It will take a concerted effort to revive Brooklyn from the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken lives, pushed families to the brink of homelessness and forced numerous small businesses to shut down permanently.
In June, Brooklynites will go to the primary polls, which is the de facto election, to choose a borough president to lead the recovery effort.
Term-limited City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr., whose 36th District includes Bed-Stuy and Northern Crown Heights, says he is best positioned to take up the challenge.
“My campaign message is that I’m the best candidate to bring Brooklyn back, better than ever, from the pandemic,” he told BK Reader.
He continued: “That requires a solid plan for economic growth and development, undergirding small businesses with capital and technical assistance, as well as creating solid affordable housing.”
Cornegy is a top tier candidate in a field of more than a dozen rivals. They are competing to succeed term-limited Borough President Eric Adams, who is running for mayor. The other frontrunners include City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon and former Brookdale Hospital Executive Khari Edwards.
As the current chair of City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings and the former chair of the Committee on Small Business, Cornegy said he had the know-how to lead the recovery.
“Despite what many people think, the borough president office is not a ceremonial position,” he stated. “It requires acumen in land use powers, zoning powers and the $60 million in capital funding.”
Those elements form “the pillars of recovery and resilience,” the councilman said, adding that he’s the only candidate who has expertise to use them effectively.
His campaign site provides the details about his positions and solutions to the many challenges ahead.
A plan for Brooklyn’s small businesses
Cornegy has a plan to make $10 million in grants – not low-interest loans – available for small businesses in his first 100 days in office.
“I have partnered with three different financial institutions that have committed to $1 million each, and I know I can get $7 million more,” he stated.
The $10 million figure is just a start. Funding this initiative would come through the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law created to encourage banks to help meet the financial needs of the communities in which they operate.
Those funds would go specifically to the micro businesses and mom-and-pop stores in communities of color that were bypassed in the federal relief packages.
Affordable housing solution
Cornegy would use the borough president’s powers around land use and a capital budget of up to $60 million annually to work with responsible developers to create affordable housing.
Working with real estate developers raises a lot of concerns for progressives.
“I don’t know how you could be 100% anti-development and come up with an affordability plan,” Cornegy stated, adding that “we have to bring responsible developers to the table for a public-private partnership.”
Problems arise when we rely solely on developers or government to solve the affordability problem, he explained.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” the city councilman continued. “In my plan, developers don’t have absolute power. Government officials don’t have absolute power, and the community doesn’t have absolute power. They all have equal power, equal say and equal stakes.”
Creating “ironclad” contracts that are transparent prevents corruption.
Police accountability is a cornerstone issue for Cornegy, whose district was the site of a Black Lives Matter mural on Fulton Street. He also recognizes that the police provide an essential service to the community.
“We can both hold the criminal justice system (the police, courts and corrections) accountable while still supporting a public safety platform,” the city councilman insisted.
Cornegy said he had an impeccable legislative record on criminal justice reform, including helping to pass the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act and the Kalief Browder Bill, as well as voting to repeal qualified immunity that shielded cops from police brutality.
Criminal justice reform is a complex issue, which has layers of institutional racism, unconscious bias, and a police culture that protects abusive cops.
He said there are several components needed to reform the system. In addition to legislation, he calls for internal police accountability to supplement those laws.
That would include protecting the jobs of officers who report the abuses of fellow cops.
“We are seeing a cultural shift within law enforcement,” he said optimistically, pointing to the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Fellow officers testified against him, helping to convict the former cop.
Make a Donation
BK Reader is brought to you for free daily. Please consider supporting independent local news by making a donation here. Whether it is $1 or $100, no donation is too big or too small!