Now more than ever, a growing number of activists, local leaders and regular residents are throwing their hats into the political ring. Four years of Trump, it seems, have inspired a groundswell of new candidates from all walks of life to take a shot at becoming a legislator; a chance to spark change.

Ahead of the June 22 primaries, BK Reader reached out to each of the candidates–54 total–running for City Council in the eight districts we cover, asking them to complete a survey around their campaign platform.

Of them, 23 responded.

We asked candidates the following questions:

  1. Tell us your occupation and public offices held.
  2. How long have you lived in Brooklyn? Which neighborhood do you reside in?
  3. Why did you decide to run for office?
  4. What is your plan for ensuring an equitable economic recovery from COVID-19 in your district?
  5. If elected, what top three priorities would you pursue to improve your district?

Responses have been edited for brevity and organized by council district. Candidates’ names link directly to their websites, where more detailed platforms are available.

City Council District 34

Williamsburg, Bushwick

Terrell Finner

Terrell Finner: Provided.

I am currently serving as the general manager at a direct service nonprofit. This is my first time running for public office. I have been a resident of Brooklyn since 2018. Prior to this, I lived in Harlem.

I currently live in the Bushwick section of District 34. I’m an advocate for silenced voices. I’m a young, progressive. I believe that the most effective way to ensure an equitable recovery from COVID-19 will come through paying keen attention to community building and reconnecting our neighbors to each other as we recover.

We have to provide financial support and exemptions for our independently owned organizations. We have to cancel back rent for artists and working families who haven’t had jobs for the past 15 months. We have to have a working-class person, who has felt the brunt of this pandemic, representing us at City Hall. We need to advocate for the needs of Latino, Black, and women-owned businesses. Last but not least, I believe that we need to be extremely intentional about how we support the return of our performance spaces, venues, cabarets, and other entertainment spaces in the district.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Increasing access to social services (housing and healthcare)
  • Rent cancellation/extension of the eviction moratorium
  • Providing funds to support the return of our world-renowned entertainment, arts, and culture sector

Jennifer Gutierrez

Jennifer Gutierrez

I most recently served as Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s Chief of Staff, and I have never held public office. I have lived in Bushwick for about a year and a half, but have been working in my district for 8+ years. Prior to that, I lived in Queens, in the same neighborhood I was born and raised in (Queens is also part of district 34!). I currently live in Bushwick with my husband, mother, and elderly dog and love it. I’ve been working in this community for close to a decade and I know the district and its people well.

In a rapidly gentrifying district, the preservation of our community is paramount. I am running to keep people in their homes, to provide real solutions to a community disproportionately impacted by over-policing and environmental racism, and to make sure our education system works for all students. My pandemic recovery is rooted in fairness and is determined to leave no New Yorker behind. We must implement a robust jobs program, fund more community health care centers, and expand and improve NYC Care. 

Legislative Priorities:

  • Fighting for quality and affordable housing 
  • Free after school and child care programs
  • An equitable and just COVID-19 recovery

Council District 35

Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant

Curtis Harris

Curtis Harris

I have been a financial professional for over 40 years, and a retired accountant. I was born in Brownsville Brooklyn, lived in Clinton Hill and currently live in Crown Heights. As a Brooklynite most of my life, my family is from Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. As a third generation Brooklynite I have witnessed many negative changes in Brooklyn especially concerning housing costs.

I knew I had to be the change I wanted to see in the district concerning low and moderate income housing or we would continue to see what we saw for the last 8 years, concerning “affordable” housing. We must provide business development and job opportunities for our district and City with special emphasis on POC and at risk communities. Other communities, often obscured in the data, are also disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including sexual and gender minority groups, those living with disabilities, and those living at the margins of our economy.

Legislative Priorities:

  • COVID-19 Relief: providing health & wellness resources, free legal services, and job readiness programs and technology classes
  • Low- and Moderate-Income Housing
  • Education

Michael Hollingsworth

Michael Hollingsworth

I’ve lived in Brooklyn all my life. I was born in Fort Greene and raised in Clinton Hill and Crown Heights. I still live in Crown Heights today. I work as a graphic designer. I became involved in politics through the housing justice movement because I was tired of elected officials failing me and my neighbors.

I’m proud to say that my organizing contributed to the passage of historic rent laws in 2019—which strengthened tenant protections for millions of New Yorkers—and the establishment of a rent freeze for rent-stabilized tenants in 2020. Our district needs a representative in the City Council with no ties to the people, systems, and structures that have failed our neighborhoods for so long. In City Council, I’ll advocate for a real, viable COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund that provides services and support to the working class. I’ll support at least another $50 million in funding for food banks, which are currently struggling to feed hungry New Yorkers in the wake of the pandemic.

