By Nicole Brydson
‘Tis the season for city elections, so in advance of the 2009 primary, Brooklyn The Borough has compiled a list of incumbents and challengers in this year’s contested City Council elections for Brooklyn. There are many challengers this year, and open seats in the 33rd and 39th districts have made for heated races. Issues surrounding sustainable development have driven many candidates out of the woodwork. The pro-development Brooklyn political machine is still alive but questions remain about whether candidates supported by the county’s party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, will sustain themselves despite criticism for their ties to a machine that makes the money flow from Brooklyn based business interests.
The term limits extension has also sparked a renewed political engagement in the borough. Many candidates who had planned on running for seats that would have been open before term limits were extended have chosen to challenge incumbents that voted for the extension. We’ve compiled detailed information on each race as well as fundraising totals as the candidates head into the final weekend of the campaign. This information was sourced from our own reporting, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Gotham Gazette, the Brooklyn Paper, Caribbean Life newspaper and various independent sources, to give voters a sense of each campaign as they get geared up for a trip to the voting booth. For information on what district you live in and where your polling site is, visit the City Council and the New York City Board of Elections websites.
District 33 (Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, and Park Slope)
This district covers much of Brooklyn’s most gentrified neighborhoods and development has proven to be a huge topic, mainly surrounding plans for almost 1,900 low-rise apartments at the Broadway Triangle, which intersects Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The New York Times
endorsed Jo Anne Simon, a Boerum Hill resident and long time activist who serves as the District Leader and State Committeewoman in Joan Millman’s Assembly District. The paper cited Stephen Levin’s “entanglement in the Brooklyn Democratic Party machine” as a prime reason for failing to receive their endorsement. His former boss, Mr. Lopez, is in favor of no-bid contracts for the Broadway Triangle development, and residents of the area charge that the project lacks transparency and fear the city will take property by eminent domain, forcing small businesses from the area. Mr. Levin is the only candidate who supports the project. Evan Thies, formerly employed by the incumbent, Mr. Yassky, has received criticism over his resignation from Community Board 1 just prior to their vote on the plan, though he says he is against it. Mr. Yassky has not endorsed a candidate, allegedly
in exchange for Mr. Lopez’s support for his campaign to become the next City Comptroller.
- Departing Incumbent: David Yassky
District 34 (Bushwick, Bushwick North, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ridgewood and Williamsburg)
Though Diana Reyna, the incumbent in this district, was formerly propped up and supported by party boss Mr. Lopez and spent time enjoying the benefits of easy re-election thanks to the county political machine, this time around hasn’t been
so simple. Mr. Lopez dropped support of Ms. Reyna in this cycle, favoring Maritza Davila, a member of Mr. Lopez’s staff and a District Leader that has worked alongside Ms. Reyna, thanks to her support
for his vision for the Broadway Triangle. A third candidate, Gerry Esposito, the District Manager of Community Board 1, which approved the city’s plans for the Broadway Triangle, argues that he is a bridge between the diverse communities of the 34th district, where there is a history of favoring candidates backed by the party machine.
District 35 (Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Prospect Heights)
The incumbent, Letitia James, has a proven record of standing against development she doesn’t believe will benefit her community, which includes the Atlantic Yards project. Her main challenger is Delia Hunley-Adossa, a candidate thought to be backed by developers, who supports the Atlantic Yards project and admitted to receiving
hundreds of thousands of dollars for her group, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, from Forest City Ratner. Matching funds were distributed to candidates based on the amount which was raised from residents of the district. Ms. James received
$63,091 compared to Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s $1,909, and no additional funds for Mr. Estiphanos, who is running on a platform to tax the rich.
District 36 (Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights)
Incumbent Al Vann has had a longstanding career in New York politics, previously serving as an assemblyman for 26 years. In 2001, he ran for City Council, effectively switching seats with the term-limited City Councilwoman Annette Robinson, who remains in Vann’s former assembly seat today. It was thought that Mr. Vann was sick of commuting to Albany after so many years there, and would make a bid for speaker. Though Mr. Vann’s long ties to government mean that he can make pork dollars flow, eight challengers have sprung up in this race charging that Mr. Vann should step aside to allow new blood to represent the district. The challengers have generally focused on their own talents, shying away from negatively attacking the incumbent. Meanwhile, the incumbent has failed to participate in any of the district’s debates, allowing for the challengers to demonstrate their own visibility in the community. The candidates include Saquan Jones, whose bus stop ads tout his record in “changing adversity into advantage”; Mark Winston Griffith, the Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy; Robert Cornegy, Jr., son of the late Rev. Robert E. Cornegy, Sr., the popular pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Tremaine Wright, a member of Community Board 3 with degrees from Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School who also owns Bedford-Stuyvesant café Common Grounds; Adrian Straker, former president of the National Action Network’s Brooklyn chapter; and David Grinage, a former police officer from Brooklyn. The high number of candidates means that every vote in this race will count, and it’s likely the winner will succeed with a slim majority in the primary. Video of the last debate between the candidates can be found on Nostrand Park
- David F. Grinage (D) $37,127
- Mark Winston Griffith (WF, D) $58,009
- William A. Carrington (D) $8,763
- Saquan U. Jones (D) $13,523
- Robert E Cornegy, Jr. (D) $24,795
- Robert A. Hunter (R) $6,328
- Adrian M. Straker (D) $7,140
- Tremaine S. Wright (D) $13,015
District 38 (Red Hook, South Park Slope and Sunset Park)
The incumbent Sara Gonzalez has received criticism
for her spending perks during her time in the council, and her challenger in the primary, Robinson Igliesias, has not let anything slide, attacking the incumbent’s attendance record recently when she did not appear for a debate
on News 12 Brooklyn. Earlier in the year the incumbent had toyed with challenging Mr. Igliesias’ ballot petitions but chose not to proceed. Mr. Igliesias is a lawyer and an author who interned at the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Rehnquist.
