Ritchie Torres

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ritchie Torres
Ritchie Torres 2015.jpg
Member of the New York City Council
from the 15th district
Assumed office
January 1, 2014
Preceded byJoel Rivera
Personal details
Born (1988-03-12) March 12, 1988 (age 32)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationNew York University
WebsiteGovernment website

Ritchie Torres (born March 12, 1988) is an American politician from New York.[1] A member of the Democratic Party, he is the New York City Councilmember for the 15th district. Elected in 2013, he is the first openly gay candidate to be elected to legislative office in the Bronx, and the youngest member of the city council. He serves as the chair of the Committee on Public Housing, and is a deputy majority leader. As chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee he is focusing on taxi medallion predatory loans, and the city's Third Party Transfer Program.

In July 2019, he announced his bid for the United States House of Representatives for New York's 15th congressional district.

Early life and education[edit]

Torres is Afro-Latino; his father is from Puerto Rico and his mother is African-American.[1] He was raised by his mother in Throggs Neck Houses, a public housing project in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the East Bronx,[2] where he was frequently hospitalized for asthma as a result of the mold growing in their apartment.[3] He said, of growing up economically disadvantaged in “slum conditions”, “I was raised by a single mother who had to raise three children on minimum wage and I lived in conditions of mold and vermin, lead and leaks.”[4] His mother raised him, his twin brother, and their sister.[1] He was upset by the $100 million city-subsidized Trump Gold Links built “across the street” in Ferry Point Park, rather on housing for struggling New Yorkers.[4] He vowed then to fight for their well-being.[4] In junior high he realized he was gay but did not come out fearing homophobic violence.[5]

He attended Herbert H. Lehman High School, served in the inaugural class of the Coro New York Exploring Leadership Program, and later worked as an intern in the offices of the Mayor and Attorney General.[6][7] He came out as a sophomore “during a schoolwide forum on marriage equality”.[2]

Torres enrolled at New York University, but dropped out at the beginning of his sophomore year, as he was suffering from severe depression.[7] He struggled with suicidal thoughts based on his sexuality.[5] As he recovered, Torres resumed working for council member James Vacca, eventually becoming Vacca's housing director.[7] In that role, Torres conducted site inspections and documented conditions, ensuring critical housing issues were promptly and adequately addressed.[6][8]

New York City Council[edit]

At 25 years old, Torres ran to succeed Joel Rivera as the councilmember for the 15th district of the New York City Council.[9][10] The district includes Allerton, Belmont, Bronx Park, Claremont Village, Crotona Park, Fordham, Mount Eden, Mount Hope, Norwood, Parkchester, Tremont, Van Nest, West Farms and Williamsbridge in the Bronx.[6]

When he won the Democratic Party nomination for New York City Council, Torres became the first openly gay political candidate in the Bronx to win the Democratic Party nomination, and upon victory in the general election became the first openly gay public official in the Bronx.[11][12] He was also the youngest elected city official.[1] Torres also serves as a Deputy Leader of the City Council.[13]

Public housing[edit]

Upon his election, Torres requested the chairmanship of the Council's Committee on Public Housing, tasked with overseeing the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA);[14] that as of July 2019, is the “nation’s largest public housing system”, that “provides housing to more than 400,000 low-income residents” in “176,000 apartments across 325 complexes”.[15] He made “the living conditions of the city’s most underserved residents a signature priority”.[16] In this role he helped secure $3 million for Concourse Village, Inc., “a nearly 1,900-unit housing cooperative located in the South Bronx”.[16] According to 2010 United States Census data the South Bronx is among the poorest districts in the nation.[4] The cooperative is subsidized by the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, offering “income-restricted rentals and below-market value buy-in for co-ops”.[16] He also secured nearly $1 million to renovate Dennis Lane Apartments, a Mitchell-Lama co-op in the heart of his district.[16] He also “played a crucial role in exposing the city’s failures to address lead-paint contamination.”[1]

In August 2019, along with fellow Council member Vanessa Gibson, Torres announced Right To Counsel 2.0, an expansion of legal aid to NYCHA tenants facing eviction.[17] Since the original law was passed in 2017, providing legal help throughout the entire eviction case, the Council has found 84% of tenants were able to stay in their homes.[17] The Council-members “say this will help keep families together and prevent displacement.”[17] Torres stayed, "NYCHA is one of the worst evictees in the city, ... Not just one of the worst landlords, but one of the worst evictors. In 2018 alone, 838 families lost their homes in the hands of the NYCHA.”[18]

Consumer and financial affairs[edit]

Combating gig worker tip theft[edit]

