BY JASON COHEN
Seeing his father get arrested
and eventually deported, lifelong
Baychester resident Kevin
Riley knows about struggle and
For a long time, Riley thought
he would follow in the path of his
father. But today, the 33-yearold
is running for City Council
in the 12th District, hoping to
fi ll the vacated seat in a special
election after Andy King was expelled.
After spending the past decade
working for the Speaker of
the Assembly Carl Heastie, fi rst
as a constituent liaison and now
the community relations director,
Riley, who is the 83rd Assembly
District Leader, is ready to
take the next step.
“I believe I’m the best candidate
to represent this area,” Riley
said to the Bronx Times. “After
all these years it’s time for
me to support this community.”
At 7-years-old, Riley witnessed
his dad, Balfour Riley,
get locked up. Although he
would visit him in jail, nothing
could replace having his father
at home. According to Riley, he
often envisioned himself being
in jail like his dad.
His mom, Lavern McLeod-
Riley, worked multiple jobs and
fi lled in for both parental roles.
However, it was not easy growing
up without a male fi gure in
a rough community, Riley recalled.
“As a young Black boy you
kind of feel this jail is what will
happen to you,” he explained.
While he played basketball at
Mount Saint Michael Academy,
high school was a challenge.
Riley got into many fi ghts and
those moments were when he
missed his dad the most.
“There were times I was literally
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BRONX TIMES R 18 EPORTER, DECEMBER 18-24, 2020 BTR
afraid of walking both
ways,” he explained.
Things began to improve
when he attended the Butler
United Methodist Church. There
he found mentors, became focused,
participated in programs
and even met future Senator Jamaal
After graduating high school,
he attended SUNY College at Old
Westbury where he obtained a
B.A. in politics, economics and
law, hoping to one day become a
lawyer and help people of color
like his father from ending up
While pursuing his degree,
Riley became involved with several
student activities, such as
the student council, Residential
Life Association and the Divine
Nine Greek Council. He was the
president of the Mu Omicron
chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
In 2008, he got and internship
with Heastie and the rest is
history. He joked that he didn’t
know much about politics as a
kid but now it is his life.
“I wasn’t even cognizant of
the different offi ces in my community,”
After obtaining his masters
degree, he founded a nonprofi t
organization Music Over Violence,
which has hosted peace
summits and rallies to address
violence and social injustice
within his community.
Riley’s daughters encouraged
him and his other fraternity
brothers to create The Dad
Gang, nationwide organization
that eliminates the stereotypes
that black dads are not a part of
their children’s lives.
As he looks ahead to the election
on Dec. 22, Riley stressed
there must be investments made
to the education system and mental
health programs, more opportunities
for youths and an expansion
of the the ULURP (Uniform
Land Use Review Procedure)
process from 60 to 90 days.
While he does not want the
community to become gentrifi
ed like Bedford-Stuyvesant or
Bushwick, he feels things must
“The issue I see in my community
is saying it’s going to be
affordable housing and then it’s
turned into something else,” he
Riley credited his growth and
success to Heastie and Bailey,
who taught him the willingness
to work with people even if they
do not agree.
He also expressed gratitude
to his mother saying, “I live my
life in making sure I make my
mother proud. I’ve never seen
somebody sacrifi ce so much.”
Riley, who recently saw his father
three years ago for the fi rst
time since high school, hopes he
can change lives for young men
and women in the community
and set an example for his two
daughters, Brooke and Kate.
“You have to remember why
you are doing this, because you
love the community,” he said.
Early voting for the District 12
City Council race runs from Dec.
12 to 20 and the offi cial election
day is Dec. 22. Visit the Board of
Elections website at fi ndmypollsite.
vote.nyc to fi nd early voting
and election day sites.
Kevin Riley Courtesy of Kevin Riley
Race for District
12: Kevin Riley
Baychester resident and AD 83 leader
ready to serve as councilman
Think Big & Bold in the Real World!
Mosholu Montefiore Community Center Workforce Education Center
174 East 205 Street - 4th Fl, Bronx, NY 10458 917-792-3899 | www.mmcc.org