Two days after his campaign headquarter was vandalized, a determined Luis Velez on Sunday afternoon rallied his supporters inside the small Summer Street storefront.
“I’m ready. I’m trained for the job,” Velez told a group of about 100 supporters. “I’ve been attending more council meetings than the sitting councilman.”
Velez cited his attendance at council meetings and community work to make the case he has the training to represent the 5th Ward.
Antonio Yamauchi, an elderly man who lives at the Governor Paterson Towers, testified to some of Velez’s work. He said Velez is well known at the housing complex for his responsiveness and willingness to help seniors with their needs.
Yamauchi said Velez managed to successfully lobby for two stop signs at the neighborhood to make street crossing safer for seniors. “He’s not a politician, he’s a public servant,” he said adding Velez was able to get something done.
Jerry Gaines, a 6th Ward resident, said Velez was able to get the city’s health department out to 21st Avenue to address a rodent issue near Giannella’s Bakery. He said councilman Andre Sayegh wasn’t able tackle the rodent problem that resulted from improper disposal of food stuffs at the location.
Sayegh said he met with Gaines’ landlord and Giannella’s to address the issue. He noted Gaines is an open Al Abdelaziz supporter.
Gaines said Velez was able to get city inspectors out within a day to tackle the issue.
Juan Diaone, a 5th Ward resident, said his rent has gone up by $200 because of increasing property taxes. He said he came out to hear Velez’s positions on issues and his ideas to better the 5th Ward.
“I’m not going to be there for that,” said Velez referring to tax increases. He also staked out positions on several other issues.
Velez said he supports the business curfew ordinance because of the quality of life improvement it has been able to bring to residents. He also staked out a position on tax abatements stating he does not support giving developers tax abatements when homeowners are hit with new taxes every year.
In a ward where crime is ubiquitous, Velez said, “We need to increase our law enforcement personnel.” When asked doesn’t that involve raising taxes, he said the increase in staff has to come from federal grants.
Velez slammed his opponents – former school board member Wendy Guzman and current board member Chrystal Cleaves – blaming them for the district’s budget woes. He said the school board members boast about managing a half-billion dollar budget, so they should be blamed for the deficit.
Velez also said he has been more active in the 5th Ward than his opponents. Santos Joaquin, head of the Paterson Progressive Movement, said he took notice of Velez’s community activities. He said his organization is backing Velez.
Joaquin said his group is more than 2,000 strong. He promised 700 votes to Velez from the movement which came into existence during mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ 2014 election.
Velez told his supporters to cast their votes based on his work in the 5th Ward. He warned voters many will make big promises and may not be able to follow through.
“A lot of people are going to try to sell you a dream,” said Velez.