I’ll work to create a comprehensive system of commercial rent stabilization that limits rent increases and provides stability to small businesses, and I’ll push for increased capital and support for Black- and brown-owned businesses.

Legislative Priorities:

  • I’ll do everything I can in the City Council to make sure that safe, resilient housing is available to all of us
  • I’ll work to make our communities safe by investing in more social services and education rather than more policing.
  • And I’ll pursue policies that ensure a livable climate by supporting renewable energy and low-carbon transportation

Crystal Hudson

Crystal Hudson

I have held leadership positions in the City Council and the office of NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. I am the only candidate in this race with any prior experience in city government, which is vitally important as we look to recover from the pandemic, the economy, and the racial reckoning.

I am proud to be a third-generation Brooklynite. My family has been in Prospect Heights, in the 35th Council District, since the 1940s. Emerging safely and equitably from the COVID-19 pandemic will require a revolutionary approach to the city’s policies to ensure equitable healthcare access, real affordable housing, quality education for all kids, and support for small businesses. We must establish and maintain a robust, proactive pandemic mitigation strategy that includes: Building an education & training ecosystem for the displaced workforce & marginalized communities; Rebuilding our city’s economy through public works & direct public employment like investing in accelerated public projects that rebuild our city’s public infrastructure, and hiring New Yorkers to get the job done; Focusing recovery efforts on local small businesses & nonprofits and support for new business development; broadband network.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Education
  • Affordable Housing: 
  • Community Safety

Deidre Levy

Deidre Levy

I’m a special education teacher working in District 75 and community school settings, AmeriCorps alumni. No political offices held. I’m a born and raised New Yorker from Flushing, Queens and have lived in Brooklyn for eight years.

I wanted to run to elevate the voices of my students in special education. There are so many politicians that make decisions for the schools, where policies get trickled down and influence students without knowing what it’s like to be a teacher. [For equitable COVID-19 recovery I would] work with small businesses and ensure that New Yorkers have access to workforce development programs as well as access to affordable housing. We need to streamline the many processes and systems within the bureaucracy to ensure that New Yorkers can be happy and strong.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Equity in education
  • Affordable housing
  • Food security.  

City Council District 36

Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights

Tahirah Moore

Tahirah Moore

I have not previously held public office, but I have worked in government for many years. I worked as a Legislative/Budget Assistant and as Constituent Services Director in the City Council. I served as Brooklyn Borough Director in the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and later as Senior Advisor in the Mayor’s Intergovernmental Affairs Unit. I was born and raised in Marcy Houses.

With the exception of my time in college, I have lived in the 36th District my entire life. I am running to shift the paradigm in the 36th District — and all of NYC — from neglect and indifference to thriving and prosperity. In the 36th district our M/WBE businesses have been devastated by COVID-19 and we need to build an environment where our small businesses can thrive. My financial recovery plan for small businesses will focus on Money, Marketing and Mentorship.

We will leverage existing programs like BE NYC, WE NYC and local community development corporations to increase access to capital, and provide technical and e-commerce assistance. We will create a regulatory environment that encourages our businesses to correct their mistakes rather than penalize them for honest oversights. When I’m elected I will bring a new Workforce 1 Center to the 36th District. My top three priorities are healthcare, education and low-to-moderate-income housing. I am also actively engaged with responsibly reducing the NYPD budget. 

Legislative Priorities:

  • Two target areas for healthcare are maternal death rates and gun violence.
  • We need to prioritize the desegregation of New York’s public schools
  • I will fight privatization of housing and for triple investment by city, state and federal government in NYCHA

Chi Ossé

Chi Ossé

In May of 2020, I co-founded the activist collective Warriors in the Garden, to coordinate and lead protests across the city. Though I have not held public office, my team and I are already in the City Council pushing legislation, have a robust constituents department & consistently advocate/talk to neighbors. I’ve lived in Brooklyn my whole life.

I currently live in North Crown Heights, where I grew up. [For an equitable COVID-19 recovery I will] create and expand the merchant associations along our major corridors; including supporting their rise to 501c status to help acquire public and private funding/sponsorship; sit and work with local businesses & big box firms to stabilize or increase salaries for workers and increase local hiring; create the first Small Business — MWBE council in the city, which would prioritize business development; continue to partner with the community as we have been to bring more opportunities; reinforce the SYEP program, working to prioritize green jobs and creative jobs.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Sanitation
  • Affordable housing
  • Education

Council District 37

Cypress Hills, Bushwick, City Line, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, East New York

Darma Diaz

Darma Diaz

I am the current City Councilmember for District 37. Before I was elected, I worked in government and spent decades advocating for people in my community. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I have lived here for my entire life, and I currently live in CD 36. Our District had been hit very hard by COVID-19.

