Central Brooklyn Assembly member Karim Camara was tabbed last week to head the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus in Albany.
Others who have led the caucus in the past include Percy Sutton, Shirley Chisholm, former Mayor David Dinkins and Congressman Charlie Rangel. Camara represents the 43rd Assembly District including Crown Heights, Prospect Park-Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush and East Flatbush.
Out Time Press (OTP) recently conducted the following phone interview.
OTP: What is the Caucus’s agenda of issues it wants to bring before Gov. Cuomo?
KC: The caucus we have has a very productive relationship with the governor. That said, my term (as caucus chair) began when the legislative session ended so we have not had the opportunity to have extensive discussions on our agenda.
However, some issues we are concerned about include the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in which the state has not maintained its commitment in education, a further strengthening of rent regulation and what it means to constituents. This is especially relevant with the reverse migration of people of color leaving New York City, and particularly Brooklyn, and one of the major reasons is the cost of living. We’re also interested in immigration issues in the Latino community and supporting the federal Dream Act. Among issues important to the Asian community is more support for English as Second Language programs.
OTP: Brooklyn has always had a large African-American and Caribbean-American population. How would you characterize the state of black politics in Brooklyn?
KC: I really feel you would be hard-pressed to find the caliber of individuals you find here in Brooklyn politics when you talk about dedication and passion. Many of our elected leaders came from a very successful background. Eric Adams was a successful police officer; Hakeem Jeffries a successful attorney; Yvette Clarke did successful work in economic development in the Bronx; Kevin Parker was a successful political operative; Tish James a successful attorney. I should also mention the veterans that still provide political leadership. This includes John Sampson, Al Vann, Annette Robinson and Velmanette Montgomery.
What Brooklyn has to offer in terms of potential I’m very excited about. What we have to realize is with that potential comes the responsibility and burdens, but I feel collectively we are all up to the task to do everything in our power to use government as a tool for improving the lives of the people in communities we represent.
OTP: For the most part, you have supported Atlantic Yards. Why?
KC: One of the reasons I have been supportive of the project is I’m excited about the opportunity for individuals in the pre-apprentice program where they can develop a skill. This way they just don’t have a job when the arena opens, but they have a skill in which they can build a career.
OTP: Your mother was the founder of the Cush Campus School, so you have a background in education. Where do you see the Department of Education (DOE) heading and does the caucus have a position on charter schools?
KC: We have not taken an official position on charter schools. Some members are supportive and some are opposed to charter schools. As a caucus we have to find way to best utilize the strengths for all students.
OTP: Okay. Where do you stand on charter schools and the NAACP/UFT lawsuit on the co-location of charter schools and closure of public schools?
KC: Charter schools are a significant part of educational reform but they are a very small part of it. We still have to go to greater lengths that every child, whether in a traditional public school or charter public school, have the education they need to excel in our society and this world.
The DOE has to do a much better job of integrating schools to one building. It seems like if charter schools are going to exist there is a necessity to find space for them, but with that said, there needs to be better communication with the local community and fairness with use of space.