- Incumbent: Sara M Gonzalez (D) $98,536
District 39 (Carroll Gardens, Kensington, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace)
The open seat provided by incumbent Bill de Blasio’s departure to run for Public Advocate has sparked a plethora of qualified candidates in this affluent and politically engaged district. Josh Skaller, a member of the reform group Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats has pledged not to take contributions from developers and fight for a more transparent government. Brad Lander, Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, was endorsed by the New York Times, who wrote, “he has the stronger history of working with the diverse issues the Council addresses.” John Heyer serves as a Special Assistant to Borough President Marty Markowitz and is also a funeral director. Bob Zuckerman, Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee of Community Board 6, was formerly the president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York and has worked on issues surrounding development, the Gowanus Canal and gay rights. Gary Reilly is also a Community Board 6 member and a lawyer living in Carroll Gardens. The only Green Party candidate in the race is David J. Pechefsky who spent the last 12 years working in the Finance Division of the City Council.
- Departing Incumbent: Bill de Blasio (D)
District 40 (Flatbush)
The first Haitian-born elected official in New York, incumbent Mathieu Eugene won three elections to get this seat in 2007; he later received criticism after being fined over $24,000 for election violations
. Challenger Rock Hackshaw is a political consultant well known in New York’s political blogosphere and was endorsed by Caribbean Life newspaper, and Flatbush Life wrote, of his “strong intellect and a fresh perspective on community concerns, from health care to education.” Mr. Hackshaw has complained on his blog
of his opponent Leithland “Rickie” Tulloch’s demeanor during the campaign. Mr. Tulloch was previously a budget director for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.
- Incumbent: Mathieu Eugene (D) $41,515
District 41 (Oceanhill and Brownsville)
This district has spent a long time in the Boyland family – one of Central Brooklyn’s political dynasties – on the city and state levels. Tracy Boyland is currently challenging incumbent Darlene Mealy to retrieve the seat she lost to term limits in 2005. At the time, her father, William Boyland, Sr. attempted to claim the seat for the clan, but lost to Ms. Mealy, who has received plenty of her own criticism
. Anthony Herbert is a perennial candidate who has previously run on the republican and conservative lines for other city council and state senate seats. The candidates debated
earlier this summer, sponsored by the Murdoch-owned Community Newspaper Group. Tulani Kinard is the owner of Tulani’s Regal Movement, Brooklyn’s first natural haircare salon, and a performance artist, running on a reform platform.
District 42 (Brownsville and East New York)
The popular incumbent, Charles Barron, voted against term limit extensions, and prior to its passage toyed with the idea of running for what would have been an open seat in the Borough President’s office. Marty Markowitz need not fear a challenger as Mr. Barron has chosen to run for his seat again, though it has sparked a number of challengers who had planned on running for an open seat themselves. Mr. Barron lost a challenge to Congressman Ed Towns in 2006 by eight percentage points.
- Carlos A. Bristol (D) $11,452
- Winchester Key (D) $22,592
- Prince D. Lewis (D) $20,730
- Regina Powell (D) $5,227
District 45 (East Flatbush and Flatlands)
Though the incumbent wasnt implicated, this summer broke the news that two aides to Kendall Stewart were indicted on embezzlement charges, propping up the case of challengers Samuel Taitt and Jumaane Williams. Mr. Williams was recently endorsed by the New York Times, who wrote, he is “a compelling advocate for affordable housing and immigrant rights, and he would pursue these issues energetically in the Council.” Mr. Taitt, a professor of communications at Kingsborough Community College, is a perpetual challenger to Dr. Stewart, a podatrist. Mr. Taitt was endorsed by Caribbean Life newspaper, who expressed support for his “plan for a federal credit union for the district [which] will provide the greatest good for the greatest number, at this time of national economic stress.”
Additional reporting by Britt Yu