Ydanis Rodriguez

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Ydanis Rodriguez


Ydanis Rodriguez a Democrat represents District 10 on the New York City Council.

Background

Ydanis Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic and came to Washington Heights when he was 18 years old. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at the City College of New York, paying his way working as a taxi-driver. He then went on to obtain his Master’s degree in Bilingual Education at City College.

In 1992, Ydanis successfully helped to found Gregorio Luperon High School, a school dedicated to the success of immigrant families, where he became a public high school teacher. Although Ydanis began his activism in the Dominican Republic fighting for a new school in his hometown, Licey Al-medio, and continued during his tenure at City College, working to fight against tuition increases and budget cuts through student government, his 14 years of experience teaching refined and strengthened his passion for serving the community.

As a founding teacher at Gregorio Luperon High School, Ydanis became very aware of the growing problems of overcrowding and the lack of resources at his school and others in the area. With his fellow teachers, students, and community members, he advocated for increased school capacity and higher quality facilities. He took the fight to City Hall, resulting in the construction of a new state of the art facility to house Gregorio Luperon High School.

After winning this fight, Ydanis continued to work for change in Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill. Whether it was to improve translation and interpretation services in local hospitals, to shut down a proposed correction facility on 182nd street, or to keep open the 180th Street Post Office, Ydanis was actively involved. On behalf of the community, he worked with the Straphangers Campaign to oppose public transit fare increases, exposed abusive and corrupt landlords with tenant associations, and founded a program which provides access to academic and extra-curricular resources to first generation high school and pre-high school students and their families—a program acclaimed by former Governor Paterson.

Ydanis and his family currently reside uptown in Inwood. As a City Councilman, Ydanis continues to fight for District 10 residents and the progressive movement, in partnership community residents and organizations. He has taken strong stances on diversity in higher education, increased college readiness amongst high school students, denouncing stop and frisk policies, providing more affordable housing options in Northern Manhattan, calling for smart and progressive immigration reform, and giving a greater voice to the working and middle classes of New York City.

His participation in the Occupy Wall Street movement earned him recognition in Time Magazine’s 2011 edition of Person of the Year: Year of the Protester. He has been a champion of worker’s rights, civil rights and human rights; ensuring the dignity of all people is maintained regardless of their circumstances.[1]

Spyng on students

Spying.JPG

Front cover of Harlem’s Amsterdam News, June 4-10, 1998 reports on students Ydanis Rodriguez, David Suker and Brad Sigal’s discovery of CCNY administration’s secret spying pro- gram against student activist meeting space in NAC 3/201.

Sigal v. Moses case

On Nov. 21 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas P. Griesa ruled in favor of Brad Sigal, Ydanis Rodriguez and David Suker, three former student activists at the City College of New York (CCNY). The students praised the court decision in the Sigal v. Moses case, calling it an important victory for student activists and the student media.

The Sigal v. Moses case was filed over ten years ago in June 1998. The students sued City College President Moses over a series of incidents of repression against CCNY student activists that happened in the spring of 1998. This was during the height of the student movement to stop attacks on access to education and budget cuts at CUNY.

In his decision, Judge Griesa ruled that Moses acted illegally in nullifying the results of a student government election that a slate of progressive student activists, including Sigal, Rodriguez and Suker, had won in April 1998. President Moses nullified the election because she said that the election edition of the CCNY Messenger, a progressive student newspaper that some slate members worked on, was biased toward the students' slate, and therefore constituted illegal campaign materials. The Messenger newspaper was known as a strong student movement voice criticizing attacks on access to education and budget cuts by the CUNY administration and by then-Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki.

In court the students disputed that the election edition of the Messenger was biased. They pointed to the fact that the editorial about the student government elections was written by a neutral staff member, and didn't endorse any slate, while statements and photos were printed from all candidates running. Further, the Messenger editorial even strongly criticized some members of the slate they were accused of supporting. The students also held that even if the Messenger had favored the activist slate, it shouldn't have resulted in the nullifying of the student election because student newspapers have the right to endorse candidates in student elections. This is regular practice among student newspapers and has been upheld repeatedly in the courts.[2]

Dominicans 2000

Alexandra Soriano-Taveras, Johanny Garcia, Julissa Reynoso, Ydanis Rodriguez & Hypatia Zoquier, Co-Founders

The Pre-University Program of Dominicans 2000 (Pre-U) was established in 1996 to ensure “the educational and professional success of new immigrant youth and to foster attitudes of civic responsibility and peer support.”[3]

Shakur/Morales Community Center

From left: Ydanis Rodriguez, Rodolfo Leyton, Lydia Shestopalova & Igwe Williams speak at meeting on defending Shakur/Morales center at CCNY, Dec. 15.

On Dec. 12, 2006 the New York Daily News printed a front-page attack on a community and student center named in honor of Puerto Rican freedom fighter Guillermo Morales and former Black Panther Assata Shakur. This center is located on the campus of City College of New York.

The outcome of the Daily News article was the removal of the center’s 17-year-old sign with the pictures of Shakur and Morales. An emergency community/student meeting was called on Dec. 15 at the North Academic Center (NAC) of City College to address the attacks by the Daily News and police on the center.

The meeting took place in a classroom offered by a long-time revered champion of educational and social justice, Dr. Leonard Jefferies. He opened his classroom to ensure the meeting could take place. The room was filled with students, faculty, former students and many other organizations and activists. The agenda was well organized and facilitated by members of the center, the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM) and Students for Educational Rights (SER). The most impacting moments came from faculty and former students who gave a crash course in the history of CCNY, which was once known as Free Academy.

