Senator José M. Serrano, a lifetime South Bronx resident, was elected to the New York State Senate in November of 2004. He currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation. His other committee assignments include: Civil Service and Pensions, Education, Environmental Conservation, Judiciary, and Higher Education.
Senator Serrano learned the importance of public service at an early age from his father, U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano. After graduating from Manhattan College with a B.A. in Government, Senator Serrano joined the New York Shakespeare Festival, a non-profit cultural institution. At the Shakespeare Festival, Senator Serrano deepened his appreciation for the arts and dedicated himself to using it as a vehicle for community empowerment and economic revitalization.
Before entering elected office, Senator Serrano was a member of Community Board 4 in the Bronx, and served as Chairman of the Board for the Institute for Urban Family Health, a non-profit health services organization that provides quality healthcare to New York City’s medically under-served communities. The institute is a pioneer in studying the causes and effects of racial and economic disparities in our healthcare system.
In 2001 Senator Serrano was elected to the New York City Council (District 17), representing Melrose, Mott Haven, and Hunt’s Point. As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Inter-group Relations, Senator Serrano resisted budget cuts to English as a Second Language (ESL), adult literacy and after-school youth programs in New York City libraries, and, with his colleagues in the Council, restored an average of $20 million each year to maintain library service during the city’s fiscal crisis. He also fought to restore $40 million over three years to cultural organizations, especially small, neighborhood-based groups that nurture local artists.
He was a strong advocate for quality senior centers, the expansion of daycare for low-income children, and affordable housing. Under his watch, over 2,000 units of new housing were built in the 17th Council District. He garnered $13 million to support community improvements and the creation of four acres of green space in his district. Senator Serrano took a lead role in advocating for Intro. 186, a bill allowing tenants the right to purchase Mitchell-Lama buildings when exiting the program.
In 2004, with broad grassroots support, Serrano was voted into the New York State Senate. The 29th Senate District, with perhaps the greatest socio-economic and cultural diversity in the state, includes neighborhoods in the South and West Bronx, East Harlem, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island. Serrano’s commanding 82 percent of the vote demonstrated the voters’ clear mandate for change and reform in Albany and in their community.
In Albany, Senator Serrano has introduced a wide variety of bills that aim to keep housing affordable, protect public health, foster economic development, defend immigrant rights, and conserve the environment. Among the Serrano bills passed by the State Senate are: one to provide assistance to small businesses impacted by the construction of the Second Avenue Subway; another requiring the Department of Environmental Conservation to publish a list of areas in the state that are most adversely affected by existing environmental hazards, so that areas that have already been impacted by contamination do not become victims of further environmental damage; and another to incentivize affordable development on vacant properties in Northern Manhattan. The latter was signed into law by Governor David A. Paterson.
A strong advocate of legislative reform, in January 2009 Serrano was named to the Temporary Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Reform. The committee was launched as part of a package of forward-thinking changes to improve the functionality and fairness of the Senate as an institution and policy-making body.
The Senator has also emerged as a vocal defender of immigrant rights, appearing on national television and local media outlets. He launched the “East Harlem Against Deportation” campaign, which aims to stop unjust deportations that separate families in New York, and developed a comprehensive report with policy recommendations to protect the immigrant community on a City and State level. Serrano has convened workshops in the 29th District covering intellectual property rights for non-profits and small businesses, the elimination of trans fat in the city's food service industry, and educational opportunities for undocumented residents. After mapping out a disturbing trend of supermarket closures in his district, the Senator helped lead the fight for nutritious and affordable food in working class communities by organizing a Supermarket Task Force. With Senator Liz Krueger and others, he has been at the forefront of a campaign against predatory real estate investment, which has threatened New York City’s dwindling affordable housing stock.
Under his leadership from 2009-2010, the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee strongly focused on interactive engagement with residents from across the state, as well as expanded dialogue and oversight. During the 2008-2009 legislative term, the State Senate passed a Serrano bill making “I Love New York” the official state slogan. Throughout the 2010 budget negotiations, as Chair of the committee, Senator Serrano led the fight against the closure of New York State Parks and, along with parks advocates, succeeded in keeping State Parks open to the public.
Serrano has also been a champion for openness and transparency in government. He led an initiative to improve the tracking of state stimulus funding; launched “Open Legislation,” a search engine that allows individuals to search, navigate, share and comment on all Senate Legislation; and in 2009, while in the Senate Majority, he introduced a bill to reform the Legislature’s member item system by making it fair and equitable.
Senator Serrano brings a unique energy and commitment to public service. He has employed modern communication strategies – including blogs, emails blasts, social networking, and YouTube videos – to connect the distinct neighborhoods, and the five different community board districts that he represents in the State Senate. Both in Albany and the District, he works tirelessly to ensure that his constituents receive quality services and their fair share of government funding.
Senator Serrano, his wife, son, and daughter reside in the South Bronx.
Committee Assignments 2013: Agriculture, Consumer Protection, Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks & Recreation (Ranker), Education, Environmental Conservation, Higher Education.
Biografía de José M. Serrano