In April 2019, Torres worked on legislation aimed to compel companies that employ gig workers to be transparent if the worker's tips are diverted to pay base salary.[19] Mobile app delivery companies, like DoorDash—which has freelance workers pickup and deliver meals from restaurants—Amazon's Prime Now, and Instacart, usually allow customers to add a gratuity, but the companies were counting the tips toward regular payment.[19][20] Torres characterized the practice as exploiting “an underclass of independent contractors”, and hopes City Council can ban the practice altogether.[19] Vox noted the gig economy is in need of regulation for the estimated fifty-seven million workers (in the U.S.) who have little protection, and few if any benefits.[20] Torres’ bill would compel these companies to be transparent about the practice “by explicitly stating it in their terms of service or by sending a notification as a transaction is being approved”.[20]

Taxi medallion predatory loans[edit]

Torres, as chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee—newly empowered in January 2018 by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson,[21] said he had documentation that as early as 2010 the Bloomberg Administration was “aware that medallion prices could crumple”;[22] a year before ride hailing pioneer Uber started its service in the city. Medallion prices dropped considerably in 2014 likely due to competition from ride-share vehicles,[23] medallion owners sued the city and Uber in November 2015.[24] By 2017, 60,000 rideshare vehicles outnumbered medallion vehicles by a ratio of almost 4 to 1,[25] and many medallion owners faced the prospect of bankruptcy or severe debt because of the low medallion prices, which few were willing to buy.[23][26][27] Torres said the “medallion market collapse is a cautionary tale”, and “one of the greatest government scandals in the history of New York City”.[22]

In July 2019, the City Council considered how to address the city's taxicab industry with the National Taxi Workers' Alliance’s concerns that the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission knowingly sold medallions at inflated prices bringing in $1 billion in revenue to city government, while saddling “thousands of drivers with impossible debt loads” leading to suicides.[22]

Cashless businesses[edit]

In July 2019, Torres proposed legislation to address the movement in New York towards cashless business practices of stores and restaurants.[28] He did so to preserve access for those who rely on cash for their purchase.[29] The businesses only accept bank cards, and e-commerce payments rather than hard currency: in part for higher efficiency, possibly streamlining both cashiering, and accounting; and for security reasons, as having cash risks robbery.[28] According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in the U.S. in 2017: 16.9% of African-American households, “and 14% of Latino households did not have a bank account;” 6.5% of all households did not have a bank account; and 18.7% with accounts also used non-insured institutions for financial transactions.[29] In New York City, 12% did not have bank accounts in 2013; including “domestic violence survivors who don't wish to be traced and undocumented immigrants as some of those who may face significant challenges when opening bank accounts”.[28][30] They instead often use payday loans and check cashing facilities.[30] Torres’ proposal would fine non-compliant businesses, while allowing them to refuse currency higher than $20 bills.[28] It also prohibits charging more for using cash payment.[30]

Third-Party Transfer program[edit]

In July 2019, Torres, as chair of the Oversight and Investigation committee, and Robert Cornegy, chair of the Committees on Housing and Buildings, released a report from the joint committee that conducted a City Council forensic investigation into the city's Third-Party Transfer (TPT) program.[31] The TPT was started in 1996 under Giuliani's administration to let the Department of Housing and Preservation (DHP) transfer “derelict, tax-delinquent buildings to nonprofits that could rehabilitate and manage them”, ostensibly for working-class people, freeing the city from ownership, or responsibility for tenants.[32] The DHP followed a rule selecting “every other building in the same tax block with a lien—even for a few hundred dollars”—if even one was picked for TPT.[32] The TPT was characterized by Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration as “a tool for taking over "distressed properties" in "blighted" areas”.[33] The report,[a] however, holds that characterization is held in tension with its findings which implicated malfeasance by both NYC's HPD and the Department of Finance (DOF), detailing how the agencies were “targeting and taking of numerous black and brown owned properties, and thus stripping these communities of millions of dollars of generational wealth”.[31] According to Torres, “TPT is quite different from and far harsher than a typical foreclosure from the perspective of a property owner. If you are the target of a foreclosure, you get a share of the proceeds from the sale of your property. Under TPT, the city can completely strip you of all the equity in your property”.[34] The TPT process strips the minority owner of: the property; its value; and mitigates the sweat equity, and resources invested; all with no compensation.[33]

LGBTQ advocacy[edit]

Torres helped open the first homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in the Bronx.[1]

He also secured funds for senior centers to serve LGBTQ people in all five NYC's boroughs.[1]

Addressing gun and gang violence[edit]

