Congress's longest-serving Latino representative is retiring at the end of his term.
Announcing that he is living with Parkinson's disease, José Serrano said Monday through a statement, "Over the last few months I've come to the realization that Parkinson's will eventually take a toll, and that I cannot predict its rate of advancement. Because of this uncertainty, I do not intend to seek re-election in 2020."
A Bronx Democrat, Serrano plans on finishing his current term. He sits in the House Appropriations Committee and is the chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee.
Long before the arrival of the new wave of progressive Democrats, Serrano built a reputation of being to the left of the left of his party.
In 1995, he invited Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to the Bronx.
(Fidel Castro in the Bronx in 1995).
A decade later, he also welcomed the help of Venezuelan socialist president Hugo Chávez, whose government provided oil to Bronx residents at a discounted price.
(Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez visiting the South Bronx in 2005).
Among his accomplishments are the revitalization of the Bronx River and expanding access to the ballot in other languages.
Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres said on Inside City Hall last week that he was considering challenging Serrano in 2020. He said Monday that the news of his retirement came as a shock to him.
"There's going to be no shortage of opportunities in the future to discuss congressional politics," Torres said. "But out of respect for Congressman Serrano, the focus should be kept on the legacy he leaves behind."
Another Bronx elected official considering a run for the seat is State Sen. Gustavo Rivera.
Serrano's 15th Congressional District covers the South Bronx and is over 60 percent Hispanic.
According to Census data, it is the poorest district in the country.
(The 15th Congressional District in the Bronx includes neighborhoods such as Tremont and Hunts Point).
Serrano was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and arrived in New York at the age of seven.
He served in the New York state Assembly from 1975 to 1990.