Profile: Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson

As we reflect on our partnerships, BronxWorks would be remiss if we did not highlight our longstanding relationship with Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson has stood as one of the most important champions for the residents of the Bronx throughout her career as a New York State Assembly Member, New York City Council Member, and now, serving as the first female and first African American Bronx Borough President. BronxWorks recently sat down with Borough President Gibson to talk about her relentless drive to work for the people of the Bronx.

The Start of a Historic Career

Vanessa Gibson is a lifelong resident of New York City, raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany and her MPA from CUNY Baruch College. During her senior year at SUNY Albany, Gibson interned for NYS Assembly Member Aurelia Greene.

Vanessa Gibson (right) with the late New York State Assembly Member and Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene (center) and Carmen Allende, Former CAB Board Member (left) at a BronxWorks event in 2004.

“Aurelia gave me a job in her office and she really transformed my life. She ultimately became my mentor and set me on my career in public service. It was an honor to work for her.”

In 2009, after Aurelia Greene became the Deputy Bronx Borough President, Gibson was elected to the NYS Assembly for District 77 in the Bronx, in succession of her mentor. She served in the NYS Assembly for four years. In 2013, Gibson was elected to the New York City Council for District 16, where she served for eight years, until in 2021 she was elected as the fourteenth Bronx Borough President, making history as the first woman and first African American to hold the office.

“What does it mean to me? It means that every day I wake up with a purpose. It means that I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, everything that they hoped and fought for. It means that I can be a role model for little girls and little boys in the Bronx that look just like me, that have the same struggles and sometimes the same insecurities. But they can see me and see their own hopes, their own dreams, and their own aspirations for a bright future.”

History With BronxWorks

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson speaks at the BronxWorks 50th Anniversary Gala.

Gibson first learned about BronxWorks, then the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), while working as the District Office Manager for Aurelia Greene in the early 2000s. The relationship grew throughout Gibson’s time in the State Assembly and City Council. She helped secure funding for important community programs, like our Early Childhood Learning Center at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (CMCC), Cornerstone Community Centers working with youth participants, and Older Adult Centers and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). As City Council Member, Gibson was integral in securing capital funds for critical renovations, including the CMCC pool, gym, and elevator. Furthermore, Gibson was an early champion for the BronxWorks Senior Homelessness Prevention Program (SHPP), helping to secure funding for the program for many years, which enabled BronxWorks to provide eviction prevention services to Bronx seniors, some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Then-City Council Member Gibson with BronxWorks leadership, staff, and participants at the opening of the BronxWorks Woodstock NORC in 2019.

“It just grew into a great relationship and it continued to blossom and bloom. When I became the Assembly Member and then in the City Council, I was able to support BronxWorks from a funding perspective and really work with the organization. And I made sure my neighboring colleagues also funded BronxWorks because they operated many centers in their districts as well.”

Then-City Council Member Gibson (second from right) with staff from the BronxWorks Farm Stands in 2020.

The relationship was cemented in our common objective to provide vital services to the communities of the Bronx. There is perhaps no bigger example of the importance of this alliance than during the COVID-19 pandemic. As City Council Member and later newly-elected Borough President, Gibson worked day-in and day-out with organizations like BronxWorks to provide the necessary services to help Bronx residents survive the emergency, navigate the unknown challenges, and receive resources and assistance. She was in regular contact with BronxWorks Executive Director Eileen Torres and other community leaders to understand the challenges on the streets and in the communities, to help address life-changing tragedies, and to continue to push the borough forward, to recover and rebuild stronger than before.

Then-City Council Member Vanessa Gibson (right) donates PPE to BronxWorks Executive Director Eileen Torres (left) in 2020.

“When you think about the pandemic and so many families struggling for basic necessities, it was BronxWorks that was open. Doors were never closed to serving our neighbors. We never closed our hearts to loving our clients and their families. Together, we have always been there, even when times are tough.”

Vision For The Bronx As Borough President

“My vision for the future of the Bronx is one of opportunity, is of making the Bronx a global destination, of making sure that we provide access and opportunities for our young people, from youth development to youth employment and pathways to college and careers and pathways to the middle class for families.”

President Gibson’s vision for the future of the Bronx include major projects, like renovations at Orchard Beach, Hunts Point Forward, Metro North Expansion, modernizing the Kingsbridge Armory, reimagining space for community use, for businesses and entrepreneurship, creating jobs, alleviating poverty, celebrating the vitality and history of the Bronx, of hip hop, of the hustle, diversity, and the pursuit of happiness throughout the borough.

“So I see that vision and I have that blueprint, and working with organizations like BronxWorks, we strive to get better and meet those targets every single day. We cannot do this work alone. We need partners at every angle, at every level to help support our vision. Because when we work together, when we align on the same priorities, we are truly unstoppable.”


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