Manhattan BP Gail Brewer: ‘A different kind of politician’

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/17/2014, 2:49 p.m.

Serving just over 100 days in her new position as Manhattan borough president, Gail Brewer says she’s “a different kind of politician” and plans to be just as accessible to her constituents as she was when she was in the City Council.

In a recent interview with the AmNews, she said her strategy to make things better is by solving people’s problems while dealing with the big issues. Issues that have been the focus include affordable housing, schools and the NYPD.

Since taking office, she said she’s been to all 12 Community Boards in the borough and is finding ways to support them. Through the use of , better technology including digital maps and web casting meetings, Brewer wants to get more people involved in their Community Boards to be able to get more services. All 18 city agencies are required to web cast their meetings.

In an effort to be on the ground, Brewer said she plans to open a storefront office on 125th Street for constituents to be able to have access to the office seven days a week. The Manhattan Borough President has always had an office in the Harlem State Office building, however, with strict policies on IDs in order to gain entrance, many are unable to get in.

“The office will be very heavily staffed more that I think perhaps other borough presidents offices,” she said. “We are moving some people from the 1 Centre Street office to the Harlem office and we will have a very strong presence.”

In terms of affordable housing in the borough, recent reports reveal that many Manhattanites are unable to afford living in the borough due to high rents. She said one of the best ways to maintain affordable housing is to preserve what is left and refinancing of co-ops occupied by middle–income residents.

As for new affordable housing, Brewer said that every city–owned building has to be looked at and requires resident input to any new plans. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office wants to use a neighborhood approach to affordable housing and work with community boards.

“Now that I have the relationship with the community boards, I am going to put together the same thing I did with technology,” she said. “I know everybody who works with affordable housing so I am going together and meeting with them and the community boards. We will be able to say these are some ideas we have.”

When it comes to education, Brewer said she want to put more arts education back in schools and quality social services and counseling in schools.Working with local cultural outlets, like the Studio Museum of Harlem and Ballet Hispanico, Brewer wants to see collaborations with art institutions and schools to make music, drama and visual arts accessible to all students.

As for mental health, she said she wants to bring in social workers and psychologists to help students with needs outside of the classroom that can have a profound affect on their performance in the classroom.