Curiosity: Getting Involved in Local Government + Driving Policy Change
We sat down with friend and inspiration Rafael Espinal, Bushwick City Councilman and candidate for NYC Public Advocate, to learn more about who he is and what inspired him to become the visionary, compassionate public servant + SUPERHUMAN he is today. You can meet Rafael + learn more about his work on January 30th at The Assemblage NoMad. Free RSVP here with code BROOKLYN.
WASN: How do you start your day?
RE: I wake up with enough time to be able to slowly get ready for the day. I like to take my time showering, getting dressed, and eating light breakfast. It's my form of mediation and the only time I really have full control of my time. Once I step out the door, I'm at the mercy of my calendar and constituency.
WASN: What is one book that changed your perspective, impacted you for the better or made you think differently?
RE: I wasn't much of a reader. I connected more with visuals and films until recently. I would say The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo unlocked a part of my brain that subconsciously always understood that we can understand our destiny if we were more mindful and connected with the universe.
WASN: As a child, where would we find you?
RE: As a child you would find me in 3 places. From April to August I spent a lot of time urban gardening with my dad in our backyard in Brooklyn. If I wasn't in the yard, I would likely be in my front stoop with friends or playing Nintendo in our living room.
WASN: What is your SUPERPOWER?
RE: The ability to listen and set aside my ego
WASN: If you could sit down to dinner tonight with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
RE: Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. As an aspiring filmmaker, when I grew up in Brooklyn it was difficult to point to local role models. Brooklyn was a tough place with a lot of societal, economical and environmental issues. After first watching Requiem for a Dream and learning that it was created by a Brooklyn native it made me realize that it is possible to have a strong societal impact, even if you're from Brooklyn.
WASN: What gets you into a flow state?
RE: I'm an introvert, so I need a lot of quiet and alone time in order to recharge. Once I am able to set my own pace, I follow it with a light healthy meal and a fresh cup of coffee. That regimen usually allows me to hit my flow state.
WASN: What is one pivotal moment that shifted your path?
RE: When I realized that anything is possible as long as you focus your energy towards a goal. I began to realize that after I got my first job in government. I worked the front desk of a governmental office at the age of 23, but I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to accomplish more. I set a clear goal of becoming the Chief of Staff, which is the highest position in an elected officials office. I was able to do that within 2 years by putting my energy behind it.
WASN: What is your favorite way to play?
RE: Im an introvert, but at the end of the day, I enjoy being in social safe spaces. I spend a lot of time in local bars and restaurants that I am familiar with the staff and owners. Any sort of venue that feels safe is amazing.
WASN: What are you deeply curious about?
RE: What happens to us as conscious beings after we die. What does it all mean. Why are we here? How did we come to be?
Rafael Espinal, 35, has emerged as a national leader fighting on behalf of the issues that affect millennials and help to green our planet. When he was first elected at the age of 26, Rafael was the youngest elected officials in New York State. Since then, Council Member Espinal has made history with the repeal of the notorious ‘no dancing’ cabaret law and the creation of New York City’s landmark Office of Nightlife. Is other legislative initiatives include: requiring all public bathrooms to have diaper changing stations regardless of gender, a bill on the “right to disconnect” from digital communications after working hours, and a package of legislation related to banning single-use plastic bottles at NYC parks and beaches and prohibiting plastic straws in restaurants, sports arenas and bars. Council Member Espinal worked with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to create the city’s first-ever website of urban agriculture and to support community gardens. Council Member Espinal is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn.