District 14 candidate, Randy Abreu, 28, and his campaign manager Ilona Duverge, 20, are the millennial Dominican duo pushing the Bronx’s City Council out of its comfort zone.
Immersed in the Latino community, Abreu has lived in the Bronx for most of his life. Many Dominican city officials in the area are like family to him. Growing up, he remembers horsing around with Assemblyman Victor Pichardo. These relationships made running for city council feel all the more familiar. But it wasn’t easy.
Underestimated for his age and experience, Abreu says that local city officials were “blunt with information and advice,” throughout the race. At times they acted more like a skeptical and “strict uncle” than a positive supporter. Eventually, they came around, he says, but during his campaign, not everyone backed him.
“I ran for City Council because the same community that helped stabilize The Bronx as a profitable ground for capitalists, landlords, and real estate is now in danger of being displaced,” says Abreu, an attorney. “I feel blessed and privileged for what The Bronx gave me growing up here, so I am committed to giving back all I can until we have a stable and bright future.”
One of the youngest candidates to run in this year’s city election, Abreu lost the primary back in September, against seven-year incumbent and conservative Democrat, Fernando Cabrera. He lost by roughly 1,000 votes – half the amount it took Cabrera to win – which qualified him to be on the general election ballot as a progressive and working family candidate.
This past election was his first try and although he says he has no plans of running next election, he encourages fellow millennials to engage with local politics.
Endorsed by organizations including Planned Parenthood, Bronx Progressives and Muslim Democratic Club of NY, Abreu’s campaign offered creative ways to tackle issues on affordable housing, public education, LGBTQ and women’s rights, safe transit and clean energy. One of Abreu’s most passionate proposals is to transform the 14th district’s long-neglected, Aqueduct Walk.
Abreu is a man full of ideas, but very little of them could have been possible without the assistance and guidance of his right hand, Ilona Duverge, a fresh-faced college student from Scranton, PA. The two met through their mutual friend, Miguel. Born in the Dominican Republic, Ilona attends John Jay College of Criminal Justice and served as Abreu’s campaign manager for the general election after being promoted from field director in the primary.
When Abreu and Ilona walk the streets of the Bronx, it’s impossible not to bounce ideas off one another. Abreu sees problems as opportunities for change – and that he does, ever so creatively. The Bronx has vast “untapped potential,” he says. Empowering people is part of the solution.
Abreu encourages younger people to think about the effects of politics and how it has the power to change people’s lives for the better. Not even a rapper can do that, he argues.