By Margo McKenzie
On September 12, in addition to voting for Mayor, Public Advocate, District Attorney and three referendums, voters in term-limited Darlene Mealy’s district (Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights) will also vote for City Council (District 41).
Four candidates lead the nine-person race in funds raised. Who are they? What are their qualifications? How do they compare? Read what the candidates have to say about critical issues facing the 41st gathered mostly from phone interviews with minor details culled from their websites. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: Wife to Kalonji and mother to a 10-year-old, Ms. Amprey-Samuel was born and raised in Brownsville and was bused to Mill Basin in District 22 for public school. After eighth grade, with the help of her benefactor Dhiren Shah, she attended St. Michael Academy, an all-female private Roman Catholic high school in Manhattan. Mr. Shah remains a mentor today. After graduating from North Carolina A&T, Amprey-Samuel returned to NYC to work under the leadership of Frank Boyland as a case manager for the homeless mentally-ill chemical abusers. She served as a District Leader for the 55th Assembly District. She also attended CUNY School of Law and served as Chief of Staff for Latrice Walker. In her service, as Human Rights Officer in Ghana, Amprey-Samuel wrote two critical reports on trafficking and human rights.
Henry Butler: Currently employed as the District Manager for Community Board 3, Butler has been married fifteen years to Lalena, and is raising two boys: Kevin, 12 and Miles 9. Mr. Butler grew up in the Tompkins Houses and attended Hunter College where he received a Bachelor’s in Political Science. After graduation, he served as a community service case worker, a train conductor for the MTA and later as delegate to Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. Locally, he supported funding for Utica Avenue Elevator and fought to save Interfaith Hospital, the B25 bus and the Franklin Avenue Shuttle. He is a member of the NAACP and Vanguard Independent Democrats.
Deidra Olivera: The proud mother of one son who is a biology major currently attending Penn State University in the Shreyers Honor College for Research. Ms. Olivera served as administrator for the Amboy Neighborhood Center, the largest family shelter in Brooklyn. Her additional leadership experience includes serving as a business consultant and PTA president and vice president in two schools. She holds the distinction of being the first woman to enter the heavy-duty cement and concrete trade union. She also served as a Community Board member on the legislative, youth, parks and women’s committees.
Cory Provost: Nurtured by Jamaican women going back three generations and educated in the public schools of New York City, Mr. Provost rose to attain a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and a Master’s in Urban Policy and Administration, both from Brooklyn College. Working with state Senator Kevin Parker, he conducted several community outreach and empowerment events. He also served as Brooklyn Field Officer for Secretary Clinton. As liaison for New York City Comptroller’s Office, he brought many services to the community he hopes to lead. One of the youngest delegates from New York State, Mr. Provost’s leadership extended to the national level at the Democratic National Convention nominating Barack Obama for President. He is the proud father of an infant daughter and currently serves as District Leader for the 58th Assembly District.
What qualifies you to be the City Council Representative?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: I served as a District Leader, attended CUNY Law School and worked for Administration for Child Services as a discharge planner. I also served as a human rights officer for the State Department at the embassy in Ghana investigating how the country treated its citizens. In that capacity, I wrote two reports: trafficking and human rights, which served as policy papers. As senior advisor to NYC Housing Authority, I drafted policy on how HUD funds should be allocated to residents. I was the drafter, author and architect of the commercial card process which resident councils use for micropurchases, so I rose from a resident of public housing to a drafter of policies for public housing.
Henry Butler: Because of my years of experience, I know how government works. I established relationships and obtained capital funding for various projects such as parks and one elevator. Councilmen deal with quality of life issues and write legislation. I am prepared to do that.
Deidra Olivera: My experience in management, business and the trades and educational system qualifies me. I also served as community board member on several committees: legislative, youth and parks. I have a strong history of addressing women’s issues in the workplace and economic development and empowerment.
Cory Provost: The work that I have done and doing–my organizational credentials qualify me. I must also mention my experience in the Comptroller’s Office addressing constituent issues in Central Brooklyn/East New York. I am the District Leader for the 58th Assembly District in tune with the needs of my community.
What are the top three issues you hope to tackle if elected?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: 1. The housing crisis. We need a seat at the table to represent what’s needed in the district. The present NYCHA housing stock needs to be made available to residents. We need an affordable housing development policy that makes sense for the district. What’s good for Harlem may not be appropriate for Brownsville. I want to create incentives for landlords to renovate and develop first-time homebuying opportunities similar to the Nehemiah Plan. City workers want to own in the city, and any effective housing plan also needs a job development component using locals in the developing process. 2. Health. Our community needs access to quality food and meals. I opened the first youth market with the Brownsville Partnership. This community needs to be part of the dialogue. I want to ensure that funding allocated to address health issues like obesity, diabetes, cholesterol and asthma are used for that purpose. 3. Education. We need more quality schools. Parents look to charter schools as the alternative, but many are not better.
Henry Butler: 1. Affordable Housing. We have over 100 vacant lots that should be developed through the use of land-trusts by not-for-profits such as Habitat for Humanity as one method for keeping housing affordable costs down. I will explore the implementation of tenant/landlord compromises in rental agreements. Landlords can charge whatever the market will bear, but through dialogue they may be willing to compromise. 2. Education. I will advocate for an increase in the number of Beacon Centers which will keep schools open until 10pm for a variety of extracurricular activities. I will also work to reduce the number of suspensions since we know they increase dropout rates and raise the prison population for children of color. I will advocate for decreased funding for police officers and increased spending for nurses, doctors and leaders in our community. 3. Job creation. As an incentive for business development, I will advocate providing tax breaks to new businesses and to those hiring locals or the formerly incarcerated. More businesses mean more jobs. Toward that end, I will work toward creating more Minority, Women and Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and establish satellite offices for Small Business Services so that owners of businesses have local access for the support needed to complete required paperwork. Finally, I would also promote job training programs linked with private industry so potential employees are trained for positions that exist in the current job market. Adding more job centers in my district will ensure that the appropriate connections are made between industry and employee.
