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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-James E. Davis, Dem 12,295 - 55 percent
Letitia James, Wor 9,269 - 42 percent
Sidique Wai, Ind 604 - 3 percent
James E. Davis 6,691
Letitia James 5,746
Abraham E. Wasserman 1,754
Peter Williams 1,823
William J. Saunders 875
Sidique Wai 556
Robert A. Hunter 462
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Mary Pinkett (can't
run in 2001)
General Election Update
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to James Davis
to Robert Hunter
to Letitia James
to Bill Saunders
to Sidique Wai
to Abraham Wasserman
to Peter Williams
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
TRANSCRIPT OF DISTRICT 35 CANDIDATE
Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson and Barbara Smith-Boyd have been knocked off the
Democratic line. Robert Hunter was knocked off, but was reinstated. Letitia
James was kicked off the Working Families line, appealed the Board of
Elections ruling and is now back on the ballot. For more details, see the
The people in district 35 have some of the highest incomes in
Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park
and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most
crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions
of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high
schools in the city. And they can take in a dance performance
entitled, "Falling Down the Stairs," an avant-garde interpretation
of the works of Chopin, Bach, and folk-rocker Michelle Shocked
in Brooklyn's cultural district, then walk down the street and
dance down the avenue in the Caribbean Day Parade, which is now
the largest ethnic gathering in the city.
Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes
the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn
Botanical Gardens; middle-class African-American communities near
Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon,
Nigeria, and Trinidad; and in Crown Heights, an uneasy mix of
Hasidic Jews and poor blacks.
If the disparate residents do not always achieve peaceful coexistence,
there is one thing on which many seem to agree: the area as a
whole is too often neglected.
Take the water-main break. It happened over five years ago, says
Joe Pressley, one of the nine candidates for the district 35 City
Council seat. And while the area around the Brooklyn Museum has
seen recent improvements, the nearby water-main, he says, has
still not been fixed
"We need to make sure needs of the area moves forward along with
cultural district," said Pressley, who works as policy director
for the New York AIDS Coalition.
Most of the candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can
bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area.
Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves,
from police officer to minister to youth organizer to Democratic
district leader -- and that's just one of the candidates. The
others include professor, union leader, community organizer, AIDS
activist, government staffer, and president of the African United
One issue that many of the candidates agree on is the need for
housing. Over 80 percent of the people who live in the area are
Candidate Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson spent much of her career with
the New York City Housing Authority and has directed community
centers in several local housing projects.
"I am running a really grass-roots campaign that is connected
to where people live on a day-to-day basis," said Baldwin-Ferguson,
who hopes to funnel funds to local non-profits that can bring
direct improvements to the area.
She will be pitting her ideas against Bill Sanders, a local district
leader who has already helped the area gain grants to build senior
housing with his work as an aid to the 18th Senatorial District.
Making constituent's feel like they are being heard is almost
an issue in itself for this district.
To that end, Errol Louis, a professor of urban studies at Pratt
Institute, who garnered 30 percent of the vote when he ran for
City Council in 1997 against incumbent Mary Pinkett, wants to
institute town hall meetings as well as have two district offices
to reach all of the constituents.
"The people in Crown Heights have been ignored for 27 years,"
said Louis. "The current district office is buried in Clinton
Hill and not close to subways, and so there are people in Crown
Heights who don't know Mary Pinkett is their representative."
Labor organizer Edward Wright said he would meet the needs of
his diverse constituency by creating advisory committees of residents
and a large district neighborhood association.
"I am also concerned about the people in my district who are
not involved in the political process or feel their vote does
not count," said Wright. "I believe it's a correct response to
the current political climate."
The startling differences in the district came to a violent peak
in 1991 in the Crown Heights riots. It began when a car in a motorcade
of a grand rebbe hit a black child. A few hours later, a group
of black men fatally stabbed a Hasidic scholar. The three days
of violence left tensions not only between residents, but also
toward the police who tried to control the violence.
Two candidates, who have direct experience in police-community
relations, hope their experience can help ease these tensions.
James Davis is the one who is a police officer himself and has
also worked as a minister, youth organizer, and Democratic district
leader. Now on his second attempt to win the City Council seat,
Davis has a platform of improving relations with police, combating
graffiti, and aiding senior citizens.
