Peter Rivera’s New Job and the Race He Leaves Behind

25 Mar

By Bob Kappstatter

The long national nightmare, as they say, for Bronx Assemblyman Peter Rivera finally ended on Saturday when Gov. Cuomo named him new state labor commissioner.

Assemblyman Peter Rivera

The announcement came at the annual Somos El Futuro winter conference of the state Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, where Rivera is an elder statesman whose appointment can’t but help Cuomo solidify his Latino support.

Rivera, according to all reports, has pretty much been searching for a new paycheck outside the state Assembly for a number of years now, while still hedging his bets over running for another term or for a judgeship.

Before his new state gig, Rivera’s last hope was reported to be a run for the plum job of Bronx Surrogate, whose office doles out assignments (and fancy fees) to party-faithful lawyers to handle the estates of persons who die without wills.

Although Rivera was saying as late as Friday that he was weighing a run for Surrogate, that dream pretty much crashed and burned recently when the Bronx Democratic Party’s non-partisan judicial screening panel put the kibosh on it, labeling the attorney and former assistant Bronx D.A. “unqualified.”

Not that he would have received party backing in the judicial primary (Dem Party Boss Carl Heastie reportedly already has a favorite candidate) or might have survived his next Assembly primary race, with the opposing candidate already backed by a powerful local state senator.

Although baseball and politics ain’t over ’til it’s over, a number of Bronx political insiders say attorney and party operative Luis Sepulveda now holds the winning edge to fill Rivera’s 76th Assembly District seat in Parkchester/Castle Hill/West Farms/Van Nest.

His nearest challenger in the Democratic primary is Rivera’s longtime chief of staff, Danny Figueroa, who only recently began to plow the district for votes – and name recognition.

Sepulveda was literally out campaigning the day after he lost the last primary to Rivera by a close 44% to 54%, with a total of 4800 votes cast.

This time, he’s mounted a steamroller campaign effort, seemingly joined at the hip with ally State Sen. Ruben (The Rev) Diaz, Sr., working local events and churches.

He’s also curried (ouch!) the support of the politically nascent large Bangladeshi population around Parkchester, which reportedly can deliver anywhere from 400 to 600 key votes.

With The Rev’s political juice, Sepulveda recently sewed up key endorsements from Democratic Female District Leader Julia Rodriguez; State Committeewoman Barbara Brown, and Judicial Delegate Roselyn Johnson.

It’s also likely that local Councilwoman Annabel Palma and adjoining Soundview Assemblyman Marcos Crespo will shortly be – if not already – on Sepulveda’s campaign wagon. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is reported likely to follow, according to two separate sources.

Bronx Democratic Party Boss Carl Heastie is also likely to throw key party backing to Sepulveda in the Sept. 11 primary – if you read between the lines of a statement from Heastie spokesman Patrick Jenkins:

“The Chairman, as is his practice, will make his decision on who the party will back based in large part on the recommendations of the local district leaders,” said Jenkins.

Take note that along with Julia Rodriguez, the female district leader who supports Sepulveda, Sen. Diaz is also the local male district leader.

Figueroa might have hoped at one point to inherit Rivera’s seat if the assemblyman actually ran for reelection this time, won and then stepped down, backing Figueroa to fill out his term and run as an incumbent in the next election.

Gov. Cuomo’s appointment also apparently quashes once and for all a dark legal cloud Rivera’s been living under involving his pumping major state funding to the just about moribund Neighborhood Enhancement for Training Services (NETS) non-profit.

David Griffiths, his former law partner and campaign treasurer, was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty last June to federal mail fraud involving NETS. He made no agreement to testify against Rivera.

It’s doubtful Cuomo, the former state Attorney General, would have given Rivera the job, pending state Senate confirmation to replace Colleen Garden, if there were any loose investigative threads still hanging in that case.

Ed. note: Bob Kappstatter is the veteran former Daily News Bronx bureau chief who wrote a weekly column on borough politics. 

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7 Responses to “Peter Rivera’s New Job and the Race He Leaves Behind”

  1. Jennifer March 26, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Glad he is still writing, this is just another example of how horrible bronx electeds are, and that cuomo is no reformer…

  2. GAX March 28, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    Keep ’em coming Kappy…!

  3. Sophie Johnson March 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    After Spitzer and Paterson, any Governor would look like a reformer. Are you serious?

  4. Lothar Krause March 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Sepulveda has done the necessary legwork in the last few years to have the name recognition in the district. I wish he wasn’t associated with Diaz, Sr., though. This mars his candidacy and makes it difficult to vote for him. Also, his latest stunt of suing the MTA over the failure to add an elevator in the Parkchester train station leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. He spent every morning during the last campaign at the train station during the construction period and now he notices that the train station is inaccessible? Walter Nestler was the first to pick up the subject during his run for City Council against Ms. Palma who is a no-show in her City Council district. Mr. Sepulveda’s voice was missing then. Let’s see if he is around in his district if he gets elected to Albany.

    • Anthony April 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

      I agree with your concerns with the association with Diaz Sr but Luis has shown to be his own force in the community. Therefore having the name recognition you mentioned.

      I disagree with your openion on MTA Lawsuit. Have you asked Mr. Sepulveda or any of his people why the late start and how that came about? Kind of a misleading openion if you don’t ascertain the facts.

      I know Luis has touched the whole district aggressively, corner to corner with many initiatives and events for the community. Accomplishments no one has matched in my comminity. To concentrate on a lawsuit that no one has done before is not fair, especially if your guy (Walter) failed to do so.

  5. Lothar Krause April 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    The issue is larger than just a lawsuit coming too late. What we need in the Bronx are politicians who are leaders not election year stunt artists.
    The Parkchester Ave subway station renovation is a prime example on government waste, inefficiency and lack of leadership from our community leaders.

    The project was discussed in the Community Board but the discussions seldom lead anywhere due to the lack of support of the politicians. Everyone knew that the station would not become accessible. The Community Board was
    told that it is impossible to make this station accessible and most “community leaders” did not speak up and support the community. If we could have applied more pressure in the planning stages things could have been different.

    The Parkchester Subway station should have become: a police precinct, an accessible subway station with clean public bathrooms, a legal taxistand, an Access-A-Ride stop, retail space to generate revenue for the MTA, maybe a street cafe or a Starbucks. It could have been the kernel for a new revitalization of the whole neighborhood.

    If you are a candidate for office and you use the construction site as a staging area to meet your voters every morning (and Luis Sepulveda was there every morning) and you stand by quietly when tax payer money is squandered, you become part of the problem. But, maybe Mr. Sepulveda will have the chance to represent his district going forward and fix problems like these. We’ll see whether he will be the leader that I think he hopes to be or whether he will be another no-show politicians like the ones who already represent the neighborhood. No need to name names-the guilty know who they are.

  6. Julio June 3, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    Did you ever notice that Rivera’s lapdog, Dan Figueroa, is full time on assembly payroll when campaigning and appearing in court? And that Rivera signs Figueroa’s weekly time sheets knowing he is not working..

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