As we move forward, we must work to increase vaccination efforts and testing sites locally. COVID-19 impacted all of New York City, but it hit poor communities and communities of color the hardest. I am also committed to supporting small businesses who have been hurt by the pandemic in getting back on their feet. I will work to expand training programs, increase government funding for small business loans, provide grant funding, and fight to secure other forms of aid. In addition to combatting some of the immediate impacts that COVID-19 has had, we must also make serious investments in our public health infrastructure.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Jobs
  • Public safety
  • Affordable housing

Christopher Durosinmi

Christopher Durosinmi

I am a public servant, organizer and advocate, and currently Assistant Director of Government & Community Affairs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. I have not held public office. I have lived in Brooklyn for 32 years (my entire life!). Born and raised in Brownsville, I currently reside in Bushwick. I consider all of my policy positions surrounding affordable housing, workforce development and education key components of improving quality of life for the entire district, especially as we begin to recover from this pandemic. I will fight to bring opportunities and resources in a tangible way that is tailored for the times and issues we are living in.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Workforce Development/Vocational Education
  • Housing
  • Education

Rick Echevarria

Rick Echevarria

Right now I am an English language teacher. I have never formally held a position in public office. I am a lifelong Brooklynite, I was born and raised in Bushwick. I decided to run for City Council because the City Council oversight powers are the only effective way to call for the elimination of deep levels of managerial neglect, mismanagement, and corruption from within our city’s leading housing agencies. [For the COVID-19 recovery] I will be proposing increasing the percentage of city contracts that are awarded to MWBE firms in my district so that they can serve as a major driver of economic development opportunities. Second, I will push to create commercial rent regulation to protect our small businesses, shop owners from rising rent and business displacement.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Expansion of senior housing opportunities
  • Creating protection for homeowners
  • Improving and increasing job opportunities for Latinos and People of Color.

City Council District 40

Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Cecilia Cortez

Cecilia Cortez

I was a classroom teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing for 35 years in Brooklyn. I am retired presently. I have lived in Brooklyn for 30 years. I live in Ditmas Park West. I’ve organized many neighborhood events such as the Progressive Dinner Parties and helped to plant and take care of trees, removed graffiti, and worked to beautify Newkirk Plaza and Cortelyou Rd. The first thing to do is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated in D. 40.  Bring vaccine vans, Drs. and nurses to make sure everyone has access to the vaccine. We must continue to be cautious with the regulations. We are not out of the pandemic. We must continue to follow the rules. Social distance, wash your hands and even wear masks until we are all sure we are out of the pandemic. Only then, we can start rebuilding business and all other events in the community.  

Legislative Priorities:

  • Restoring the sanitation budget so the garbage in the community gets picked up.  
  • I will make sure schools get fully funded so students in D 40 have the tools to succeed.  
  • I will work on providing affordable housing in D. 40

Maxi Eugene

Maxi Eugene

I am an Insurance broker for over 29 years and 40 years of resident in District 40, and I run several successful campaigns for Council Mathieu Eugene. The reason I decided to run because I have been helping the Community for 29 years by providing the following programs such as E, S, L. Computer class and Citizenship prep . Running for City is an opportunity for me to help much more into the next level. Economic recovery is a very hard topic for anyone, even for the president of the United States, it will take some years to be recovered, but if people are following the rules like caring the mask and get vaccinated that will get the country back on track and also the businesses that will help the economy to be recovered. 

Legislative Priorities:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Housing

Kenya Handy-Hilliard

Kenya Handy-Hilliard

I began my career in public service working for champions of progressive agendas such as former Congressmember Charles B. Rangel and current Congress-member Yvette D. Clarke on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I am a daughter of Flatbush.

I  was born and raised in New York City and moved to Prospect Lefferts Gardens (PLG), Brooklyn when I  was three years old. [In the recovery] most importantly, I plan to prioritize small businesses and the type of necessary economic recovery funding and support our small businesses need to recover. That means speaking truth to power when small businesses owned by women and minorities are not prioritized for funding. My plan is prioritization, equitable distribution of funding, and experienced leadership in the dissemination of the funds allocated for a comprehensive  and equitable economic recovery from COVID-19 

Legislative Priorities:

  • Championing equitable economic recovery measures for our small business
  • Increasing community-led housing development and homelessness solutions
  • Pushing for an overhaul of our education and immigration systems

Rita Joseph

Rita Joseph

I’ve worked as a public school teacher at PS6 (located in District 40 on the corner of Snyder and Bedford Avenues) for more than twenty years. I have lived and worked in District 40 for the last 21 years. I’m a proud resident of Flatbush. I grew up in Ditmas Park (also in District 40) after immigrating to the United States from Haiti at two years old. I’m committed to working with Central Brooklyn’s communities to fight for affordable housing, major criminal justice reform, improved public schools, and climate legislation that matches the scale of the problem through a Green New Deal.