The time line was plotted by Rodolfo Leyton, a volunteer at the center, and Ydanis Rodríguez of the Dominicans 2000. SLAM members who work out of the Shakur/Morales Community Center explained what was won after the 1989 student hunger strike and takeover of City College.

Bill McGuire, an alumnus and lawyer representing students of SLAM, spoke of the case being prepared. He vowed to also bring charges against the intimidating tactics by the administration. The committed faculty promised to stand with each other and the students. Students involved in the struggle vowed to organize, educate and have actions of protest. The immediate action would include putting the center’s sign back up, even though it received a memo from City College Vice President Ramona Brown threatening college disciplinary action.

Joy Simmons, spokesperson for City Council Member Charles Barron, stated Mr. Barron’s support and pledge to put the sign back. Community leaders and activists in attendance promised grass-roots pressure as well.

The meeting ended with a determined chant, “Hands off Assata and Morales!” [4]

The Student Liberation Action Movement’s (SLAM!) President, Igwe Williams, and Students for Educational Rights (SER) President Rodolfo Leyton issued a press release. Their statement claimed Shakur’s innocence, calling her a ‘hero.’ It also asserted the students’ cry for academic freedom and their right to organize on campus.[5]

Ydanis Rodriguez, a leader in the 1989 student strike and a leader of the Shakur/Morales Community Center’s community projects, states, “In 1989 when we ended our organizing movement against the tuition increase proposed by Governor Mario Cuomo, we were able to persuade the governor not to increase tuition. At the end of that movement, as part of the negotiation, we got that space to use as a student and community center. The center has been a very important place at City College because this is a real link between the university and the surrounding community, especially Harlem, Washington Heights and El Barrio.”[6]

Founding member New York City Council Progressive Caucus

Founding members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus, March 2010.[7]

Left Forum 2011

Transforming Public Higher Education in NYC

  • Dr. Basil Wilson—John Jay College, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Jerry Watts—UNY Graduate Center, Institute for African Diaspora in America & the Caribbean (IRADAC)
  • Martha Biondi—Northwestern University
  • Noliwe Rooks—Princeton University, Center for African American Studies
  • Rod Bush—St. John's University
  • Ydanis Rodriguez—Chair of City Council's Higher Education Committee

Immigration protest arrest

With 109 arrests, New York is playing a lead role in a growing national movement of nonviolent civil disobedience for immigration reform. Recent civil disobedience actions also have taken place in Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, Tucson, Detroit, San Francisco, and Seattle. Participants said their actions carry on the great tradition of peaceful non-violent resistance in the face of grave injustice, as practiced by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The series of civil disobedience actions began on May 17th 2010, when 16 New Yorkers were arrested. The following week, 37 were arrested in a similar action. Several elected officials were arrested in those actions: City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, Jumaane D. Williams, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, and State Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat.[9]

Trayvon Martin case

A majority of New York City Council members, dressed in hoodies and holding Skittles candies and bottles of iced tea, held a press conference in front of City Hall March 29, 2012, to express their solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin and to express their outrage at the fact that his murderer, George Zimmerman, has still not been arrested.

A resolution expressing the council's outrage was initiated by council members Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, D-Manhattan.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, D-Manhattan, announced that she would be introducing the resolution with Mark-Viverito and James, and that it "will condemn the killing, the weaknesses in its investigation and the lack of an arrest."

"Our resolution," said Quinn, "Will also call for an examination of 'Stand Your Ground' laws nationwide, including their impact on increasing the flow of illegal guns to New York City."

Quinn continued, "Trayvon Martin was killed for his gender and his race. By releasing George Zimmerman, the Sanford police was saying it doesn't matter."

Earlier, in what turned out to be a day of unity at City Hall, a predominantly Latino crowd of community, labor, youth and student leaders attended a press conference entitled "One voice-One Vote", "One Hundred Organizations United to get out the Vote."

The press conference announced a massive campaign to register New York City voters. Washington Heights Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez spoke at the event.[[10]

Communist gathering/"We're Not Going Back"

March 2015, a crowd of New Yorkers lined up at the security desk in order to make their way up to the third floor to Melba's Restaurant and the annual "We're Not Going Back" celebration of African American culture and struggle.

2014's guest speaker was Angela Davis, and the occasion was held downtown at the Henry Winston Unity Hall. This year's featured speaker was the newly elected mayor of Newark, the Honorable Ras Baraka.

The meeting's theme was "Support City Officials Who Fight for Equality, a Living Wage and Against Racism."

Estevan Bassett-Nembhard, New York organizer of the Communist Party USA, opened the program, greeting the over 200 participants and emphasizing the need for unity in the vital struggle to end racism. "We stand on the shoulders of those who defeated slavery and Jim Crow. Our history tells us that united we stand and divided we fall." He continued, "We're not going back! Our pledge is to stick together."

Naquasia LeGrand chaired the event, winning a round of applause when she announced that she was a fast food worker and an organizer of that movement.

A large and politically diverse host committee was formed to welcome Mayor Baraka, including representatives from labor, fast-food workers, police reform, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, religious and peace and justice movements. Among them were Alisha Garner, the sister of Eric Garner murdered by police on Staten Island, and elected officials including State Senator Bill Perkins, State Assemblyman Keith Wright, along with a representative of City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez. Baraka received proclamations from Perkins, Wright and Rodriguez. He also received a letter of welcome from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer stopped by briefly to greet the gathering crowd.

As the evening ended one participant said, "This was a great event that showed that left and center forces in our city can work together to build principled unity and a stronger movement to help defeat racism and poverty."[11]

References