One of Pierina Sanchez’s (MPA '14) earliest memories is of waking to smoke and screaming as her mother rushed her out of a burning apartment building that their landlord had set fire to after tenant complaints. Years of processing this story taught Sanchez a lot. “Understanding the role of abuses of power and how ... being from an underrepresented group shapes the way that you navigate through the world right – and then watching my mom and my tías and the women in my life navigate all of that – has been so inspiring,” she said.
Though Sanchez was encouraged to become a scientist or doctor, she found herself drawn to her community and back to school, ultimately getting a master’s degree in urban policy and planning. From there, she pursued her interest in just housing with the Regional Plan Association, a research nonprofit. “It was urban planning being done in a new way,” she says. “The theory was, ‘Anything that I know, anyone else can know if we take the time to teach and share.’”
Those experiences helped prepare Sanchez for her successful primary campaign for City Council in the Bronx – a win she attributes to the support of her community and labor unions. Affordable housing continues to be her top priority, but she also plans to ramp up civic engagement. “It’s going to be important that we care about centering those who have not been involved, to think of novel ways of making government accessible to them.”
*Update, November 4, 2021 - Pierina Sanchez won the election to represent the Bronx's 14th District in the New York City Council in 2021. We celebrate Pierina on this momentous victory!
Article originally featured in City and State New York, October 2021.