Deidra Olivera. 1. Housing. First of all, we need a mandatory inclusionary component when deciding who is qualified to live in the new housing being developed. What we have right now is unaffordable housing with no oversight by Housing Preservation and Development. I intend on filling this void in leadership so that everyone knows the qualifications needed to work as a laborer in housing or to live as a resident. 2. Economic Investment. I intend on creating jobs and establishing community benefit agreements by ensuring that building development is mutually beneficial to the community. I will push for developers to include hiring from a local pool of qualified candidates to build and we’ll not waver on that. Builders must hire the local workforce and the city should offer tax credits for seniors so they can afford these new developments. 3. Youth. I will promote increased investment in education, STEM programs and career training of skills and trade needed in today’s economy so graduates of these programs are qualified for careers which exist.
Cory Provost: 1. Constituent Services. I will continue to address community constituent services to make lives easier and affordable by better utilizing city resources and repurposing real estate. I will work to increase the number of parks and summer camps since a vast number of children and youth reside in my district. 2. Education. I will support providing 100% free school lunch regardless of income and create more gifted and talented programs in our schools. I also want to ensure the arts programs I helped to fund earlier don’t get diminished. 3. Housing. The biggest missing piece in the discussion is infrastructure. Infrastructure challenges occur because of large-scale development. A fourteen-story building could add 1,000 people to a district adding stress to trains, schools, roads, etc. The 41st cannot absorb higher density without addressing these issues.
What is Your Position on Land Use?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: This area has lots of open space potential and the community should have input about how it is used. Too many of the same big players obtain contracts because they know people. We must increase the use of nonprofits for developers who build using a community land trust policy, and we should require that all units be affordable.
Henry Butler: I believe we should not overbuild, overdevelop or force out local residents. We should allow not-for-profits to develop and charge rents based on income.
Deidra Olivera: Private sales on public land required a level of transparency regarding which land is available and the cost. I will support providing assistance for local investors. I want to broaden input from the general community regarding what land should be used for.
Cory Provost: Again, this is tied to infrastructure. Some development I can support, but we have to make sure there is community buy-in for new development as was done with the Brownsville Plan.
What is your prospective on affordable housing in your district?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: Everything that we do should not happen to the community, but with the community. Developers should be not-for-profits, not the same big players.
Henry Butler: Affordable housing should be affordable for this community.
Deidra Olivera: Right now, it’s a sham. There should be a halt to the unaffordable housing plan now in effect. How can we repeat failure? The current housing lottery needs to be scrapped. The set-asides are criminal and that seniors cannot qualify is embarrassing.
Cory Provost: Make sure it’s income-sensitive to current residents who have the highest poverty levels in the city. We have to make the income level make sense for this community.
What is your position on zoning?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: We may not need to rezone. Let’s optimize what we have and give landlords incentives to renovate.
Henry Butler: Don’t overbuild or overdevelop and force out local residents. I support downzoning and contextual zoning.
Deidra Olivera: Right now, it’s more to the benefit for others and businesses than the residents. This must change. People need to understand zoning and how it affects us.
Cory Provost: Educating the community about zoning laws is critical. I will conduct forums on Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the application process businesses and individuals use to share with the community how they plan to use the land. I want residents to understand the process and the impact of these plans. If they understand how a community is zoned, they can assess the plan and rally support for their position on a proposed development.
What are your thoughts about eradicating state certification for charter school teachers?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: Many teachers have been through a rigorous process to become certified. It’s absurd to start removing certification from the process. What are you saying about our children? It’s a smack in the face. Charter schools are making millions and want to downgrade teachers. There should be a standard process for all.
Henry Butler: Teachers should be certified. How will we know they are qualified? Everyone should have the same system. Public education is not a private enterprise.
Deidra Olivera: I don’t agree. No organization should become its own checks and balances. It should be external, when it’s internal it doesn’t work, especially since our youth are put at-risk.
Cory Provost: I cannot support eliminating state certification. Rather than lessening requirements, we should make sure teachers are fully capable.
What are the biggest challenges you expect to encounter once in office?
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: Getting people to believe in the system again. In my district, a lot of people have let us down.
Henry Butler: Creating truly affordable housing and preventing the city from assigning more homeless shelters in our community.
Deidra Olivera: The pushback from the previous political establishment will be a challenge because change is hard for a lot of people, but we cannot continue to do things the way we have been doing them. Before might have been good, we need a fresh start. I cannot let the select few benefit while the majority suffers.
Cory Provost: The way this district is laid out means I will deal with a wide variety of people. The 41st is comprised of five community boards and five police precincts, so servicing the entire district at full capacity will be my challenge.
Alicka Amprey-Samuel: My passion for this community is in my blood. I love it, and it deserves the best. We have no time for mediocrity. I am the most qualified. Campaign Website: http://votealickasamuel.nationbuilder.com/
Henry Butler: My long track record of accomplishments separates me from the rest. My experience in government as a community organizer on various boards have provided me with an understanding about how government works. Campaign Website: http://henrybutler41stcouncil.com/
Deidra Olivera: It’s time for a fresh start. I am ready and able to move this district forward to bring about the economic development and change necessary for our district. I care. I listen and will work for the people I represent. Campaign Website: http://olivera2017.com/meet-olivera/
Cory Provost: This district is comprised of many immigrants. I would provide guidance for navigating the immigration process and other legal issues they may encounter. Campaign Website: https://www.coryprovost.com/about-cory-provost/
41st Council District Campaign Finance Summary
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(New York City Campaign Finance Board)