Vol. 14, No. 10   May 17 - 30, 2001 


New Political Group Seeks to Unite Neighborhoods


With the goal of creating civic and political alliances across neighborhoods in the north Bronx, a group of Riverdale residents has formed a new Democratic organization.

The Northwest Bronx Democratic Alliance (NBDA) seeks to appeal to "moderate, independent Democrats" in communities like Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Norwood and Wakefield and work with existing community organizations to address issues such as housing, education, transportation and parks.

Anthony Perez Cassino, an attorney who lives in Riverdale, says one of the reasons he helped to found the group is that he felt critical community issues were being ignored in recent campaigns.

"We've seen some very divisive political campaigns lately," said Perez Cassino, referring to last fall's local races for Congress and state Senate. "We saw less a discussion of issues and more very divisive attacks on personal things and charges of everything from corruption to racism. As a voter, you want to see campaigns focused on issues."

In forming, NBDA decided it could accomplish the most by combining what political groups and community organizations usually do separately.

"By combining both purposes, we feel we can be the most effective political group," Perez Cassino said. "I think one without the other is not a complete picture. We see ourselves as a hybrid and that's what a lot of people feel strongly about."

To this end, NBDA will seek to join forces with existing groups in northwest Bronx neighborhoods. "We want to build alliances with existing organizations that are already doing a terrific job and lend support to what they're doing."

NBDA will rotate its meetings among the various neighborhoods. "We want to have people involved from all these communities," Perez Cassino said.

Though it identifies itself as a Democratic organization, Perez Cassino believes that "people feel more strongly about issues than they do about party," and that NBDA therefore will not "handcuff ourselves to issues just because they have been part of the Democratic Party platform."

And though there has been some talk in political circles that NBDA was created to support the City Council of Riverdale resident and civic leader Laura Spalter (see sidebar), Perez Cassino said the group has no "ties to anybody or any organization. Many of the people who have been involved in this process don't even have any prior political experience. Many of the people don't even know most of the candidates."

NBDA hopes to involve people who have not previously been involved, like Riverdale resident Alma Fana. An accountant and immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Fana said she has lived in Riverdale for nine years, but did not until now get involved in community issues. She saw a notice about the group in a local newspaper and attended one of its early meetings. The time was right, she said, and mentioned safe streets and clean parks as issues she wants to see NBDA tackle. Fana said she is pleased that the group is diverse. "Being that we have different communities involved, I think that's a very interesting thing," she said.

Ed. note: For more information on the North Bronx Democratic Alliance, call Anthony Perez Cassino at 670-3661 or e-mail nbda@msn.com.

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