The fact that our public schools only have approximately 4.9 social workers, psychologists, and counselors for every 1,000 students is a disgrace that I look forward to correcting when in office. Also, I’m going to focus on reducing class sizes. Right now, they are unacceptably high and they adversely impact students’ learning. The next NYC Council must prioritize criminal and racial justice reform. I believe we must reinvest funding from the NYPD budget directly into community and educational organizations and programs to end the school-to-prison pipeline. In order for NYC and District 40’s economic recovery to be equitable, we must get people back to work. Getting New Yorkers back to work means getting folks vaccinated, plain and simple.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Improving the quality of public schools so that every child can receive the education they deserve
  • Increasing housing affordability throughout Brooklyn
  • Fighting for meaningful criminal justice reform.

Blake Morris

Blake Morris

I am an attorney for over 30 years representing clients in contract disputes. No public offices. I have been elected for the past 10 years to Kings County Democratic County Committee, 42nd AD. My family has been in Brooklyn since the 1870s. I arrived in Brooklyn in 1984.  I live in the Ditmas Park section of Flatbush. I would prioritize what can get done in the first two years, which is open an office that is accessible to all with online access to funnel all the resources available to the residents of the district.  We will find immediate and simple solutions first by connecting those in need with the appropriate resources. [We will get the] municipal public bank to reduce costs of banking and provide microloans.  First thing it can do is to establish a non-depository bank to reduce the costs of money transfer and credit card fees for merchants and the general public.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Affordable Housing
  • Quality Education
  • Improved help for small businesses. 

Edwin Raymond

Edwin Raymond

I have been a public servant for the past 13 years and I am an active Lieutenant in the New York Police Department. Although I have not held public office, I am working towards bringing true police reform and accountability to law enforcement. I have lived in Brooklyn my whole life, specifically in East Flatbush. Minority and women-owned businesses have been hit throughout the pandemic and we need to reevaluate the amount of PPP loans that have been given and not given.

The city could provide tax incentives to landlords who allow short-term leases for testing centers, additional classroom space, or vocational training, bringing back District 40 with its various businesses. I want a task force that is made to locate the businesses that went out of business because of COVID-19 and conduct surveys, where the City Council went wrong in certain protections that they could have controlled and start devising a plan for bringing these businesses back into vacant storefronts long-term.

We can work on passing Res. 1485-2020 to create a state-funded program to support undocumented business owners that have been impacted by the pandemic as well as devise a year long plan to increase the number of city contracts to MWBEs. I want to pass the bill that would provide civil penalty relief for small businesses. As we look at the City Budget, we can divest from the police department and put those investments into education, emphasizing not only on financial literacy in high schools, but provide more programs for parents to set them up for success in their finances as well.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Affordable housing
  • The digital divide within education
  • Criminal justice and police reform.

City Council District 41

Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights

Alicka Ampry-Samuel

Alicka Ampry Samuel

I am the current Councilwoman, representing the 41st Council District. The first elected office that I held was District Leader of the 55th Assembly District from 2000 – 2008. I am a lifelong resident of not only Brooklyn, but of the 41st Council District. I wanted to ensure that the needs and concerns of the community were heard in land use project deals, that our community organizations were funded and supported, that our schools were succeeding and I wanted our community to have an actual say in community policing.

I introduced the Marshall Plan for Moms which received overwhelming support by my colleagues in the Council. Additionally, I support legislation which requires employers to first rehire those that were laid off during the pandemic and also hazard pay to first responders and essential employees.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Public Safety
  • Housing
  • Jobs

City Council District 42

East New York, New Lots, Remsen Village, Spring Creek, Starrett City

Wilfredo Florentino

Wilfredo Florentino

I have worked in City and State Government and the nonprofit sector. Currently I serve as the Senior Grants Manager for the NAACP – the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. I have never run for or held elected office. I am a lifelong Brooklynite and serve on the New Lots Nehemiah Homeowners Association in East New York, Brooklyn where I reside with my husband, two daughters and dog.

