|Member of the New York City Council from the 37th District|
|Assumed office |
January 1, 2014
|Preceded by||Erik Martin Dilan|
|Member of the New York Assembly from the 54th District|
September 14, 2011 – December 31, 2013
|Preceded by||Darryl C. Towns|
|Succeeded by||Erik Martin Dilan|
|Born||June 30, 1984|
|Alma mater||Queens College (B.A.)|
Rafael Espinal is an American politician. A Democrat, he represents the 37th District of the New York City Council, which includes portions of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York in Brooklyn.
Early life and education
Espinal has lived in Brooklyn all his life, while his parents are from the Dominican Republic. He was born in 1984, and is the third of six children. He was raised in Cypress Hills, attending and graduating from New York City public schools, P.S. 108, I.S. 302, and Franklin K. Lane High School. Espinal attended Queens College and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English.
In the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, he was the only New York City Councilmember to endorse Bernie Sanders. He endorsed him again for the 2020 primaries, the first City Councilmember to do so.
In 2017, Espinal was named one of Time Out New York's "New Yorkers of the Year", largely in recognition of his advocacy in repealing the New York City Cabaret Law, enforcement of which disproportionately targeted LGBTQ and ethnic minority venues and creating the city's Office of Nightlife, dedicated to supporting DIY art spaces, music venues, bars and restaurants.
In 2019, Espinal ran in the special election for New York City Public Advocate, following Letitia James's victory in her race for New York State Attorney General. He came in 7th place in a crowded field of 17 candidates, won by fellow Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams.
Espinal, facing term limits to another term in the City Council, announced plans to run for Brooklyn Borough President in the 2021 election. The seat will be vacant as current Borough President, Eric Adams, faces term limits himself.
New York State Assembly
In his first campaign, Espinal won the open 54th district seat in the New York State Assembly in a special election held on September 13, 2011. The seat was left vacant after Darryl Towns resigned from the post in order to take a position with Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration. The assembly district represents parts of Bushwick, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills, and Cityline in Brooklyn.
Espinal had endorsements from the Brooklyn Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the Conservative Party of New York State. In a tight race, Espinal (46%) defeated Jesus Gonzalez (35%) running on the Working Families Party line and Deidra Towns (19%) running on her party platform, "Community First".
In 2012, Espinal was named one of City & State's "New York City Rising Stars: 40 Under 40" for his work as New York State Assemblyman.
New York City Council
In 2014 Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an affordable housing plan that would create over 3,000 units of affordable housing in the Cypress Hills, East New York, and Ocean Hill portions of his district. Espinal used the opportunity to advocate for funding to address all of the social and infrastructure issues his community had experienced for decades. While facing opposition from a citywide advocacy group, Espinal was able to secure what some have called the most comprehensive rezoning plan in the City of New York, over a quarter of a billion dollars to address unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and affordable housing issues. The New York Times endorsed Espinal's move and stated that "Espinal did right by his constituents."
In 2017 Espinal introduced and passed a bill calling for the full repeal of the New York City Cabaret Law, a regulation introduced in 1926 and often called racist, homophobic and authoritarian by its opponents.
In 2019 Espinal passed legislation requiring all New York City buildings to install solar panels or green roofs as part of New York City's "Green New Deal" to decrease carbon emissions and build green infrastructure. 
|2011||Special||√ Rafael Espinal (D) 46.21%|
Jesus Gonzalez (WFP) 34.61%
Deidra Towns (Community) 19.13%
|2012||Democratic Primary||√ Rafael Espinal 65.91%|
Juan C. Rodriguez 33.82%
|2012||General||√ Rafael Espinal (D) 96.52|
Khorshed Chowdhury (R) 3.42%
|2013||Democratic Primary||√ Rafael Espinal 45.85%|
Kimberly Council 31.87%
Heriberto Mateo 12.01%
Helal A. Sheikh 10.26%
|2013||General||√ Rafael Espinal (D) 86.05%|
Kimberly Council (WFP) 11.73%
Michael Freeman-Saulsberre (Conservative) 2.19%
|2017||General||√ Rafael Espinal (D) 89.84%|
Persephone Sarah Jane Smith (Green) 9.98%
|New York City Public Advocate||2019||Special||√ Jumaane D. Williams 33.8%|
Eric Ulrich 19%
Melissa Mark-Viverito 11.2%
Michael Blake 8.4%
Ydanis Rodriguez 6%
Dawn Smalls 4.1%
Rafael Espinal 3.2%
12 others together 16%
- Bredderman, Will (August 20, 2014). "Erik Dilan Defends 'Musical Chairs' With Rafael Espinal". New York Observer. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- "How Rafael Espinal Emerged as the City Council's Idea Man". The Bridge. July 18, 2018.
- "Meet the Only Member of the New York City Council Endorsing Bernie Sanders". January 6, 2016.
- "Bushwick Council Member Rafael Espinal Talks Bernie Sanders with Bushwick Daily". Bushwick Daily. April 14, 2016.
- Jr, Rafael L. Espinal (June 13, 2019). "I've said it before and I'll say it again, @BernieSanders is the best person to move our city and country forward. Proud to join @BernieSanders campaign for 2020. Who's with us?pic.twitter.com/oUHl3wSCfY".
- Goldenberg, Sally; Durkin, Erin. "Warren's campaign amasses support in Sanders' native New York City". Politico PRO.
- "Introducing the New Yorkers of the year 2017". Time Out New York.
- Espinal, Rafael. "My Vision for the Role of Public Advocate: Rafael Espinal". Gotham Gazette.
- "Rafael Espinal". Ballotpedia.
- "Rafael Espinal To Run For Brooklyn Borough President". Bed-Stuy, NY Patch. September 19, 2019.
- "Rafael Espinal announces run for Brooklyn Borough President". Brooklyn Eagle. September 18, 2019.
- Robbins, Liz (2011-09-14). "Rafael Espinal and Other Democrats Win Assembly Seats". The New York Times.
- Robbins, Liz (2011-09-02). "Brooklyn Special Election Could Upset Politics as Usual". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
- "New York State Assembly - Member Section". Assembly.state.ny.us. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
- "Editorial: Gonzalez for Assembly". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- Robbins, Liz (September 14, 2011). "Rafael Espinal and Other Democrats Win Assembly Seats" – via NYTimes.com.
- Blue Utopia. "Deidra Towns for NYS Assembly". Townsforassembly.org. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-01-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "East New York rezoning clears City Council land use committee". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- "Saving a New York Neighborhood From Gentrification". The New York Times. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- "New York City Council Bill 1652".
- "NYC Councilman Announces Bill to Repeal No-Dancing Law".
- "NEW LAWS REQUIRE ALL NEW ROOFS TO CONTAIN SOLAR PANELS OR GREEN SPACE". Brooklyn Paper. 11 November 2019.
- Espinal - New York City Council (official site)
- Espinal for Brooklyn (campaign website)
- @RLEspinal (official twitter)
Erik Martin Dilan
| New York City Council, 37th District
Darryl C. Towns
| New York City Assembly, 54th District
Erik Martin Dilan