Huge Field in Primary Fight for Brownsville Council District

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William Alatriste for the NYC Council

Darlene Mealy, the current Councilmember for the 41st district, is term-limited.

The 41st council district campaign is heading into the homestretch with primary day just a week away. The field of candidates competing to replace the term-limited Darlene Mealy once ballooned to 13; nine remain. Below are profiles of the Democratic contenders.

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Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Background
A Brownsville native, Ampry-Samuel boasts a long career of civil service including working as chief of staff for Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, as a child protective specialist with Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and serving on the board of directors for Brooklyn housing non-profit NEBHDCO. She’s even taken her talents abroad, having worked in Ghana for three years in human rights and community development. Most recently, she was a senior advisor for NYCHA, all of which has led her to declare “I’ve done a million things all around the world to be of service to my community.”

Housing
The 41st council district—which encompasses Brownsville, Ocean Hill and some parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and East Flatbush—faces a number of challenges like crime, high prevalence of diseases like diabetes and lack of good-paying jobs, but it’s a lack of affordable housing that seems to be top of mind to all the candidates. Ampry-Samuel points to her work with NEBHDCO, creating and preserving affordable housing, for providing her with a greater understanding of the issue. But beyond housing creation, she believes that fostering economic opportunity around housing is key. For example, she says residents should be involved in the construction of the housing and employed in the retail stores that may be located on the ground floor of these buildings. While Ampry-Samuel is in favor of building more, she’s not open to building taller in order to accommodate more people, because “there would be too many people in too concentrated of an area.” Instead she wants to incentivize shop owners along thoroughfares like Belmont Ave. and Pitkin Ave. to renovate the apartments on top of their stores.

NYCHA
The highest concentration of public housing in the city is within the 41st council district and NYCHA on the whole is facing a $17 billion shortfall that it needs to make long-overdue repairs. Having been raised in the Marcus Garvey Houses, Ampry-Samuel is unopposed to creating new private development on NYCHA property to generate revenue, but she believes doing so in the 41st council district is a bad idea because there’s already development in the works. She would like to pull more city money for NYCHA funding.

Education
Ampry-Samuel wants to increase funding to put more social workers into schools to help children deal with issues happening at home, and she would also like to fund community organizations that work inside the schools.

Criminal justice
As councilmember, Ampry-Samuel would use discretionary funds for programs that help increase community interaction with police, like book bag giveaways, the National Night Out and precinct council meetings. She also wants to encourage children to be a part of the Explorers program, and adults to be a part of auxiliary officers program—anything to help improve police/community relations.

Committee participation
Back in 2010 Ampry-Samuel wrote for and received grant funding for the state Department of Health’s “Creating healthy places to live, work and play” grant which brought fresh food and vegetables from upstate New York to Brownsville. The grant also employed neighborhood youth to work in a newly-developed produce market as well as hired health navigators to work with local hospitals to improve health outcomes. She wants to expand on that work if elected as councilmember through participation on the health committee. She also wants to work on the committees on public housing and education.

Campaign website
 

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Royston “Uncle Roy” Antoine
Background
Royston Antoine has been a resident in Council district 41 for the past 45 years and his clothing store has been a mainstay on Pitkin Avenue for decades. Originally from St. Vincent, Antoine (a.k.a. Uncle Roy) is proud of his track record of employing Brownsville residents. He wants to build on the potential of the community by getting Wall St. hedge funds to invest in it. His business contributions have been recognized with a “Merchant of The Year” award bestowed by the 73rd Precinct Community Council. Antoine’s previous foray into politics was in 2014 when he ran in the 55th Assembly District to replace William Boyland (ultimately the seat went to Latrice Walker). Now he’s back in the political mix and says what sets him apart are his people skills. “I’m in touch with the people. They know who I am they can call me anytime. I’m always there for them.”

