Nydia Margarita Velázquez Serrano (born March 28, 1953) is a politician serving in the United States House of Representatives since 1993. A Democrat from New York, Velázquez chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus until January 3, 2011. Her district, in New York City, was numbered the 12th district from 1993 to 2013 and has been numbered the 7th district since 2013. Velázquez is the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the United States Congress.[1]

Early life, education and career

Velázquez was born in the town of Limones in the municipality of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on March 28, 1953.[2] She grew up in Yabucoa[3] in a small house on the Río Limones.[1][4] Her father, Benito Velázquez Rodríguez, was a poor worker in the sugarcane fields who became a self-taught political activist and the founder of a local political party.[1] Political conversations at the dinner table focused on workers’ rights. Her mother was Carmen Luisa Serrano Medina.[1] She was one of nine siblings.[1]

Velázquez attended public schools[2] and skipped three grades as a child.[1] She became the first in her family to graduate from high school.[2][4] She became a student at University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras at age 16.[1] In 1974,[2] she received a B.A. degree in political science, magna cum laude, and became a teacher.[1][4] In college, Velázquez supported Puerto Rican independence; by the time she ran for Congress in 1992, Velázquez no longer addressed the issue, saying that it must be left up to the Puerto Rican people.[1]

In 1976, Velázquez received an M.A. degree in political science from New York University.[2] She served as an instructor of political science at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao from 1976 to 1981.[2] After returning to New York City, Velázquez was an adjunct professor of Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College from 1981 to 1983.[2][1]

Political career

In 1983, Velázquez was special assistant to Representative Edolphus Towns, a Democrat representing New York’s 10th congressional district in Brooklyn.[2][1]

In 1984, Howard Golden (then the Brooklyn Borough President and chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic organization)[5] named Velázquez to fill a vacant seat on the New York City Council, making her the first Hispanic woman to serve on the council.[2][1] Velázquez ran for election to the council in 1986, but lost to a challenger.[1]

From May 1986 to July 1989, Velázquez was national director of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources’ Migration Division Office.[2] In 1989 the governor of Puerto Rico named her the director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States.[2][1] In this role, according to a 1992 New York Times profile, “Velazquez solidified her reputation that night as a street-smart and politically savvy woman who understood the value of solidarity and loyalty to other politicians, community leaders and organized labor.”[4]

Velázquez pioneered Atrévete Con Tu Voto, a program that aims to politically empower Latinos in the United States through voter registration and other projects. The Atrévete project spread from New York to Hartford, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Chicago, and Boston, helping Hispanic candidates secure electoral wins.[6]

Puerto Rico

Velázquez has been an advocate for human and civil rights of the Puerto Rican people. In the late 1990s and the 2000s, she was a leader in the Vieques movement, which sought to stop the United States military from using the inhabited island as a bomb testing ground. In May 2000, Velázquez was one of nearly 200 people arrested (including fellow Representative Luis Gutiérrez) for refusing to leave the natural habitat the US military wished to continue using as a bombing range.[7] Velázquez was ultimately successful: in May 2003, the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques Island was closed, and in May 2004, the U.S. Navy’s last remaining base on Puerto Rico, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station was closed.[8][9]

U.S. House of Representatives

Congresswoman Velázquez’s official congressional portrait, 113th Congress.

Elections

1992

Velázquez ran for Congress in the 1992 election, seeking a seat in the New York’s newly drawn 12th congressional district, which was drawn as a majority-Hispanic district.[4] She won the Democratic primary, defeating nine-term incumbent Stephen J. Solarz and four Hispanic candidates.[3]

2010

Velázquez’s 2010 campaign income was $759,359. She came out of this campaign about $7,736 in debt. Her top contributors included Goldman Sachs, the American Bankers Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association and the National Telephone Cooperative Association.[10]

2012

Velázquez, who was redistricted into the 7th congressional district, defeated her challengers to win the Democratic nomination.[11] Her top contributors included Goldman Sachs, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America.[12]

Tenure

On September 29, 2008, Velázquez voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. On November 19, 2008, she was elected by her peers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to lead the group in the 111th Congress.[2]

Before removing her name from consideration, she was considered a possible candidate to be appointed to the United States Senate by Governor David Paterson after Senator Hillary Clinton resigned to become Secretary of State.[13]

Among Velázquez’s firsts are: the first Hispanic woman to serve on the New York City Council; the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress; and the first woman Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee in 1998. She became the first woman to chair the United States House Committee on Small Business in January 2007 as well as the first Hispanic woman to chair a House standing committee.[2]

As of January 2022, Velázquez had voted in line with Joe Biden‘s stated position 100% of the time.[14]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Velázquez was formerly a member of the Congressional Out of Iraq Caucus.[23]

Personal life

Velázquez, also known as “la luchadora”,[24] married Brooklyn-based printer Paul Bader in 2000.[25] It was her second marriage.[25] In November 2002, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson controversially hired Bader as an administrative manager in the Bureau of Law and Adjudications, joining Joyce Miller, wife of Representative Jerry Nadler, and Chirlane McCray, wife of City Councilman Bill de Blasio.[26] In 2010, Velázquez and Bader were in the process of divorce.[27]

