Rosie Mendez is a politician made for the modern times. Running for re-election as city council woman for District 2, she updates her Twitter account with statements like, “I don’t know if I’m a wise Latina but today I’m a PROUD Latina!” She has a frequented Myspace page and a Facebook page that boasts 1,164 friends. Even though Mendez was well past her youth when any of these social-networking sites came into being, that hasn’t stopped her from using them to her advantage.
“With Rosie, there is hope. Rosie is adorable, bright and sharp nobody fools around with her.” Said Tito Mesa, a 40 year East Village resident and personal friend of Mendez. As a Latina and an out and proud lesbian, Mendez has worked hard to achieve her place in politics. Coming from humble beginnings, Mendez was born and raised in New York public housing and attended NYC public schools before earning degrees from NYU and Rutgers law. After clocking time as the democratic district leader for her community and serving three years as the chief of staff for her predecessor Margarita Lopez, Mendez set her sights on becoming the next city council woman.
Twenty years ago, Rosie Mendez may not have stood a chance in politics. Being a double minority, Mendez’s success exemplifies the liberal shift in the sociological climate. And although she’s emblematic of our progressive society, her politics are shaped out of a fondness for her neighborhood’s past. Faced with the on-going gentrification of her district (East Village, Lower East Side, among others), Mendez aims to limit the construction of luxury high-rise buildings in an effort to create affordable housing, a concept foreign to the young New Yorker. “I think the overdevelopment of the tall condos is terrible. I’ve lived here since ‘94 and the neighborhood has really lost its character from the gentrification.” Said Luke Campagne a 35 year old New School grad student. “You can’t get too many more people in this space. If you keep building on top, you are going to lose quality of life.”
Also on Mendez’s agenda is enhancing tenants’ rights against corrupt landlords. “In my building, they can raise your rent to 2,000 and if you can’t pay it they will just kick you out. My neighbors are getting close and they don’t know what they are going to d o or where they are going to go.” Said Mesa.
To some people, however, gentrification is merely a necessary evil of city life. “Gentrification happens everywhere. I am from Chicago and it’s the same thing. The developers come in and take over. Bed-Stuy will be next. It’s just a cycle of white flight and then they all come back and build condos” Said Kim Owens a mid-town resident. “ I suppose that’s an admirable and lofty idea to stop the development, but I don’t know…” Although Mendez’s desire for a quieter and rent-stabilized New York City may seem like wishful thinking, it ties into Mendez’s dream of recapturing the magic of her district; magic that was lost in a sea of wealth and over-population. “It was great when this place was full of drug dealers and everybody would get along. Straight people, gay people, everybody was one.” Said Mesa.