Poverty alleviation and economic development
The key to community uplift starts with the youth, says Antoine. “Our youth have lost their direction,” he says, blaming mass incarceration stemming from the Giuliani administration’s “broken windows” policing (which criminalized even minor infractions) for stymying young people’s potential. “They put all of our youths in jail for no reason whatsoever,” he says. Antoine hopes to turn it around by engaging young minds so they can be more constructive in the community and giving them job opportunities. If elected councilmember, he wants to work with the mayor to create afterschool job opportunities and reach out to companies like Microsoft to encourage investment that would benefit young people.

Immigration
The current immigration climate is difficult for many immigrants, especially the undocumented, says Antoine. While NYC is a so-called “sanctuary city” he would like to work on a bill to give law-abiding undocumented immigrants who’ve lived here for years amnesty, no matter who the president is.

Why the name Uncle Roy?
Antoine says the name actually stems from a young girl named Yvette who used to frequent his store back in the 80’s who started calling him uncle and bringing her friends to the store. They also called him uncle, and from there “it caught fire.” He also thinks the name has stuck because of his relationships with people, “I treat them like an uncle.”

Campaign website
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Henry Butler
Background
Henry Butler, a Bed-stuy native, touts his “years of experience being civically engaged particularly on the community board for the last 12 years,” as why he’s best qualified to represent the 41st Council district. During those 12 years on Community Board 3 (the last 4 of which he’s served as district manager), Butler says he fought to save the B25 bus, which the MTA threatened to eliminate, as well as Interfaith Hospital when it was nearly shut down four years ago. Butler, like current Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, had a long career with the MTA, having worked as a train conductor for 14 years. He was also a political organizer for his union. Previously, he worked as a caseworker for the Administration for Children Services (ACS) and spent three years at NYCHA working on Lafayette Gardens’ community center. Butler sums up his run for City Council as “a continuation of the work I’ve always been doing.”

Housing
Butler is passionate about affordable housing, which he refers to as a “hot button issue.” To create more affordable housing, he proposes that all developments on city-owned land should be built by not-for-profit companies like Habitat for Humanity, for example. Citing the city’s astronomical cost of living, he also emphasized that the district needs housing that’s affordable at all levels from low-income to moderate to middle. As district manager for CB3, Butler participated in the ULURP process (which determines zoning and other land-use changes) for Bedford-Stuyvesant’s re-zoning. Butler plans to use his experience negotiating with housing developers to ensure, just as he did in Bed-Stuy, that any new housing (even if built taller than older buildings) offers rents that reflect the income-levels of the community so that current residents aren’t pushed out.

NYCHA
Butler grew up in Bed-Stuy’s Tompkins Houses (where his parents still reside) and he’s experienced waiting two or more years to get repairs done. Like Ampry-Samuel, he wants to pull more money from the city for NYCHA since the federal government has given no indication that it will provide more funding for public housing.

Criminal justice
Butler has fond memories of the cops he grew up with who patrolled NYCHA and took him and other children to track meets, so he’s in favor of neighborhood patrols. However, he will push for more transparency with body cameras—currently the NYPD sees footage before anyone else and decides when and how it’s released.

Poverty alleviation and economic development
Any long-term solution to challenges borne out of poverty requires economic development and job growth, says Butler: “We need more workforce development programs that will actually train people in our community.” He encourages job growth through small business creation since he believes small businesses provide the most jobs within the community. To that end, if elected councilmember, he wants to give a 100 percent tax break to any new business for the first five years of their founding.

Committee participation
In keeping with his commitment to affordable housing and economic development, Butler wants to join the Council’s housing and small business committees as well as education.

Campaign website
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Leopold Cox
Background
Running on the motto of “Real Work, Not Fancy Election Talk” Leopold Cox is currently a 3rd year law student, building on his Bachelor’s degree in accounting and Master’s degree in political science urban policy & administration. He hopes to use his educational background and 25 years of working for the city as a TWU union member to help the 41st council district. Cox, an East Flatbush resident, wants to create more affordable housing, increase job opportunities for young people and provide better services for the community. Per his website Cox says, “I am running because people in our neighborhoods need representatives who work just as hard for the district as they do in election campaigns.”

