05 September 2017

All Dressed Up And For What?


NYC Council Elections, Bronx CD #18, Part 2

One freezing frost-filled February night in 2013, I first met Elvin Garcia in the back corner of a too-small greasepit of a Bronx diner to enlist his support in our work to build a new LGBTQ community center for The Bronx, he with his friend, I with mine. If it weren't for my friend, I never would have known what actually had been said during that meeting. Thus was my introduction to the insane world of Bronx politics. Both it, and the turkey burger (my standard diner fare) left a bad taste in my mouth.

At the time, Garcia worked for NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera as an aide. More importantly, Garcia was an out gay man in Bronx politics, something of a rarity (even to this day).

Garcia declined to join our efforts to build an LGBTQ community center.

In fact, when he moved to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's office to a position where he would have direct influence representing LGBTQ Bronxites' interests, he did little—if anything—to assist the grassroots efforts of those working to provide the sort of community and social support services that an LGBTQ community center could provide. And we did ask him for assistance on a few different occasions.

Even attending a pride awards dinner to present a proclamation on behalf of the mayor (the first ever such dinner to have been held successfully in The Bronx) was too much for Garcia. He kept asking to be allowed to speak so he could leave and enjoy his evening (everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves but I digress).

Instead of representing the people—the community—Garcia seemed to care more about representing his boss, the Mayor. Rather than leading the people to his mayor's doorsteps to demand action that will enhance their lives, he has delivered a few programs that have fed his community what amounts to scattered crumbs. Take, for instance, the new ferry service introduced to The Bronx that bypasses what would be his district in Soundview.

Garcia holds himself out to be "A New Bronx Tale" but to me he appears to be the same tale wrapped up in fancier dress.

Why am I writing about my previous interactions with Garcia? To be honest, I'd much rather write about his policies and his responses from questions I'd prepared to ask him. In fact, I reached out to him personally for an interview back in June. When I couldn't promise an article that would fit into how and when he would like to use it to promote himself, he said he'd need more information about my writing and my credentials and would then get back to me with a decision. I never heard from him again.

Pictured (l to r) are Lewis Goldstein,
Elvin Garcia, and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
That essentially has been my experience with how politics operates in The Bronx. Has Garcia spent the past five or so years judiciously learning how to operate within NYC's corrupt and greasy machinery? Perhaps. But without making himself accessible and available to the press, it's hard to say.

Does Garcia have any original thoughts or plans? From reading his web site and other social media, it looks pretty much like all of the same, played out NYC politics just wrapped up in new packaging, all with the Bronx Democratic Party's and NYC government's stamps of approval. Again, without being accessible, those are questions that will remain unanswered.

Indeed, a quick check of his social media will find it peppered with appearances by powerful figureheads throughout NYC government and NYC politics. How can a new tale stand so pristinely on such a solid and old foundation? Shouldn't a new tale act more like the seedling by breaking through the ground, destroying the foundation and using it as food for growth into something newer, better, stronger?

The one thing I will give Garcia credit for is being an out gay man in city government. That's not an easy thing to be, especially in The Bronx. I don't know how much grief it's given him, if any. Hopefully it hasn't, because it shouldn't. But The Bronx can be a difficult enough place to live and work as it is, without the complications that come with being an openly gay individual.

It may not matter what the actual votes will be, because many suspect that whomever the Bronx Democratic Party decides they want the winner to be is who will end up being reported as the winner. The only way this may ever change is if the United Nations installs election monitors at every single polling location in The Bronx (among other places in NYC) and closely watches and analyzes the elections held and the results reported.

Many a Bronx voter knows (or highly suspects) that this is the truth, which perhaps is why The Bronx has one of the most dismal voter turnout rates in the nation: at times, a mere 2% of the voting population shows up at the polls.

Elvin Garcia is a decent choice. If he manages to win, he is a good Democrat who will do what the Bronx Democratic Party tells him to do and won't put up much of a fuss. He won't make waves, and he'll allow only so much progress as the powers that be in city government will allow the populace to enjoy. Kind of like Hillary Clinton.

But in my view, he isn't a progressive. And there's nothing that truly stands out about him or his proposals and policies. He's cut from the same corporatist Democratic cloth as his boss. So don't be surprised when gentrification has come and gone and nobody knows what's happened because it will have been a done deal made behind closed doors. That's how they want it to be. That's the sort of new tale they want to write for The Bronx and they are well on their way to having it written.


Elvin Garcia currently is running for a seat in New York City's Council in District 18, in The Bronx. Out of a total of seven candidates, two others have a real shot at winning: NYS Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr, a political heavyweight with decades of political clout, and lifelong Bronxite Amanda Farias, a grassroots organizer who has spent her life serving her community.

Read Part 1: Can a Leopard Change Its Spots
Read Part 3: A Seed of "Our Revolution" Blossoms in The Bronx