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Senator José M. Serrano, a lifetime South Bronx resident, was elected to the New York State Senate in November of 2004. He is Secretary of the Majority Conference, and currently serves as Chair of Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation. His other committee assignments include: Aging; Crime Victims, Crime and Correction; Education; Elections; Environmental Conservation; Higher Education; and Rules.
Senator Serrano learned the importance of public service at an early age from his father, U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano. After graduating from Manhattan College with a B.A. in Government, Senator Serrano joined the New York Shakespeare Festival, a non-profit cultural institution. At the Shakespeare Festival, Senator Serrano deepened his appreciation for the arts and dedicated himself to using it as a vehicle for community empowerment and economic revitalization.
Before entering elected office, Senator Serrano was a member of Community Board 4 in the Bronx, and served as Chairman of the Board for the Institute for Urban Family Health, a non-profit health services organization that provides quality healthcare to New York City’s medically under-served communities. The institute is a pioneer in studying the causes and effects of racial and economic disparities in our healthcare system.
In 2001, Senator Serrano was elected to the New York City Council (District 17), representing Melrose, Mott Haven, and Hunt’s Point. He led the fight against devastating budget cuts to libraries and the city’s cultural institutions, and advocated for quality senior centers and the expansion of daycare for low-income children. Under his watch, over 2,000 units of new housing were built in the 17th Council District. He garnered $13 million to support community improvements and the creation of four acres of green space in his district. Senator Serrano took a lead role in advocating for Intro. 186, a bill allowing tenants the right to purchase Mitchell-Lama buildings when exiting the program.
As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Inter-group Relations, Senator Serrano resisted budget cuts to English as a Second Language (ESL), adult literacy and after-school youth programs in New York City libraries. He and his colleagues in the Council restored an average of $20 million each year to maintain library service during the city’s fiscal crisis. He also fought to restore $40 million over three years to cultural organizations, especially small, neighborhood-based groups that nurture local artists.
In 2004, with broad grassroots support, Serrano defeated a 26-year incumbent in his State Senate race. The 28th Senate District, with perhaps the greatest socio-economic and cultural diversity in the state, includes neighborhoods in the South and West Bronx, East Harlem, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island. Serrano’s commanding 82 percent of the vote demonstrated the voters’ clear mandate for change and reform in Albany and in their community.
In Albany, Senator Serrano has introduced a wide variety of bills that aim to keep housing affordable, protect public health, foster economic development, defend immigrant rights, and conserve the environment. During the 2007-2008 legislative term, while still in the Minority, two Serrano bills were passed by the State Senate: one to provide assistance to small businesses impacted by the construction of the Second Avenue Subway; and another to incentivize affordable development on vacant properties in Northern Manhattan. The latter was signed into law by Governor David A. Paterson.
A strong advocate of legislative reform, Serrano was named in January 2009 to the
Temporary Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Reform. The committee was launched by Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith as part of a package of forward-thinking changes to improve the functionality and fairness of the Senate as an institution and policy-making body.
The Senator has also emerged as a vocal defender of immigrant rights, appearing on national television and local media outlets. He has convened workshops in the 28th District covering intellectual property rights for non-profits and small businesses, the elimination of trans fat in the city’s food service industry, and educational opportunities for undocumented residents. The Senator, who mapped out a disturbing trend of supermarket closures in his district, has helped lead the fight for nutritious and affordable food in working class communities. With Senator Liz Krueger and others, he has been at the forefront of a campaign against predatory real estate investment, which has threatened New York City’s dwindling affordable housing stock.
Senator Serrano brings a unique energy and commitment to public service. He has employed modern communication strategies – including blogs, emails blasts, and YouTube videos – to connect the distinct neighborhoods, and the five different community board districts, that he represents in the State Senate. Both in Albany and the District, he works tirelessly to ensure that his constituents receive quality services and their fair share of government funding.
Senator Serrano, his wife, and son reside in the South Bronx.