Campaign website
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Victor Jordan
Background
Victor Jordan is a member of Community Board 17 and cites his educational background as a key strength he brings to the challenges facing the 41st Council district. Jordan taught mathematics at Erasmus Hall, later he got his Master’s degree in economics and went on to teach that subject at SUNY. He also has a law degree from Albany Law School. He volunteered on the campaign of the first Caribbean-American member of the city council, Una Clarke, and was the vice-president of her first political club, CAMPO. While Jordan has run for political office before in the 42nd Assembly district seat (which ultimately went to Rodneyse Bichotte), he believes he has “new experience and understanding of the issue that would help us solve many problems that we have.”

Housing
Jordan chaired the Land Use committee on CB17 and in keeping with his economics background says the real problem of housing affordability lies with income: “If people had the income they could afford the housing.” To adapt to rising housing costs Jordan says, “we should focus more on putting money in the pockets of people within the community.”

NYCHA
Jordan sees rampant disrespect on the part of NYCHA towards its residents and while he didn’t provide ideas for revenue generation, he believes the entire leadership of the embattled agency needs to be replaced.

Criminal justice
Jordan believes the city’s neighborhood policing program helps bring cops closer to the community and makes them more accessible so he supports it. But he believes the NYPD needs a police commissioner who “has deep roots in the city and who’s really committed to justice,” to restore residents’ faith in the department.

Poverty alleviation and economic development
The root of much of what ails the community, Jordan says, is a lack of income and alleviating poverty starts with people having a high enough income “so they can compete with everyone else.” He continues, “We have to build the individual as much as we can so they can take care of themselves because they have the skills and the access to jobs that can pay them a wage where they can compete fairly in the economy.” Jordan proposes that encouraging small business development and providing those businesses with capital would go a long way in creating jobs.

Committee participation
Jordan also chaired CB17’s education board and believes “education…is key to our development as a community.” If elected councilmember he would fight for education funding based on what the community needs, not on what it already has (as is the case with our current tax-based education funding.) He’d also like to be a part of the housing committee and—drawing upon his legal background—the criminal justice committee to deal with the problems of the legal system.

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Moreen King
Background
According to her website, Moreen King, a longtime resident of Flatbush, migrated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1988. Since then, she has founded two educational centers in Brooklyn, which she says give children a safe-haven and employs many adults in the community. King also touts a long career of civic engagement and leadership: she was a member of community board 17, co-chair of Bushwick Community Partnership program and served as president of Private Child Care Owners Coalition. She’s also an active volunteer in St. John’s Episcopal Nursing Home, the Vincentian Progressive Organization, BIRCH children services and P.S. 219. If elected councilmember, King wants to focus on a gamut of issues facing the 41st, including health care access, small business development, senior care, affordable housing and job training/youth employment. She’s a staunch advocate for civil rights and “will partner with other like minded individuals to successfully grow the overall well being of the people in her community.”

Housing
King is interested in sponsoring homelessness prevention programs, funding for home repairs and helping families to access affordable housing.

Poverty alleviation and economic development
King wants to use her background as an entrepreneur to “break down barriers of poverty and build strong families in the community.” She also wants to encourage the economic strength of small businesses, and increase funding for the recruitment of more small and minority businesses. In keeping with her background in day care, King believes that alleviating poverty also starts with providing children with a safe haven and enrichment programs so that their parents can pursue educational and employment opportunities.

Youth Services
King supports universal childcare, more funding for arts and science in schools as well as “marketable and meaningful skill training for youth.”

Campaign website
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Deirdre Olivera
Background
Deirdre Olivera has 25 years of experience as a community activist and small business owner, which she believes makes her qualified to be an effective city councilmember for the 41st. The Brownsville native has fulfilled a number of roles over the past two decades: She worked in a homeless shelter for 10 years moving families out of shelters and into housing; she participated in the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) certification program and works as a business consultant; she was president of the PTA and is also a member of Community Board 16 sitting on a number of committees including the youth, legislative and women’s committees. Additionally, Olivera is a skilled laborer, having worked in construction, and is a strong union advocate. She believes in grassroots power to make a difference and supports movements like Black Lives Matter and the Peacekeepers. In short, Olivera’s “been very involved for the past 25 years” and due to her breadth of experience says, “I believe I will be able to make a positive difference.”

