Retired Congressman Major Owens has issued a challenge to central Brooklyn elected officials in the form of a Leadership Pledge “to appeal to Gov. Cuomo and the New York Legislature leaders to support the authorization and reservation of one billion dollars for rebuilding the Central Brooklyn community.”
Among the components of the Plan are a Community Housing Trust to confront the foreclosure crisis, an Enhanced Prime Contracting System to provide technical assistance and fiscal support for small community-based organizations receiving foundation grants or member item funds, a Coordinating Council for Job Training to develop new job creation and job placement opportunities and an Institute for Medical Resources Management to end the hardships caused by the closing of mismanaged hospitals and to monitor medical services. The Plan also includes targeted services for school age children and an Institute for African Diaspora Business Exchange.
The impetus for Owen’s Plan was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for a $1 Billion economic development package for Buffalo in his 2012 State of the State Address. Cuomo said Buffalo has the third highest poverty rate of any city in the nation, with 28% of residents living in poverty and chronically high unemployment. “But it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Cuomo. Owens feels the same about poverty in Central Brooklyn.
Combined, the eighth and ninth congressional districts composed of 1.4 million people, far larger than Buffalo area. Since 2008, blacks have lost half of their wealth. In addition to his Buffalo initiative, Cuomo proposed 10 Regional Development Council across the states. NYC has been designated as one of those regions. $700 million is to be divided among those regions. Funding had already begun to flow through those Councils.
Owens believes a “Band-aid approach” in which each little group submits their own little proposal is insufficient. “Given the comprehensive nature of the crisis we face, having a little project here and there will not do it. We need something on the order of an empowerment zone approach,” Owens said. “Charlie Rangel got his empowerment zone in Harlem. Ed Towns, Nydia Velazquez and I prepared an empowerment zone proposal for Brooklyn. It was well-received in Washington. It needed to be signed by Mayor Giuliani. He wouldn’t sign it. In my head a comprehensive approach is nothing new.”
Prior to his years in state and federal elected office, Major Owens was the NYC Commissioner of the Anti-Poverty program for 6 years under Mayor Lindsay. “Although it was for the poor, the Black middle class benefited as well, because they had to administer the program,” Owens said.
Owens believes if/when President Obama is re-elected, federal dollars will begin to flow to states again even if the House of Representatives remains under Republican control. “We are in the position where to revive the economy; the federal government needs to spend some money on social programs. They will have to do that no matter who gets elected,” he said.
Chair of Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus Assemblyman Camara said, “My greatest concern is equitable distribution of state resources to communities that need it the most, and to make sure our budget prioritizes the poor and working class. We do need a city, state and federal commitment for additional resources, recreation in particular. I think the greatest disparity in urban communities is a lack of recreational opportunities, education, and job training and job creation. I am open to exploring the details of Congressman Owens’ proposal, without question.”