Carlina Rivera is an American politician who represents the 2nd district of the New York City Council and a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes portions of the East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Lower East Side, Murray Hill and Rose Hill in Manhattan.
Having attended Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Rivera launched her campaign for City Council in 2016, a first-time candidate running simultaneously as a Democratic Socialists of America candidate endorsed by the Working Families Party. She and her husband live in Kips Bay.
Early life, education, and early career
Rivera grew up on the Lower East Side, where she was raised in Section 8 housing by a single mother who emigrated from Puerto Rico. She graduated from Notre Dame School in Manhattan and Marist College in Poughkeepsie, where she majored in journalism.
She waitressed at a tiki bar for some time and worked in afterschool programming.
Rivera worked her way up to director of programs and services at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a local nonprofit organization focused on neighborhood housing and preservation, economic development, and community revitalization. She was also a member of Manhattan Community Board 3 and later served as the legislative director for Rosie Mendez.
City Council campaigns
Rivera launched her campaign for City Council in 2016, running for the 2nd District, which encompasses the East Village, Flatiron, Gramercy Park, Rose Hill, Kips Bay, Murray Hill and the Lower East Side. A first-time candidate who participated in public financing, she raised $176,000 through the City’s matching funds program, $76,000 of which were from private funds. Rivera was endorsed by the Working Families Party, Rosie Mendez, then-State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, and “21 in ‘21”, an initiative to elect 21 women to the 51-member body by 2021. She ran as a DSA candidate. There were five other candidates in the primary race: attorney Mary Silver, Ronnie Cho, Jorge Vasquez, community activist who worked for Squadron Jasmin Sanchez, and Erin Hussein (the latter would run against her again in 2021).
Rivera won the Democratic primary for the 2nd City Council district of New York in 2017 with 60.54% of the vote (8,354 votes). She went on to win the general election with 82.86% of the vote against Republican and perennial candidate Jimmy McMillan and several third-party candidates. While campaigning, Rivera was named one of City & State’s “40 Under 40 Rising Stars.”
During this campaign it was reported that Rivera and her husband, Jamie Rogers, lived in a Section 8 apartment. The annual income limit for a family of two is $61,050. After deducting his wife's salary, in order to be under that cut off, Rogers would have had to earn less than $20,000 a year, which many thought unlikely considering his real estate holdings and father’s net worth. The New York Post reported that Rivera deleted online photos of Rogers on his father’s yacht. In an interview with The Villager Rivera and Rogers outlined their financial situation and argued that they did qualify for the apartment.
In the June 2021 primary, Carlina's former 2018 rival Erin Hussein garnered more support (1.93% v. 26.8%). In the November general election, the incumbent proved less popular than when she first ran in 2016-17 (79.32% v. 82.69%). She ran on a platform that included upzoning her district, congestion pricing, and no plan for the homeless.
In an effort to crack down on illegal hotel operators, she introduced a bill in June 2018 to require short-term rental companies such as Airbnb to report host data to the city. The bill passed the Council 45–0 and was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on August 6, 2018. As of early 2019, Airbnb was suing to block the legislation from being implemented.
In 2019, as a co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, Rivera was involved in securing $250,000 for the New York Abortion Access Fund to provide abortions for women not covered by insurance or Medicaid, including for those who travel from out-of-state. This funding made New York City the first city to allocate money directly to abortion procedures.
Additionally in 2019, Rivera introduced legislation to create a patient advocate’s office within the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to help New Yorkers navigate the healthcare system. She said, “This will be a priority. We cannot pass a bill to create an office without financial support." With Ydanis Rodriguez, she co-introduced legislation to create an Office of Active Transportation, and an Office of Pedestrians.
Rivera in 2019 also introduced and passed legislation to protect cyclists from eliminating bicycle lane obstructions during construction and street work, and has passed legislation to protect tenants during periods of maintenance, renovation, and construction and immigrant families. She has introduced legislation to reform the child welfare system, and passed bills to outlaw the sale of foie gras and pigeon trafficking. She has mandated that the City report on the state of small businesses, and strengthened sexual harassment policies for public and private employers.
Rivera called for more aid to reach the city’s public hospital system, including funding and programs around reproductive healthcare, and has called for support for expecting New Yorkers through an expansion of midwifery programs.
She was listed on City & State’s 2019 Manhattan Power 100 list, 2020 New York City Power 100 list and 2020’s Above and Beyond.
Rivera is Chair of the Council’s Committee on Hospitals and member of the Council's Women's and Progressive Caucuses and Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.
She and her husband, Jamie Rogers, a Connecticut College and Cornell Law School graduate, lived on the Lower East Side until June 2021 when they moved to Kips Bay for reasons they would not disclose publicly.
Rivera was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America as of 2017 but hasn't been since 2018.