Candidates for 35th District City Council Seat Speak Their Minds

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If nothing else, last week’s spirited candidates forum for the open 35th District city council seat representing Fort Green, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and parts of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights showcased that the race remains wide open.

Presenting their views and stating their unique qualifications at the Brown Memorial Church Fellowship Hall to replace Letitia James were, in alphabetical order, Olanike (Ola) Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Frank Hurley and Jelani Mashariki.

Alabi is both the former Community Board 2 district manager and female Democratic district leader; Cumbo is the founder and former president of MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Arts); Fox is the former chief of staff for City Councilman Jumaane Williams; Hurley is a longtime local attorney; and Mashariki is the director of the Pamoja House Men’s Shelter in Bed-Stuy.

When asked their views on strengthening education,   Alabi noted that 42 percent of the city’s budget was directed towards education and that she would put more of her district’s discretionary funds toward education as well as strengthen private, religious and community based organization ties with public education.

Cumbo emphasized as head of MoCADA she created nine after school programs. She also said education funds should be distributed more equitably with less emphasis on security and more on creating a positive school environment.

Fox said she opposed the Bloomberg Administration’s policy of school closings and co-locations of charter schools, and that the schools should allow for more local use as a community hub.

Hurley emphasized that the culture around public schools needs changing and that more respect should be given to teachers.

Mashariki advocated for the end of mayoral control of education with more resources redirected to parents, and to open up schools more for services and resources for the parents of the community.

Regarding the high rate of unemployment, Cumbo noted that unemployment, particularly in the NYCHA developments remains as high as 50 percent, and advocated connecting those unemployed with development in Downtown Brooklyn through labor unions.

Fox countered that sometimes unions are friends and sometimes they are not. She advocated for direct negotiations with developers to supply more local jobs, along with making more technology education available including more computer labs in schools.

Hurley said that developers that build in Brooklyn must hire from Brooklyn, including some that live in homeless shelters. He also noted that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy has sometimes resulted in arrests that make some of those arrested ineligible for construction union work.

Mashariki remarked he doesn’t see as much development as he does unemployment in the community. He advocated funding to increase the skills and opportunities for the unemployed.

Alabi advocated that elected officials should negotiate project labor agreements with developers and more apprentices and job opportunities with unions.

In questions concerning NYCHA developments in the district, Hurley advocated NYCHA residents create a stronger block of voters and expressed concern that the 500 empty apartments being renovated in the Fort Greene Houses do not go to outsiders.

Mashariki said the poor and working class are under attack from the government, and this includes NYCHA, which has a poor record of apartment and building repairs, and of misusing funds. He also advocated the NYCHA board triple the number of members that live in NYCHA developments.

Alabi said the city needs to pitch both the state and federal levels for more funding, as much of the funding comes from these levels. She also called to abolish the current NYCHA board, and that residents should not have to pay more for policing the developments.

Cumbo advocated filing for a class-action lawsuit against NYCHA for mismanagement and lack of funds. She also said housing police should work more on policing and less on attacking those who they are paid to police.

Fox called paying extra money for police services a “double taxation” and called for any NYCHA changes of use to go before the city land use process for approval before any changes are made.

The forum came as all the candidates are in the process of getting petitions with the signatures of 450 registered democratic voters in the district in order to get on the ballot for the September primary. The deadline to hand in the petitions to the Board of Elections is midnight July 11.