In August 2019 Torres announced the City Council is awarding $36.2 million for gun violence prevention and reduction.[35] He stated shooting incidents in NYC are up from 413 in the first half of 2018 to 551 the same period in 2019.[35]

U.S. House of Representatives bid[edit]

Torres has stated that he is "intent on advancing politically," and has been floated as a future candidate for mayor of New York City.[36] His “goal is to be a national champion for the urban poor.”[5]

In March 2019, Torres expressed interest in running against incumbent congressman, Jose E. Serrano.[37] After Serrano announced his retirement, Torres was among those speculated to replace him. In July 2019, Torres announced his bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for New York's 15th congressional district.[38] In his announcement he came out as dealing with depression.[1] If elected he would be the first gay Afro-Latinx member of Congress.[39] Torres said he is seeking the office to pursue “his legislative passions of overhauling public housing and focusing on the issues of concentrated poverty”.[40] The 15th congressional district, in terms of median income, is the nation's poorest.[40] Torres stated, “if you are on a mission to fight racially concentrated poverty ... then you have to be a policymaker on the national stage”.[40] He favors maximizing social housing in the nation, including the ending of land-use bans of apartments which he says will result in the reduction of carbon emissions, as well as increase affordable housing.[40] However, Torres has come under criticism for his willingness to take real estate cash during his run for Congress.[41]

Torres’ main opponent in the Democratic primary is Rubén Díaz Sr.,[5] a conservative Democrat and Pentecostal minister, who does not believe in, and openly stood in opposition to, same-sex marriage.[38][42] Media outlets have contextualized the contest between the two noting their: age difference; contrasting levels of experience; and Torres being openly gay held in tension to Díaz's track record of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.[38][40][43] Torres said he sees Díaz as “temperamentally and ideologically indistinguishable” from Donald Trump.[1] According to The New York Times, Díaz has “a decades-long history of making homophobic remarks”;[5] LGBTQ Nation noted his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric started in the early 1990s right after his start in city politics when he claimed the city's hosting the 1994 Gay Games “would spread AIDS and corrupt children”.[43] In February 2019, Díaz stated that the City Council was “controlled by homosexuals”; in response the council dissolved a subcommittee he chaired.[4] The primary will take place in June, 2020.[44] As of July 2019, Torres has raised $500,000, while Díaz has raised $80,000.[5] Torres is endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, and Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus (Equality PAC).[5]

Election history[edit]

Election history
Location Year Election Results
NYC Council
District 15
2013 Democratic Primary √ Ritchie Torres 36.12%
Joel Rivera 21.39%
Cynthia Thompkins 20.97%
Albert Alvarez 8.99%
Raquel E. Batista 7.42%
Joel M. Bauza 5.11%
NYC Council
District 15
2013 General √ Ritchie Torres (D) 91.15%
Joel Rivera (R) 7.19%
Joel M. Bauza (Conservative) 1.46%
NYC Council
District 15
2017 General √ Ritchie Torres (D/WF) 92.2%
Joel Rivera (R/C) 7.5%


  1. ^ Taking Stock: A look Into The Third Party Transfer Program in Modern Day New York

