GSSC Bureau Chief Charlotte Slovin speaks with Shaun Abreu, Columbia College graduate and current candidate for City Council District 7.

With only a little more than three months out from the primaries, candidates for New York City Council are ramping up their campaigning efforts across the city, and District 7 is no exception. With City Councilmember Mark Levine at his term limit, City Council District 7, which includes Washington Heights, West Harlem, Morningside Heights, and parts of the Upper West Side, currently has 13 candidates running for the position.

Shaun Abreu is one of them. A City Council District 7 native, Abreu’s motto says it all: he is fighting for home.

This campaign is both personally and professionally connected to Abreu. Growing up in the area, Abreu attended elementary and middle school in the district, as well as Columbia College for undergraduate school. Abreu experienced the impacts of eviction as a child, spurring his interest in public service that was only reinforced by his time at Columbia. Abreu has participated in previous campaigns in the District, including his time as Deputy Campaign Manager for City Councilmember Mark Levine as a college junior. Now a tenants’ rights attorney, Abreu recognized the “fierce urgency of now”—the District’s hardships exacerbated by the pandemic including housing, job, and food insecurity—as the call for him to run for City Council.

Columbia has been a part of Abreu’s life for a long time. As a high school student, Abreu participated in the University’s Double Discovery Center, an academic achievement program for low-income students in Harlem and Washington Heights. DDC gave Abreu the opportunity to live in John Jay in the 11th and 12th grades, immersing him in the Columbia community at a young age. Abreu credits his Contemporary Civilizations class and political science professors as his entry into political thought, providing him with the space to think critically about the systems and institutions around him. Now as a candidate for the district that Columbia resides in, Abreu encourages students to recognize their role in the District and get involved in the community and beyond.

District 7 covers a large area with a vast array of constituents, let alone the existence of a large university in the middle of the District. Knowing this, Abreu uses Mark Levine’s description of the perfect candidate to direct his campaign; one must have the “ability to connect with people from all walks of life” in order to succeed as the Councilmember for this district. From his personal experience, Abreu knows that housing insecurity, especially now, impacts all of District 7, an issue that he can genuinely connect with and the issue that guides his campaign.

Abreu has many plans for the District. Using his background as a tenant’s rights attorney, Abreu plans to increase the right to counsel for constituents threatened with eviction, as well as propose more affordable housing plans in the District. Abreu also hopes to create and maintain more programs like DDC in the District, increasing the scope of these programs beyond Columbia’s as well as other types of afterschool programming. He also mentioned plans to increase food security and sustainability programs in the District to guarantee that all constituents have access to food. Additionally, Abreu has plans for increased police accountability and public safety efforts, including community-based policing and neighborhood collaboration.

There is an extraordinary variety of candidates running for the City Council District 7 position, and Bwog does not endorse anyone in particular. It is inspiring though, as Columbia students, to witness a relatively recent alumnus running to represent the community. More than anything, Bwog encourages those who can vote to do so, especially local races that affect us all.

More information about Shaun’s campaign can be found on his website.

Shaun Abreu via Shaun Abreu for City Council