Michael Blake is back home and he wants to contribute to the neighborhood … with the help of your vote.
Taking a page from his former boss’ book, Blake announced his candidacy for the 79th Assembly District in the Bronx, citing change and hope. In a statement on his Facebook page, Blake reminded voters of his beginnings.
“Like most Bronx residents, I know firsthand the hardships of living in one of the most impoverished areas in the United States,” he stated. “This kind of change will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I ask for your vote and support as I embark on this journey to become the next assemblyman of the 79th District.”
Blake’s connections to the borough go back to the day of his birth. Born at North Central Bronx Hospital, he eventually went on to serve President Barack Obama as an aide and as the White House director of outreach to minority business, African-Americans and state and county elected officials. He is currently an active pastor and mentor at churches, schools and nonprofit organizations in the Bronx.
Being from the only borough on the mainland, Blake has had experiences with poverty and hardship, and he wants to help show young Bronxites that there’s a way out, particularly through literacy empowerment, financial empowerment and financial capability.
“The 79th District is the poorest congressional district in the nation,” said Blake during an interview with the AmNews. He said that he wanted to bring job training programs and an increased awareness of those programs to the neighborhood. He also said he wanted to make sure his district had “increased access to capital for small and minority-owned businesses” so he can help locals “realize those dreams.”
The Assembly candidate talked to the AmNews about schools and how they should be the center of the communities. On the topic of community health centers in schools and seeing schools as a one-stop shop for the neighborhood—something brought up last year by mayoral candidate Sal Albanese—Blake agreed with the concept.
“I think it’s absolutely one way you can turn our communities around. People see schools as the center … the beacon of the community. If you keep it open longer, you’re not only helping that senior citizen, you’re helping an adult get job training and helping the community by giving them a place to stay engaged in a positive manner.”
Blake emphasized sustaining a “positive atmosphere” in his district and making sure the proper resources are available to help his potential constituents advance their goals. He sees a “shift in how people think and operate in the community.”
Blake also mentioned health and wellness, dealing with asthma and traffic—the 149th Street and Third Avenue train station, the most populated transit stop in the Bronx, is in his district—and amplifying the “Save Our Streets” programs.
But it hasn’t been all good news for Blake and company. The New York Daily News reported last week that he voted in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and 2012. According to the law, state Assembly candidates must have been residents of New York for at least five years and have lived in the district in which they seek office for the 12 months immediately before the election or in the county as a whole if it’s a redistricting year. According to the New York City Board of Elections, Blake didn’t register to vote in New York City until June 2013.
Blake and his campaign have already told the Daily News that he and his mom have jointly rented an apartment in the district since 2009. Couple this with the fact that he’s running for a seat vacated by Eric Stevenson after he was convicted of bribery and it might signal the “same ol’ politics” chorus from many New Yorkers, but Blake wants to focus on the vision he feels he can bring to his district.
“We’ve obviously had some tough moments in the 79th, but the key is what I can bring to the office that makes me qualified,” said Blake. “One: continual engagement. Two: utilizing the personal experience of my journey and the story I have to bring hope to those who feel hopeless.”
Blake also expressed a desire to create racial, religious and business coalitions in a way that’s a “clear and continual way for all communities to engage in this movement. “
“For too long, it has felt like us versus them, and it can’t be that way any longer,” said Blake.