It was rainy and gloomy on Saturday, but that didn’t stop locals from showing up at Roberta’s pizza place. The Bushwick hangout was packed and buzzing; Council Member Rafael Espinal was holding an all-day fundraiser to run for New York City Public Advocate.
A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, Espinal was elected to the New York City Council in 2013, as the representative for District 37, serving the communities of Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, and East New York.
It’s arguably the hottest race right now, an estimated 20 candidates competing for enough signatures (and funds) to make it on the voting ballot. The fundraiser at Roberta’s is part of a series of events that will be held across the boroughs to reach $40,000 for Espinal’s campaign.
Young professionals and young families were a large part of the crowd. The event was free to enter, but donations were encouraged and got you different benefits: give a minimum of $10 and you get free-flowing beer, donate $30 or more and you’re a VIP entitled to all-you-can-eat pizza.
It was more than booze and pizza that convinced visitors to donate. Many of who came out were there to support friends involved in the campaign and weren’t familiar with Espinal. However, they pulled out their wallets for his run. Mia Sampson, a videographer, came down from Harlem with her date. She had never met Espinal before but liked a lot of the work he had done for the city. She gave the campaign $10.
“I’m a freelancer,” said Sampson, who read up on Espinal’s work and spoke with him during the event. “He was involved with the [Freelance Isn’t Free Act]… so that’s a big deal.”
Similarly, Danny Mena was drawn to Espinal’s past policy work that supported small businesses. He also found the Public Advocate candidate to be a personable guy.
“Obviously as a business owner there’s always that interest of how the government is really looking out for small business owners,” said Mena, who owns a local Mexican spot La Loncheria. “I’m pro minimum wage going up. At the same time, there has to be some sort of balance to it. Can’t just be all falling on [business owners].” He donated $30.
On top of meet-and-greets, Espinal’s campaign will be opening new offices in Queens, Brooklyn, and Harlem, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
All images courtesy of Natasha Ishak.