Council Member Darlene Mealy represents the 41st District in Brooklyn, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush and Crown Heights. Parts of these neighborhoods are ground zero for some of the most heady social issues affecting the nation. From burgeoning high unemployment to charges of police brutality and high crime rates, everyday people have to navigate these behemoths to go about their daily business.
The second-term council member was against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s grab for a third term before she was for it, which led to a lot of contention in her district and beyond. Seen by some as firmly in the mayor’s corner, Mealy sees herself as a voice and representative of the everyday man and woman.
The former New York City transit worker and Manhattan Community College graduate also worked as a delegate for the Rev. Al Sharpton for President campaign, leading an operation that gathered 15,000 signatures. Mealy currently chairs the Contracts Committee. She is also the new co-chair of the council’s Brooklyn delegation.
When asked what major issues her constituents feel most strongly about, Mealy responded, “Definitely jobs, affordable housing, foreclosure and quality of life. These are the issues we hear about every day at the district office and my monthly advisory board meetings.”
With affordable housing being one of those social and political evergreens, Mealy explained that fighting to ensure that policies are maintained “means working to preserve the resources we already have and to increase the stock of affordable housing. I’m addressing this by supporting the reauthorization of rent stabilization and supporting returning the operation of SCRIE [the Senior Citizen’s Rent Increase Exemption Program] back to Department for the Aging.
“I’m also working with HPD [the Department of Housing Preservation and Development] and the community to see that new affordable housing is built in our communities, and that the rents are priced low enough for people from the community.”
First elected to the City Council in 2006, Mealy was re-elected in 2010, and her support of a third term for incumbents means she can run again. Chances are, however–Brooklyn politics being the boisterous entity that it is–she is bound to be challenged in next year’s City Council elections.
With foreclosure wrecking the lives of thousands in her district, Mealy praised the City Council’s recent passage of a number of laws to press the state Legislature to empower people threatened with foreclosure by giving them more information.
“Not all of these attempted foreclosures are legal and the supposed mortgage holders shouldn’t be able to hide within a complicated system,” she told the AmNews. “Homeowners need to know exactly who they’re dealing with so they can fight to keep their properties. We’re also working hard to help constituents get off the lien sale list so, in the future, they don’t end up losing their property because of unpaid water or sewer bills from years before.
“Many property owners can get out of the lien sale by applying for an exemption, and this year is the first time that owners can enter into a 10-year, no money down, down payment plan to resolve these debts. If your property is on the lien sale list, don’t wait. Contact the Department of Finance right away to explore your options.”
While stop-and-frisk continues to stick in the craw of Black activists and lay people alike who run the risk of being picked on walking or driving while Black, Mealy declared, “One of the biggest ways to improve quality of life in our neighborhoods is to improve the relationship between residents and the NYPD. I’ve focused on keeping officers who do an excellent job at community affairs and also supported increasing the number of officers who patrol on foot.
“Police need to be community-minded. They need to interact with residents, shop owners and block associations on a human level. Having them walk a beat doesn’t fix everything, but it does help build trust in both directions, and that’s a positive change.”
Mealy declared that she is “extremely proud of the work I’ve done as chair [of the Contracts Committee]] to shed more light on the city’s contracting process.”
The proliferation of no-bid contracts under the Bloomberg administration has raised eyebrows and calls for investigations and transparency. “We have to scrutinize these decisions to outsource because, very often, they don’t save money, but they definitely lead to the loss of public sector jobs,” Mealy said in support of her committee.
Noting that she worked for New York City Transit for 17 years. Mealy said, “I really understand how important public sector jobs are to providing excellent services and helping New Yorkers enter the middle class. As the laws I have sponsored–the Outsourcing Accountability Act, Contracts Transparency Act and Intro 707-A, which we just passed last week–take effect, we’ll be able to do a much better job of figuring out which contract costs are justified and beneficial.
“The goal is to avoid scandals like CityTime and hold onto the city’s money, rather than going to court after the fact to get it back.”