Born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, she started school early and skipped several grades entering the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. After graduating magna cum laude, she earned a master’s degree on scholarship from N.Y.U., and taught Puerto Rican studies at CUNY’s Hunter College in 1981.
In 1984, she became the first Latina appointed to serve on the New York City Council. By 1986, Velázquez served as the Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States where she implemented one of the most successful Latino empowerment programs in the nation’s history - "Atrevete" (Dare to Go for It!).
In 1992, Velázquez was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent New York's 12th District. In that role, she has been a steadfast champion for equal rights for the underrepresented and an advocate of economic opportunity for working families.
As the top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, Velázquez has fought to ensure New York City’s small businesses have the tools to succeed. Small businesses are the backbone of New York’s economy and she has worked tirelessly to ensure local entrepreneurs can find affordable loans to finance their businesses, grow and hire new workers. She has been particularly focused on helping women-owned and minority-owned businesses succeed, pushing for them to win their fair share of federal contracts.
As the most senior New York Democrat on the Financial Service Committee’s Housing panel, the Congresswoman has made access to affordable housing one of her signature issues. In that role, she helped secure funding for Section 8 vouchers, helped steer federal resources to the New York City Housing Authority for capital improvements and stood up for tenants’ rights against unscrupulous landlords.
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez’s personal story is one of many firsts: first in her family to attend college; first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress; first Hispanic woman to serve as the top Democrat of a House Committee; and first Latina to be Chair of a full Congressional Committee.