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gonnerman, Jennifer (July 27, 2019). "Ritchie Torres, Another Young Bronx Progressive, Launches a Run for Congress". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Lang, Nico (August 1, 2019). "Battle for the Bronx: Queer Latinx Millennial Faces Rubén "Gay Sex Is Beastiality" Díaz Sr. | NewNowNext". NewNowNext. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  3. ^ Ross, Winston. "Ritchie Torres: Gay, Hispanic and Powerful". newsweek.com. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Brown, Nicole (July 16, 2019). "South Bronx congressional primary will be one to watch". A.M. New York. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Mays, Jeffery C. (July 15, 2019). "He's Gay. His Main Opponent Makes Homophobic Remarks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "Biography". council.ny.gov. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Gonnerman, Jennifer. "Fighting for the Poor Under Trump". newyorker.com. The New Yorker. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  8. ^ "Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. endorses Ritchie Torres for City Council seat". NY Daily News. August 6, 2013. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  9. ^ Kappstatter, Bob (May 16, 2013). "Will the real Joel please stand • Bronx Times". Bxtimes.com. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Colin Campbell (March 14, 2013). "24-Year-Old Council Candidate Collecting Money and Endorsements". Observer. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  11. ^ "Riding Widespread Institutional Support, Torres and Cohen Breeze to Primary Wins". Norwood News. September 11, 2013. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  12. ^ "Ritchie Torres, Bronx City Council Race Frontrunner, Among 3 Openly Gay Candidates In Historic Election". Huffingtonpost.com. June 13, 2013. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  13. ^ "Biography". council.ny.gov. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  14. ^ Gonnerman, Jennifer. "Fighting for the Poor Under Trump". newyorker.com. The New Yorker. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  15. ^ Ferré-Sadurní, Luis (June 24, 2019). "He's in Charge of Housing for 11,000 Minnesotans. Can He Handle 400,000 New Yorkers?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c d Geringer-Sameth, Ethan. "Campaigning for Congress, Torres Touts City Funding Secured for Development Outside Council District". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c "Seniors facing potential eviction seek legal help with new law expansion". Bronx News 12. August 23, 2019. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  18. ^ Morales, Monica (August 23, 2019). "NYCHA seniors who fear eviction can get a free lawyer". WPIX 11 New York. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c Sanders, Anna (April 17, 2019). "Legislation aims to shed light on delivery app tipping practices". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c Lieber, Chavie (April 24, 2019). "Some delivery apps pocket their workers' tips. A new bill aims to expose the practice". Vox. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  21. ^ Murphy, Jarrett (January 17, 2018). "Ritchie Torres on the Council's Bulked Up Oversight Role". City Limits. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  22. ^ a b c Hennelly, Bob (July 17, 2019). "Council Considers Bailout for Cab Owners". The Chief Leader. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Rosenthal, Brian M. (May 19, 2019). "'They Were Conned': How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  24. ^ Mullin, Joe (November 17, 2015). "Cab medallion owners sue NYC, blame Uber for ruining business". Ars Technica. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  25. ^ Hu, Winnie (January 15, 2017). "Yellow Cab, Long a Fixture of City Life, Is for Many a Thing of the Past". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  26. ^ Furfaro, Danielle (July 5, 2016). "Taxi medallion owners find their dreams dashed by Uber, Lyft". New York Post. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  27. ^ Hu, Winnie (September 10, 2017). "Taxi Medallions, Once a Safe Investment, Now Drag Owners Into Debt". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 13, 2017. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  28. ^ a b c d Pereira, Ivan (July 22, 2019). "Vote nears on cashless business ban". A.M. New York. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  29. ^ a b Jones, Charisse (September 9, 2019). "Should you ditch your cash? A growing number of cities say no way". USA Today.
  30. ^ a b c Allen, Karma (July 23, 2019). "City could become latest to punish cashless businesses". ABC News. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  31. ^ a b Witt, Stephen (July 23, 2019). "City Council Forensic Study Finds Glaring Discrepancies In TPT Program". Kings County Politics. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  32. ^ a b Barron, Seth (July 24, 2019). "Sometimes a Lien Is Just a Lien". City Journal. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  33. ^ a b Bredderman, Will (July 23, 2019). "Council rips de Blasio's home-seizure program". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  34. ^ Turay, Michael; Cruz, David (July 26, 2019). "Torres: Home Seizure Program Has Sights on Black and Hispanic Homeowners". Norwood News. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  35. ^ a b "Councilman announces $36.2M in funding for anti-violence programs". Bronx News 12. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  36. ^ Barkan, Ross. "Could This 27-Year-Old Councilman Be the Mayor of New York One Day?". observer.com. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  37. ^ Campanile, Carl (March 18, 2019). "Councilman inspired by Ocasio-Cortez eyes 2020 Dem seat". New York Post. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  38. ^ a b c Gremore, Graham (July 15, 2019). "This gay millennial is challenging a 76-year-old homophobe for a NY Congressional seat". www.queerty.com. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  39. ^ Byrne, Robert. "Victory Fund Endorses Ritchie Torres for US Congress; Faces Anti-LGBTQ Opponent in Effort to Become First LGBTQ Afro-Latinx Member of Congress". LGBTQ Victory Fund. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  40. ^ a b c d e Fitzsimons, Tim (July 20, 2019). "Gay lawmaker says his congressional run against 'homophobe' is personal". NBC News. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  41. ^ Tracy, Matt (October 25, 2019). "Tensions Flare as Stonewall Endorses Ritchie Torres". Gay City News. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  42. ^ "N12 Bite: Teen girls to take over the Bronx soon, a gay councilman to challenge his allegedly homophobic counterpart and more". bronx.news12.com. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  43. ^ a b Gallagher, John (July 20, 2019). "Can a gay millenial of color beat a homophobic minister for a NY Congressional seat?". www.lgbtqnation.com. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  44. ^ "2020 Dem primary looms large for Bronx Congressional seat". WPIX 11 New York. July 16, 2019. Retrieved July 17, 2019.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joel Rivera
Member of the New York City Council
from the 15th district