With an array of politicians jockeying for the many open positions in next year’s borough and citywide elections, state Sen. Eric Adams has emerged as the clear front-runner to become the next Brooklyn Borough President.
A 22-year veteran of the police department and co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Adams represents the same Flatbush district that current term-limited Borough President Marty Markowitz represented before being elected to the borough’s highest office.
Our Time Press recently conducted the following interview with Sen. Adams.
What is your overall vision for Brooklyn and in what direction do you want to steer the borough?
I’m a firm believer that one should not personify political arrogance. Brooklyn has 51 neighborhoods and 18 community boards where you have many long-standing chairs and district managers. Prior to putting in concrete my vision, I need to visit all 51 communities and have directed conversations with the community boards, the business leaders, the preachers, imams and rabbis. We are in a process of doing a listening tour right now of what’s needed in these communities. But in this process, the basic items I want to deal with are under the large banner of making Brooklyn a healthy and safe place to raise children and families.
As many people are aware, the borough president’s office (in all five boroughs) lost policy and legislative policy and had resources stripped and given to the city council in 1990. However, what they did not lose is the power to be the energizing and the unifying force of the borough. So I want my tenure in the borough president position to focus on what I focused on as a police officer and that’s improving the quality of life for people. To do this, there are 10 areas I believe we must focus on.
Can you briefly describe these 10 areas?
First is public safety. I want to focus on one block at a time in Operation Take Back Our Community (TBOC). To do this, I’d like to build stronger relationships between the local police precinct Community Council with the community-at-large.
Second is health care. I am deeply rooted in the understanding of things I can advocate for and things I can implement. I will advocate for keeping all the hospitals in the borough open and in having a voice in any of their transformations. The things I can implement are health empowerment zones. What those zones will do is identify areas in the borough that experience high levels of preventable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Once identified, I want to move in a group of professionals to address issues. If pockets of Bed-Stuy, for example, have a high level of diabetes, I want to focus on those areas and bombard it with health care professionals to address the issue. Akin to this is more access to healthy foods by teaming with upstate farmers for more fresh produce to come into those areas and the borough.
The next area is education. Both my appointees to the PEP (Panel on Educational Policy) and the local community education council will be an individual who actually went through the system and was in the classroom, and either they were a superintendent, a principal or a teacher in the classroom. They need to be aware of what’s happening on the ground as that’s where policies are carried out. I also want to take the borough’s 160,604 high school students and turn them into tutors, and allow them to go back in the lower grades and tutor in math, science and English. In return, I want to team up with CUNY to allow elective college credits for tutoring.
Next is transportation. Fifty-five percent of Brooklynites use public transportation to go to and from work. Ninety percent of those use the train and 10 percent use the bus. I want to wed more transportation with the growing newer neighborhoods, and part of my advocacy will be to match it with improved train and bus service, utilizing more express bus service.
The next area is employment and small business support. This includes appointing a director who will aggressively assure capital projects are moved in as frictionless a manner as possible. I also want to develop a section of Borough Hall where we have a business recruiter who will look throughout the city, nationally and internationally, to move to Brooklyn. I want to creatively expand the Shop Brooklyn program and create a position in Borough Hall to help businesses navigate the bureaucracy of local government agencies such as the Department of Buildings. So businesses can have a one-stop shop to have their questions and problems solved.
Next is financial literacy. With 24 percent of Brooklynites living in poverty, I want to create a task force made up of bankers, mortgage lenders, accountants and other financial professionals who can teach individuals how to fix their credit scores and move forward.
Next is to help the borough’s non-profit infrastructure. There are a large number of non-profits doing heroic acts every day, and I want to bridge the gap between government and the resources these institutions need. Borough hall will help navigate the application process for these institutions in applying for city, state and federal funding.
Next is a senior citizen focus. The borough is getting older and residents are living longer. I want to use Borough Hall as a transitional unit to help seniors. This will include assistance in transition to senior adult homes, doing wills, how they would transition to other needs, and to strengthen the elder abuse hotline.
Finally, housing. We all know we need to come up with new stock of affordable housing and ensure those in public housing that necessary repairs will be made.
Hurricane Sandy hit communities along the Brooklyn waterfront very hard. What steps do you think should be taken in these coastal areas to prevent a similar scenario from occurring again?
One area I would advocate for is that we have to wake up to the new reality. Storms that used to come every 100 years we now may experience every year. We must put together a bipartisan task force to examine how to deal with this new enemy of the city. We have to think outside the box in creating seawalls and marshlands and look at other new technologies.
The following two questions require just a one-word answer. You are either for or against. Let’s start with the legalization of mixed martial arts?
If elected, you would be Brooklyn’s first African-American Borough President. How important do you believe this is?
It’s very important. There are 150 nationalities in Brooklyn. Whenever one nationality, race or religion breaks the glass ceiling it leaves an entry for all nationalities, races and religions to break through just as Barack Obama opened all doors for anyone to become president.