Housing
Olivera believes that there needs to be more oversight of HPD (the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development) to ensure that people who are applying for affordable housing units aren’t unfairly overlooked or disqualified because of unreasonable criteria. “Our residents are not getting a fair share of being able to qualify for this housing,” she says. In her view, HPD definitely needs more enforcement to ensure that neighborhood residents are first in housing lotteries as well. Olivera would also encourage any future affordable housing to include more units for senior citizens.

NYCHA
As a member of the Laborers International Union of North America, Olivera is a strong believer in unions and the power of collective bargaining. She proposes that NYCHA start an apprenticeship program with trade unions to make repairs across NYCHA buildings. This would ultimately cost less and create a skilled local workforce.

Poverty alleviation and economic development
The 41st district Council lacks economic investment and as councilmember, Olivera, drawing upon her years of working on business, says she would do more to create jobs in the community and create and sustain local businesses. Olivera also points to her years of “formulating partnerships between different groups and organizations” in her work as an activist that will enable her to create more economic opportunities in the district. “Everybody knows what the problem is…but my particular gift, my particular area is the how.” As an example, she cites the time a senior housing development she was working in didn’t have any funding or programs; so she called on a church who volunteered hot meals for the seniors and a pantry to bring additional food to the senior center and brought in another organization that worked with seniors to use the center’s space for programming (bingo, crafts etc.) as long as they included the building’s seniors as well.

Committee participation
With her background in construction, Olivera would like to sit on the housing committee and the contracts committee. “You need to serve the whole district, not just the people you think would be beneficial for you to stay in office.”

Campaign website
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Cory Provost
Background
As a child of Jamaican immigrants, Cory Provost is attuned into the needs of the 41st Council district’s large Caribbean immigrant community, he says. Though some can’t vote because they aren’t citizens they still “need to be served.” And as a native Brooklynite who grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and East New York he’s familiar with the challenges facing central Brooklyn. As such, he’s sought to serve his community, becoming district leader for the 58th Assembly District back in 2012. The City University of NY (CUNY) alumni (at the undergraduate and graduate levels) also served as the youngest member of the Board of Trustees for CUNY, where he helped shape higher education policy. In the role of CUNY admissions counselor he helped at-risk youth pursue their education. More recently, he worked for Comptroller Scott Stringer, where he did audits on NYCHA and helped connect residents to city resources. Provost believes running for City Council is a natural progression of his public service career, “I’ve been on the ground helping individuals address their problems, helping get individuals connected to government in very positive ways that has had an impact on their lives.”

Housing
Due to the density issues in the 41st council district already, Provost doesn’t think building taller to fit more people in the community is the answer. He prefers contextual zoning where any new buildings fit the height of the surrounding structures. But with any new development, Provost says there needs to be infrastructure to support the growth in the form of schools, sufficient transportations options etc.

NYCHA
Provost suggests creating a municipal bond to raise money for the beleaguered agency. He also thinks that the city should get more creative in how it funds NYCHA: For example, the Battery Park City Authority has a $400 million annual surplus, and Provost believes some of that surplus should go to NYCHA.

Poverty alleviation and economic development
Transportation costs are a major barrier to people with low-income so Provost wants to provide reduced fare Metrocards linked to salary level and free Metrocards for senior citizens. He also believes there’s not enough attention paid to senior citizens and the high cost of living they face, so he proposes an elimination of city taxes for seniors and more funding for senior housing.

Committee participation
One of the most important issues to Provost is criminal justice, which he says has “devastated our community over the years.” Citing high incarceration rates in the district (Brownsville has the second highest percentage of people imprisoned in NYC), he says reducing the number of incarcerated people will have a direct impact on poverty. One fewer incarcerated person in a family means one more person who could be working and providing income.

Campaign website
David Miller is also in the running for city council but City Limits could not locate any campaign information for him.

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