated to the following: $185,000 for roadway resurfacing in District 11 (the target area of the district is to be confirmed once the work commences), $160,000 for a telemedicine system for the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, $2,024,000 in FY22 and $676,000 in FY23 for new perimeter fencing at Van Cortlandt House Museum and Park, $379,000 and $300,000 for the Woolworth Building Accessibility Project at Woodlawn Conservancy, $100,000 for branch expansion and renovation at Woodlawn Library, $150,000 for tree and tree pit upgrades in District 11 (the target area of the district is to be confirmed once the work commences), and $165,000 for the construction of bioswales in District 11 (the target area of the district is to be confirmed once the work commences).

 

According to 6sqft.com, a bioswale, or rain garden, is a pit dug into the sidewalk that’s been filled with rocky soil and shrubbery. Each bioswale costs about $26,000 to build, and as part of the city’s $1.5 billion investment in green infrastructure, over 3,000 bioswales have been created in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

 

In terms of discretionary funding allocated to various projects, The Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, Inc. was allocated $100,000; Ballroom Basix USA, Inc., $10,000; Bedford Park Multi-Service Center for Senior Citizens, Inc., $40,000; Bronx Arts Ensemble, Inc., $125,000; Bronx Council for the Arts, Inc., $15,000; Bronx County Historical Society, $40,000; Bronx Jewish Community Council, Inc., $10,000; Bronx Opera Company, Inc., $84,000; Bronx River Alliance, Inc., $10,000; Bronx River Art Center, Inc., $15,000; BronxWorks, Inc., $5,000; City Parks Foundation, $40,000; City University of New York, $10,000; Council on the Environment, Inc., $13,000; Creative Arts Workshops for Kids, Inc. $20,000; and Day One New York, Inc. $15,000.

 

Other recipients of allocated discretionary funding included Department of Parks and Recreation which was allocated $10,000; Department of Transportation, $15,000; DREAM! Dare to Revitalize Education Thru Arts & Mediation, Inc. got $15,000; Education Through Music, Inc., got $10,000; Educational Video Center, Inc. got $40,000; Emerald Isle Immigration Center got $10,000; FAN4Kids got $10,000; Female Fight Club NYC, Inc. got $5,000; Good Shepherd Services got $10,000; The Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale got $50,000; The Horticultural Society of New York got $82,000; Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) got $30,000; Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, Inc. got $25,000; Kingsbridge District Management Association got $10,000; Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, Inc. got $20,000; Kingsbridge-Riverdale-Van Cortlandt Development Corporation got $20,000; Legal Aid Society got $20,000; Lehman College Art Gallery got $35,000; Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. got $10,000; Literacy (LINC), Inc. got $10,000; Literacy Partners, Inc. got $20,000; and Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty, Inc. got $53,000.

 

Additional discretionary funding was allocated to Mindbuilders Creative Arts, Inc., which was allocated $10,000; Mosholu Preservation Corporation, $30,000; Mosholu-Jerome East Gun Hill Road District Management Association, $32,000; Mosholu-Montefiore Community Center, Inc. got $85,000, New York Historical Society got $40,000; New York Junior Tennis League, Inc. got $3,500; New York Legal Assistance Group, Inc. got $16,000; Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights got $5,000; PowerMyLearning, Inc. got $25,000, Publicolor, Inc. got $40,000; Regional Aid for Interim Needs, Inc. got $10,000; Riverdale Mental Health Association, Inc. got $70,000; Riverdale Neighborhood House, Inc. got $115,000; Riverdale Senior Services, Inc. got $103,000; and Sanctuary for Families, Inc. got $16,000.

 

Other discretionary funding recipients included Selfhelp Community Services, Inc. which was awarded $15,000; Shalom Task Force, Inc., $15,000; SHARE: Self-Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer, Inc., $10,000; Special Citizens Futures Unlimited, Inc. got $32,000; Spuyten Duyvil Preschool, Inc., $8,500; Theatre Development Fund, Inc. got $5,000, United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, Inc. got $15,000; the Urban Justice Center got $20,000; Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, Inc. got $45,000; West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center, Inc., $45,000; Wildcat Service Corporation got $90,000; Wildlife Conservation Society got $5,000; Woodlawn Conservancy, Inc. got $10,000; and Young Men & Young Women’s Hebrew Association of the Bronx dba Riverdale YM / YWHA got $55,000.

 

Notable were the amounts of money allocated specifically for domestic violence prevention.

 

Meanwhile, during his inaugural address at Lehman College, the councilman said, to date, he has also sponsored 48 pieces of legislation beneficial to the people of both the City and the Bronx, 23 of which he said have already been signed into law. Of these, the councilman was lead sponsor on three. Intro 2479-2021, raised at the committee on governmental operations, introduced a local law to amend the New York city charter to require information about elections for non-municipal offices, ballot proposals, and referenda to be included in the voter guide.

Resolution 1838-2021, raised at the committee on veterans, reaffirms New York City’s status as a Purple Heart City and calls on the State legislature to pass, and the governor to sign, assembly / senate bills, A.7961/S.2279, to designate the State of New York a Purple Heart State.

 

Intro 2354-2021, also raised at the committee on veterans, and which has been enacted, and is currently awaiting signature by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is a local law to amend the New York city charter’s definition of the term “veteran” and the membership of the veterans’ advisory board. It will ensure that veterans who may have received an other-than-honorable service discharge, perhaps due to difficulties arising from PTSD or for other reasons, will be entitled to health and certain other benefits. Norwood News had reported on this issue in May.

 

Dinowitz concluded, saying, “For me, it all started in a classroom, and now, I proudly bring those lessons learned to City Hall, and the lessons I have learned at City Hall so far, I proudly take into my upcoming full term at the Council. The future is bright here in the Bronx.”

 

 

 



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