In October 1992, during her first campaign for the House, an unknown person at Saint Clare’s Hospital in Manhattan anonymously faxed to the press Velázquez’s hospital records pertaining to a suicide attempt in 1991.[28] At a subsequent press conference, Velázquez acknowledged that she had attempted suicide that year while suffering from clinical depression.[28] She said that she underwent counseling and “emerged stronger and more committed to public service.”[28] She expressed outrage at the leak of personal health records and asked the Manhattan District Attorney and the state Attorney General to investigate.[28] Velázquez sued the hospital in 1994, alleging that the hospital had failed to protect her privacy.[29] The lawsuit was settled in 1997.[30][31]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Maria Newman, From Puerto Rico to Congress, a Determined Path, New York Times (September 27, 1992).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hispanic Americans in Congress
  3. ^ a b Deborah Sontag, Puerto Rican-Born Favorite Treated Like Outsider, New York Times (November 2, 1992).
  4. ^ a b c d e Mary B. W. Tabor, The 1992 Campaign: 12th District Woman in the News; Loyalty and Labor; Nydia M. Velazquez, New York Times (September 17, 1992).
  5. ^ Frank Lynn, Democrats in Brooklyn Face Hispanic Demand, New York Times (August 16, 1984).
  6. ^ Carol Hardy-Fanta, with Jaime Rodríguez, Latino Voter Registration Efforts in Massachusetts: Un Pasito Más” in Latino Politics in Massachusetts: Struggles, Strategies, and Prospects (eds: Carol Hardy-Fanta & Jeffrey N. Gerson: Routledge, 2002), pp. 253-54.
  7. ^ Morales, Ed (May 11, 2000). “The Battle of Vieques”. The Nation.
  8. ^ New York Times: “After Closing of Navy Base, Hard Times in Puerto Rico” April 3, 2005
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times: “Navy Makes Plans Without Vieques – Use of bombing ranges in Florida and other U.S. mainland areas will increase after Puerto Rican island training ground is abandoned” January 12, 2003 Admiral Robert J. Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, is on record as saying: “Without Vieques there is no way I need the Navy facilities at Roosevelt Roads — none. It’s a drain on Defense Department and taxpayer dollars.”
  10. ^ “Representative Nydia M. Velázquez”. VoteSmart. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  11. ^ “Rangel, Long, Meng, Jeffries, Velazquez Declared Winners In Primaries”. NY 1. June 26, 2012. Archived from the original on June 29, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  12. ^ “Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez – Campaign Finance Summary”. OpenSecrets.
  13. ^ Cadei, Emily (December 12, 2008). “New York Rep. Velázquez Out of Clinton Senate Seat Derby”. CQPolitics.com. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  14. ^ Bycoffe, Anna Wiederkehr and Aaron (April 22, 2021). “Does Your Member Of Congress Vote With Or Against Biden?”. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  15. ^ “Pelosi Names Select Members to Bipartisan House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis”. Speaker Nancy Pelosi. April 29, 2020. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  16. ^ “Members”. Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  17. ^ “Caucus Members”. Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  18. ^ About Nydia Velázquez: Committees and Caucus Memberships
    • Office of Nydia Velázquez (official website) (accessed April 10, 2016)

  19. ^ “Members”. House Baltic Caucus. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  20. ^ “Membership”. Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  21. ^ “Members”. Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  22. ^ “90 Current Climate Solutions Caucus Members”. Citizen´s Climate Lobby. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Issues: Alternatives to War, Office of Nydia Velázquez (official website) (accessed April 10, 2016).
  24. ^ New York Times: “The Biggest Rival for a Congresswoman From Brooklyn Isn’t Even on the Ballot” by Sarah Wheaton June 20, 2012
  25. ^ a b Bob Liff, Rep. Velazquez to Marry Printer, New York Daily News (November 17, 2000).
  26. ^ New York Daily News: “Nydia’s Husband Gets Hired – He joins controller staff” by Celeste Katz November 22, 2002
  27. ^ Maite Junco, Dancing in the avenue: Q&A with Puerto Rican parade grand marshal Nydia Velázquez, New York Daily News (June 8, 2010).
  28. ^ a b c d Maria Newman, Candidate Faces Issue Of Suicide, New York Times (October 10, 1992).
  29. ^ Rep. Velazquez Sues St. Clare’s Hospital, New York Times (May 14, 1994). Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  30. ^ Cavinato, Joseph L. (2000), “YYYY”, Supply Chain and Transportation Dictionary, Boston, MA: Springer US, pp. 337–338, retrieved October 3, 2021
  31. ^ Online court records for Nydia Velazquez v. St. Clare’s Hospital, Index No. 015736/1994, Kings County Supreme Court, accessible in the WebCivil Supreme section of New York’s eCourts website.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by

Member of the New York City Council
from the 27th district

1984–1985
Succeeded by

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 12th congressional district

1993–2013
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Chair of the House Small Business Committee
2007–2011
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
2009–2011
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 7th congressional district

2013–present
Incumbent
Preceded by

Chair of the House Small Business Committee
2019–present
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by

United States representatives by seniority
24th
Succeeded by