In District 40, New York City Council candidates presented their platforms and proposals to the residents of Flatbush, Brooklyn for the upcoming City Council election Sept. 12, 2017. The candidates running for office are as follows: Mathieu Eugene (incumbent), Brian A. Cunningham, Pia Raymond, Jennifer Berkley and Rose St. Albord. The city council debate took place June 5 at BKLYN Commons, 495 Flatbush Ave., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Here is information on each candidate from the BKLYNER website:
Eugene is the incumbent District 40 Council member. He was the first Haitian-born elected official in the New York City Council. Some of his campaign issues are expanding employment opportunities in his district, ensuring quality education with small class sizes, supporting immigrant rights and improving affordable housing opportunities. Every year during Christmastime, he hosts a holiday party for more than 500 underprivileged children, where he gives the children toys he collected during his annual holiday drive. He was elected in a special election (which had to be re-run because it turned out he did not live in the district) to serve out the remainder of Yvette Clarke’s term when she became a congresswoman. He’s been re-elected twice and is effectively looking for his fourth term.
Cunningham was born and raised in Flatbush. He began his career as a student advocate counselor in Brooklyn, became an aide to State Sen. Kevin Parker, and then served as Council Member Laurie Cumbo’s chief of staff. His campaign issues include making housing affordable, supporting small businesses, increasing funding for senior services and supporting arts and recreational programs, as well as cultural institutions, according to the website.
Raymond is a Prospect Lefferts Garden native and a fifth-generation Brooklynite. She is currently involved in many community efforts, such as serving as the vice president of Lefferts Manor Association. The AmNews caught up with her as she was on a listening tour speaking to merchants. She is bilingual, speaking fluent Spanish, and believes that skill allows her to better communicate and connect with people. Some of campaign issues are supporting immigrant rights, quality education and equal rights for women, according to the website.
Berkley lives in Ditmas Park and spends her time fighting for affordable housing. In 2015, she ran for the Brooklyn Democratic Party County Committee and won Kings County’s only contested County Committee seat. She served for one term. Some of her campaign issues are supporting small businesses, better public transportation and protecting human rights for everyone, according to the website.
St. Albord was born and raised in Haiti. Since she was a young girl, she has been involved in providing food for the hungry and donating clothes to the poor. Some of her campaign issues are affordable housing, better schools, women’s rights and health care, better transportation and immigration, according to the website.
The candidates stood before the residents of Flatbush on that premeditated night to present their agendas regarding the pressing issues, which are public transportation, education, property taxes and gun violence.
On the issue of transportation, the candidates are in favor of improving transportation for the residents of Flatbush and New York as a whole. The option that was presented during the debate was protected bike lanes by Cunningham because of the excessive traffic and unsafe conditions on the streets in New York City. Also, city-funded bike-riding and teaching children and seniors bike riding safety is another proposal that Raymond has expressed to the public. According to Cunningham, he wants to talk with unions to increase the funding of express trains to reduce the slow-paced commute in New York.
On the issue of education, the five candidates are in agreement, all advocating for public school funding instead of increasing funding for charter schools. According to Eugene, “Public school is a very good system.” About young people and the value of education, he added, “We must invest in the young people.” Raymond is looking to improve education for young individuals by implementing programs in public schools that would potentially help them for the real world. “There will be programs that teach life skills and college preparation and computer programming,” said Raymond.
All five candidates have one thing in common: They want to improve affordable housing opportunities because, according to Eugene, “Housing is one of the biggest crises in New York.”
Down-zoning is a popular option regarding the candidates’ position on reducing property taxes in District 40. Down-zoning the area is supported by Eugene, Cunningham and Raymond. “Use the power of city down-zoning,” said Cunningham. However, Berkley has expressed another option on how to reduce property taxes. Her plan is to create a registry for residents to request an increase in funding for the area.
Toward the end of the debate, the audience seemed to react favorably or neutral to four of the five candidates. The reaction for Eugene was unfavorable when Cunningham expressed a desire for the candidates to work together as a whole regardless of the debate, saying “We’re all on the same page for our community,” and Eugene, in response, disagreed with Cunningham.
At the end of the debate, District 40 residents had heard the expressed agendas from the potential candidates for the position to become the City Council Member for District 40. The City Council election will be held Sept. 12, 2017.