Sonyi Lopez.

Advocacy, local journalism and community board membership all have one thing in common: they require community trust.

Sonyi Lopez, chair of Bronx Community Board One’s new communications and technology committee, feels she has earned that. 

Lopez, 31, covered the Bronx for several years at BronxNet Television, the local broadcast station. She reported on everything from local politics and protests to community organizing, such as when seniors and allies from the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven advocated against the removal of a bus stop as part of a bus network redesign

Lopez, who grew up in NYCHA’s Betances Houses in Mott Haven, said her reporting history makes her an appropriate voice for the board. For her, there is a strong connection between the roles of community board member, local advocate, and self-styled “community journalist.” The positions require listening to the community and highlighting local issues. 

The central goal of the communications committee is to amplify what’s happening in the district, just as she did as a reporter.

“Folks in the community need resolution and we have to reach those solutions together by reaching out to the proper institutions,” said Lopez, who will also act as the main press contact for Board 1, in a phone interview.

Fellow board member Alyssa Perez said Lopez’ strength as communications chair is her media expertise and her drive to call attention to local concerns and uplift voices that go unheard. 

“Not many people care that much and having someone like her in positions of power helps to navigate real community issues with real accountability,” said Perez.

Traditionally, Board 1 has maintained a low profile on social media. That’s changing. Since February, the monthly calendar and board events – like weekly food distributions on Saturday mornings at the community board’s office at 3024 Third Avenue – have been posted to Twitter/X, Facebook and Instagram. Livestreams of board meetings are broadcast via YouTube. A new community board website is also in the works, according to Lopez. 

The communications committee has a responsibility to “spread the word about the board’s presence,” its location and its open door policy, said Lopez. 

Dominican Republic-born Lopez graduated from City College of New York with a bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Journalism. She volunteered for college radio station WHCR 90.3FM before finding her footing at BronxNet. She spent 2023 as a video production fellow for Democracy Now, covering both local and international stories. Today, she freelances in the Bronx, mainly in reporting or communications.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the fire and energy [Lopez] had in her reporting will show up in her work on the community board,” said Brittany Skyler Aubain, who worked alongside Lopez as a BronxNet TV reporter. Aubain remembered that in Lopez’ final weeks at BronxNet, she took time to train her fellow reporters to help strengthen their work. 

“She was supportive, helpful and an advocate for her coworkers,” said Aubain. 

Lopez said she decided to serve as a board member to get more involved in her community.

As a child, Lopez sometimes witnessed drug use and violence. She saw ugly depictions of her neighborhood in the press. 

“I didn’t always love it,” Lopez said. “I was kind of afraid of my neighborhood.”

But having grown up in the community, Lopez appreciates the nuances. 

“There’s also so much beauty and community here,” Lopez said. “I remember the blackout happened, and we were all on the streets, you know, playing and being kids.” 

Despite some tough moments, “It was a beautiful childhood,” Lopez said.

The area is changing, she said. Luxury developments have cropped up in Mott Haven and Port Morris. The cost of living is rising and some residents face displacement. 

“I’ve always had a civic interest in what happens here. I vote in every local election,” said Lopez. 

Lopez’ civic interest extends to activism internationally. Lopez recently participated in a 24-hour hunger strike in solidarity with people in Gaza, who face a humanitarian crisis during the past six months of war and bombardment. She fasted for Ramadan as a non-Muslim for the same reason, and has joined pro-Palestine rallies for a ceasefire on her personal social media

Elected officials tout “small accomplishments and some of the crumbs they are able to bring to our community,” Lopez said, but it is up to community board members to bring what they are passionate about to board discussions

“We don’t have to agree with each other,” she said. “But we can at least bring our values, and our ethics and what matters to us, into the space.”

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