Election 2022: John Zaccaro Jr. on quality of life, housing and education

By JOSE A. GIRALT

JOHN ZACCARO JR., Democratic candidate for Assembly District 80 in the upcoming general election on November 8, 2022, greets a member of the public after a 2020 election town hall at Tracey Towers in the Jerome Park section of the Bronx in February 2020.
Photo by José A. Giralt

In the upcoming Nov. 8 general election, voters in Assembly District 80 will decide who best represents their interests in Albany. Running for the seat on behalf of the Democratic Party is a former AD 80 male district leader, John Zaccaro Jr., who served in the latter position from 2018 to 2020. If elected to the assembly, he will replace the member leaving the assembly, Nathalia Fernandez. , who is running as the Democratic nominee in the state Senate District 34 race.

Zaccaro Jr. was selected Sept. 7 by a Bronx Democratic Party committee as the Democratic nominee for AD 80, which includes parts of Norwood, Mosholu Parkway, Bedford Park and stretches east to include Allerton, Morris Park , Pelham Parkway, Pelham Gardens and Van Nest. As noted, state assembly districts will be redrawn ahead of the 2024 primaries.

In an interview with Norwood News, Zaccaro Jr. spoke about his three main campaign issues for the district: quality of life, housing and education. “[In] quality of life, there are a lot of problems: crime and public safety,” he said. “Addressing cleanliness in the community, sanitation and cleaning services and a host of other issues, transportation, parks and so many other things that are quality of life and are the fabric of what we want to see progress in our community.

As a housing organizer, housing is another issue Zaccaro Jr. plans to address, if elected. “We’re in a massive accessibility crisis right now,” he said. “We have more people than we have housing available for people. Those who live in housing cannot afford it. We asked Zaccaro Jr. if by housing he means rented units. We have not received a response as of the date of going to press.

For families dissatisfied with living in rental housing, Zaccaro Jr. wants them to know he sees what’s stopping them from buying a home. “We need to do everything we can to create those opportunities, not just for affordable housing, but also for affordable homeownership.”

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the nation’s largest public housing authority, oversees 177,569 apartments in 335 subdivisions. More than 339,900 residents depend on NYCHA for their housing needs. In AD 80, the Parkside Housing Project and Pelham Parkway Houses are NYCHA properties. In June 2022, The New York Times describes some of the dire conditions in which people lived in NYCHA housing.

“Walls and ceilings are crumbling and leaking, mold is growing in kitchens and bathrooms, elevators stop working, heat goes out in the dead of winter,” The temperature reported. The publication also reported that in more than 40% of NYCHA apartments, “residents reported three or more maintenance issues.”

Longstanding issues in public housing prompted state lawmakers to pass the Public Housing Preservation Trust bill in June, which was strongly backed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams. By law, going forward, NYCHA will raise hundreds of millions of new federal dollars a year using federal tenant protection bonds, which receive a higher per-unit subsidy than traditional state public housing bonds. section 9. This additional grant will be used by the trust to issue bonds to raise funds that NYCHA can then use to upgrade 25,000 NYCHA apartments with necessary capital improvements, as part of a pilot program.

It is this type of partnership between state and city officials that Zaccaro Jr. hopes to develop to help NYCHA residents, if elected. As chief of staff to District 17 City Council member Rafael Salamanca Jr., Zaccaro Jr. said he has become intimately aware of the intertwining of certain housing and homelessness issues between the city and the city. ‘State. “When we talk about housing, we’re not just talking about affordable housing, but we’re talking about addressing homelessness and solving issues affecting NYCHA,” he said.

“I had the pleasure of helping to work on Intro 1211 within the city council which required developers receiving city grants to set aside 15% of that total number of units for homeless ready families. independently,” he recalls. The nonprofit, Coalition for the Homeless, described the bill as a “historic vote” that “represents a major turning point in the fight against the city’s record homelessness crisis”.

Serving in Albany, Zaccaro Jr. said, would allow him to do more to find solutions to the multiple housing issues facing the city. “At the state level, we must find creative ways to expand on this original thinking by providing additional housing subsidies, while ending the practice of paying market-rate rents to shelter providers for below average temporary housing,” he said.

To complete his third campaign priority, education. The candidate previously served as the Bronx’s director for intergovernmental affairs under former schools chancellor Carmen Farina. As a father of three children, there is nothing more important, I believe, apart from the health and well-being of a child, than the education our children receive, ensuring that ‘they get a quality education, that we have schools that are performing and schools that are not overcrowded,’ he said.

Zaccaro Jr. is a North Bronx product. Born at North Central Bronx Hospital in Norwood, he attended PS 246, located across from Poe Park in Fordham Manor, JHS 143 John Peter Tetard in Kingsbridge Heights, which closed in 2007, and then DeWitt Clinton High School in Jerome Park.

He is open about his struggles as a teenage student. “I struggled in high school and ended up in a transitional high school which is CUNY Prep, which is here in the White Plains Road district,” he recalled. He said he also had to take on household responsibilities from an early age. “Being the only man in the house, raised by a single mother, I had an obligation from the age of 12 to work, support and help,” he said.

From humble beginnings, strong ties to his community, and now with more than 14 years of experience working for municipal government, Zaccaro Jr. believes he has what it takes to make the leap into lawmaking. at the state level. Asked to describe the year 80 AD, he praised its diversity, citing former Mayor David Dinkins’ oft-quoted description of New York as “a beautiful mosaic”.

The candidate added that he sees the neighborhood as filled with rich culture. “Wherever you go, in every corner of the district, you can find such great diversity,” he said. “You go to Little Yemen, and you see what they’ve built for themselves, and how we coexist, and the work we do together.”

Zaccaro Jr. is a member of the executive board of the Liberty Democratic Association, a member of the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, and a former board member of the Bronx Community Board 7. The Pelham Parkway resident wants voters to know that his lived experience l has prepared for what he hopes will be an opportunity to better serve his community. Whether it’s quality of life issues, housing issues, or finding solutions for better education, he’s asking voters to give him a chance to solve the problem for them from Albany.

“It’s the issues that are important to me, the issues that I hear about from my neighbors that are important to them,” he said. “These are the issues that I feel I also have the experience to address and I look forward to doing so as soon as I take office.”

Election day is November 8. Early voting continues until November 6. Check your polling place in advance.

*Síle Moloney contributed to this story.

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