Kenny Burgos will almost certainly represent New York’s 85th Assembly district. Where does the first-time candidate stand on South Bronx issues?
When Kenny Burgos says the Bronx is home, he means the entire Bronx. Raised on Watson Avenue and growing up with separated Puerto Rican parents, he saw the whole borough, with each neighborhood’s block-by-block differences.
“Growing up, I lived throughout the Bronx,” Burgos said, “and it’s where my heart is.”
Burgos, 26, is all but guaranteed to become the State Assemblyman for the 85th District, representing parts of Hunts Point, Longwood and Soundview. After current Assemblyman Marcos Crespos announced he would not seek reelection earlier this year, Burgos decided to step in. He won the district’s Democratic primary in June by over 2,000 votes.
Burgos’ opponents in the Nov. 3 election are two unknowns, Republican Candidate Janelle King or Conservative Party Candidate Gabriel Eronsele.
While Burgos’ inevitable election may not pose much of a challenge, his first days in office will not be easy. With the South Bronx hit particularly hard by the Coronavirus, he’ll have his work cut out for him in leading the recovery.
“The Bronx was at the forefront of this crisis, we had many essential workers who live here, people who lost their lives,” said Burgos. “But now, it’s going to be about being specific in how we attack these issues, specific to a borough, specific to a neighborhood, to really bring us out.”
One area Burgos believes needs specific solutions he vows to help work toward, is housing. He wants to eliminate the controversial Area Median Income to change how the city measures affordability. That, in turn, would help lower rents for low-income Bronxites. He also believes the state needs to increase the percentage of affordable units developers are required to build, and that the city should subsidize the prices of houses and condos to make homeownership easier.
Public transit is another service that urgently needs more investment, the candidate maintains. While the MTA claims it needs a federal bailout, Burgos insists there are other ways to raise revenue.
“It’s going to be raising revenue on the wealthy, looking to the billionaires of New York,” said Burgos. And if those wealthy New Yorkers threaten to leave? Burgos says he doesn’t believe them. “They’re not going anywhere. New York is the financial capital of the world.”
Climate change and New York’s reliance on fossil fuels are a direct threat to residents of low-lying Hunts Point, and he says he will address those in his new role in the Assembly. The South Bronx suffers from some of the highest asthma rates and other respiratory illnesses in the state, largely due to high commercial traffic in and around the Food Distribution Market and proximity to the Bruckner Expressway.
Additionally, rising water levels could threaten neighborhoods on or close to the waterfront.
“It’s crucial. Divesting from fossil fuels at the state level through pension systems, it’s going to be critical,” said Burgos. “On the waterfront, we have rising sea levels. There are projections that parts of New York City, including parts of the Bronx, can be underwater if we continue down this path.”
Although a first-time candidate, Burgos is no stranger to politics. After an internship at City Hall, he joined the staff of former City Councilwoman Annabel Palma. When Palma’s term ended, he was hired to manage the budget for state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., the controversial reverend known for his cowboy hats and conservative social views.
Burgos claims he accepted the latter position in order to provide an easier transition between Palma and Diaz Sr., and to ensure tasks started under Palma continued to receive funding. Neither Palma nor Diaz Sr. responded to The Express’ requests for comment about Burgos’ qualifications for the Assembly seat.
“As we all know, government, the changing of seats, bringing in new members, they come with different priorities, and projects,” he said.
Burgos is quick to dispel associations between himself and Diaz Sr. on a variety of social issues, including LGBTQ rights and abortion. Among a small handful of unions, Burgos counts Planned Parenthood among his endorsements. However, Burgos said that while he openly disagreed with the senior legislator politically, he appreciated the role he was allowed to play, despite their challenging differences. “I credit him with always listening to me.”
In fact, Burgos sees these challenges as strengths.
“I’ve been in so many different scenarios in different environments, that adaptability is probably my best asset,” he said.