I’m running to not only serve my community, but create space for self determination. Our city is on the precipice of an extraordinary fiscal crisis. No idea should be left off the table in order to ensure that our most vulnerable do not continue to suffer. COVID, racism and inequality are inextricably connected. I am committed to supporting policies that not only address COVID, but also systematic inequality and racism.

As the child of immigrants, I am clear that the city must immediately create an emergency cash assistance fund for those most adversely impacted by the COVID crisis. We must work to ensure and advance the economic mobility, social inclusion, leadership and civic participation of all marginalized people; from parity in community board appointments, apprenticeship, training and entrepreneurial opportunities to increase equity. 

Legislative Priorities:

  • COVID recovery is our top priority
  • Prioritize legislation that equitably creates and protects jobs, housing and education.
  • Our city is on the precipice of an extraordinary fiscal crisis. No idea should be left off the table in order to ensure that our most vulnerable do not continue to suffer.

Gena Watson

Gena Watson

I currently work in the human services field and I have worked in this field for over 20 years. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. and have lived in Brooklyn for 46 years.  I currently live in East N.Y. Brooklyn. During the past 17 years I have co-written MWBE legislation; served on the Man Up! Inc. board of directors; participated in the Operation P.O.W.E.R. Movement; participated in the National Action Network fare evasion campaign; organized ENY protest to re-open assembly district office; established the Organization for Economic Advancement; and more.

Job creation for the many people that have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic [is a top priority]. Eviction moratoriums so that families will not be forced into homeless shelters.  Federal and state aid to assist homeowners, renters and landlords so that homes can be maintained.  We must have mobile COVID testing sites located throughout the district as well as vaccination sites with weekend and after business hours opened throughout the district.  In addition, our children must be offered additional assistance while preparing for regents exams which will help to determine the educational future of our children.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Jobs
  • Affordable housing
  • An elected civilian review board

City Council District 45

Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands, Kensington

Anthony Beckford

Anthony Beckford

I am a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, Community Advocate and the President / Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn. I am also a Kings County Democratic County Committee Member.  I’ve lived in Brooklyn basically all of my life, except for when I went away for the military. I live in East Flatbush.

I chose to run, because we were being sent backwards in regards to quality of life issues, education, sanitation, gun violence, housing and much more. We need truly affordable housing, job opportunities, adequate resources and services in our schools, the end to deed theft and tax lien sales and the build up empower and enrich the District and stop mass displacements. Rebuild 45 is a rollout of my economic recovery plan for my district from Covid 19. First and foremost is to work with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to help assist our small businesses with relief applications and available grants. 

Legislative Priorities:

  • Housing
  • Education
  • Public Safety

Louis Cespedes

Louis Cespedes

I’ve never held public office. I am a building professional and homeowner advocate. I have been involved in legislative efforts to create ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units), and I am an active advocate against rezoning of E. Flatbush and allowing as-of-right development. I currently live in East Flatbush. I have lived in Brooklyn for 30 years since 1991.

I decided to run because after I purchased my home, I realized what was going on with the land-use issues in my community and how it was affecting all other issues – education, homelessness, business, and development. Having knowledge of building practices and business, I know I have the skillset to mitigate the crisis caused by land use policy.

Recovering from COVID requires a multi-tiered sustained plan. My plan, detailed above in the previous 3 points, are building blocks in that recovery. The principal objectives are to provide housing, educational, and business certainty and security to communities hit hard by Covid, by creating providing skills to youth and activities to deter violence and provide safe shelter, and finally to create employment and investment opportunities on our commercial corridors. 

Legislative Priorities:

  • Stop the Rezoning of E. Flatbush and create a Neighborhood Development Corporation 
  • Provide a financial framework to implement Public/Private partnerships for vocational training
  • Create a Federation of Businesses and assign a unit within my council office dedicated to expediting processes with different city agencies DOB, DOH, NYSLA, DCA, and collective bargaining with landlords

Farah Louis

Farah Louis

I’m the current Council member proudly representing the 45th district here in Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Kensington, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Carnarsie. I was first elected in 2019. I’ve lived in Brooklyn my entire life, and currently in Flatbush! I believe in a three-pronged approach for an equitable recovery from COVID-19. It starts with ensuring that the city meets residents where they live for vaccinations. Additionally, we must ensure that anyone who lost their incomes over the last year receives the rental or mortgage assistance they need to stay in their homes. Finally, we must ensure that we continue to boost our small businesses across the city. In my district, everyone has a favorite spot that they lost over the past year. We must do more to directly provide the resources our businesses need not just to stay afloat, but to grow.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Public safety is my top priority 
  • After this, I’m focused on the expansion of mental health services in Black and Brown communities
  • Finally, we must boost maternal health
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