She stood up against domestic violence, she courageously raised three children alone, she championed the causes of the homeless, and now she is ready to take on the New York State Assembly.
Maritza Davila, elected to represent the 53rd Assembly district, which represents parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick, was officially inaugurated to her seat Wednesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
An informal reception stocked with cheese, crackers, and crudités preceded the ceremony attended by prominent Brooklyn politicians, including Borough President Eric Adams, New York State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, City Councilman Stephen Levin, religious leaders, community organizers, and a large number of Davila’s family members.
Time and again, speakers at the ceremony emphasized Davila’s grassroots organizational zeal, highlighting her 17 years working in the housing department of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a non-profit group that provides housing and community services to residents of those neighborhoods; and her tireless efforts to integrate the new upwardly mobile population now sharing her community with the Hispanic and African-American families who have been living there for generations.
“What really struck me about her is what a fiery fighter she is,” said Levin, who was officiating the ceremony, and first met Davila 10 years ago when he moved to New York and landed a job at Ridgewood Bushwick. “She is willing to stop at nothing to fight for people’s rights, for people who have not been getting their fair representation. There is no pretense; you know she is going to give you straight answers. With Maritza what you see is what you get.”
It was a sentiment echoed by many, particularly co-workers from her early days at Ridgewood Bushwick. Two of those, Carmen Bonilla and Richard Rathbun praised Davila’s tenacity in fighting for tenants in Bushwick who were often living in buildings without heat and hot water, and her drive to clean the neighborhood of its formerly drug infested culture.
“It was apparent early on that Maritza had those qualities that an organizer needs,” said Rathbun. “She is a great communicator, she had a great sense of humor, and she always knew how to keep us grounded when things got bad. She always had that defiant spirit that you need,”
Davila was born in Catano, Puerto Rico. She moved to Bushwick when she was three months old, and her earliest memories were about living with her grandmother, who she says traveled daily on a bus to and from her job at a factory from which she ultimately retired. Davila got her start in community organization in 1996 when she started working for Ridgewood Bushwick. During her time there she helped launch a credit union, and organized merchant, tenant and block associations. She championed women’s rights by founding the North Brooklyn Coalition against Domestic Violence, and has been a staunch supporter of public education serving as the president of the Community School Board of Education of District 32.
Just last year Davila earned a degree in Political Science from Long Island University.
“I inherited my mother’s passion to help people,” said Davila at her inauguration ceremony. “As a strong Latino woman I stand for those in need. If you were to ask I will tell you that my story is one that must be told, so if you are a victim of domestic violence I understand, if you are or were ever homeless I understand, if you are single parent who have had to make sacrifice in your life in order to give your children a better one, I understand.”
Davila now inherits the former seat of Assemblyman Vito Lopez, which she won in a special election in November. She says she is ready to hit the ground running, identified her priorities as providing better resources for Pre-K students in her community, promoting inclusiveness between the gentrifiers of her neighborhood and the long-standing residents, and protecting the livelihoods of mom and pop store owners.