Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx by a Dominican mother, Samelys grew up in the NYC family shelter system and faced many of the challenges her Bronx neighbors experience – housing scarcity, domestic violence, food insecurity, economic anxiety, underfunded public schools, and the indignities of the welfare system.
As a community organizer, Samelys works with grassroots groups to turn their activism into electoral power. Samelys has dedicated her professional life to the affordable housing field, where she helped build homes in some of New York City’s most underserved communities, including her home borough of the Bronx.
Despite going to underfunded Bronx schools in University Heights, Samelys López was able to obtain a degree from Columbia University’s Barnard College. Samelys was then selected for a competitive fellowship at the National Association of Elected Officials (NALEO). At the conclusion of NALEO, Samelys was placed at Congressmember José E. Serrano’s Bronx district office where she assisted with constituent housing in her role as a Congressional Aide.
After working for Congressmember José E. Serrano, Samelys enrolled at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service and graduated with a Masters in Urban Planning with a focus on Housing and Community Development. Samelys interned at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) where she gained experience in providing affordable housing for New Yorkers.
Realizing the racial disparities in the urban planning field, Samelys and former colleagues co-founded Velo City, a youth cycling initiative that recruited youth from the South Bronx and Brownsville to diversify the professions of the built environment to empower youth to fight for the dignity and needs of their communities on their own terms.
Some of Samelys’ volunteer roles include serving on New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ transition team and Bronx Community Board 7 as Long Term Planning Chair. Samelys is currently an activist in the Housing Justice for All statewide coalition which was instrumental in securing quite possibly the most historic pro-tenant rent reforms New York State has ever seen.
Samelys is the co-founder of Local Democrats of NY, which supports grassroots candidates for County Committee and other elected positions. She is also an active member and co-founder of Bronx Progressives, a local chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network and Our Revolution. Bronx Progressives came out of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign to further Bernie Sanders’ ideals in the Bronx. Through Bronx Progressives, Samelys has played a role in helping to build an independent, community led grassroots political movement in the Bronx.
Samelys was named as one of The Hispanic Coalition of New York’s Rising 40 under 40 Latino Stars in 2016 and was recognized in City & State’s Bronx Power 100 in 2019.