Another candidate familiar with high-profile police cases is
Sidique Wai, president of the United African Congress, who organized
"community healing" service after the shooting of Amadu Diallo.
Wai has been criticized by some for being too conciliatory toward
the Mayor and police, but he cites the need for unity, specifically
among African immigrants, as a motivating factor.
Certainly the challenges for the next Council representative,
who will replace Councilwoman Mary Pinkett after 27 years of service,
will be challenging. Pinkett feels she has met these challenges
in many ways. Some of her critics may see those ways as part of
the problem. When asked some of her proudest accomplishments over
the years, Pinkett mentioned two: putting in tennis courts and
changing street names in honor of prominent Brooklyn residents.
The field of candidates in district 35 has changed several times. Two early
candidates -- Errol Louis and Joe Pressley -- both dropped out. Louis was
reportedly offered a job from Democratic District Leader Clarence Norman.
Norman denies that such an offer was ever made. Joe Pressley is now the
director of the New York AIDS Coalition.
And the list of recent candidates has changed again after a volley of
Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson and Barbara Smith-Boyd have been knocked off the
Democratic line, according to the Board of Elections. Robert Hunter was
knocked off, but was then reinstated. Letitia James, securely on the
Democratic line, was at first kicked off the Working Families line, appealed
the Board of Elections ruling and is now back on the ballot
Smith-Boyd, Robert Hunter, and James Davis all filed objections to James'
petitions, but were unsuccessful. In retaliation, James filed objections
against Smith-Boyd and Baldwin-Ferguson. Boyd's campaign declined to
After spending weeks shuttling between court hearings and the Board of
Elections, Robert Hunter has been reinstated on the Democratic ballot for
City Council in District 35. Hunter's petition was challenged for having
improper signatures, but he was eventually able to prove they were valid.
"I can't describe how frustrating and tense it was," said Hunter, shortly
after being reinstated on the ballot.
Hunter now faces the challenge of reviving his campaign, which has stalled
for the past three weeks while he faced the challenge to his petition in
court. "I1m energized for the campaign," said Hunter. "I have a very strong
work ethic, and I will make it up by working hard, and putting myself out
there for the voters. It's up to me now to go out and win this election."
Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson said she will now mount a write-in campaign,
mailing illustrated instructions to the people who signed her petitions. She
will also station volunteers at the polling places with pencils with her
name written on them. "We're trying to make this as painless as possible,"
said Baldwin-Ferguson. "I'm still campaigning. I'm going to keep doing what
I've been doing"
The remaining Democratic candidates in district 35 include James Davis, a
police officer, Letitia James, a staff member of the office of the state
Attorney General, Robert Hunter, CEO of Concerned Citizens for a Better
Brooklyn, William Saunders, leader for the 57th Assembly District, Sidique
Wai, president of the United African Congress, Abraham Wasserman, the first
member from the Lubavitch Hasidim community to run for City Council, Edward
Wright, a labor organizer, and Peter Williams, director of housing for the
National Urban League.
Letitia James has the endorsement of the Democratic organization. "We've
been endorsed by just about every union in the city because they recognize
my leadership, record, and qualifications," said James.
Peter Williams is campaigning on the idea that he can help bring better
services to the area. "I grew up in this district and in public housing
developments," said Williams. "As I've grown up, I've watched neighborhoods
like the Upper-East Side, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst receive better services,
better police protection, and better schools. We only spend $8,000 [per
child] in education, but we spend $100,000 to put a kid in jail."
Bill Saunders is banking on his experience as a district leader. "We all
have visions of what we want our communities to look like," said Saunders.
"But what have you done for our community? Have you built any houses? Have
you walked the picket lines making sure that the subway shuttles stay open?
Where were you? I can tell you all the things that I have done."
Abraham Wasserman is the only Jewish candidate running in a district that
also includes a portion of Crown Heights. "What we have to understand is
that the mainstay of economic development in a neighborhood in the 35th
council district is small businesses," said Wasserman. "If we have avenues
with viable small businesses, the neighborhood grows and flourishes."
Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson graduated from Brooklyn College
with a major in sociology, and resident of Brooklyn for forty
years. She has held a wide variety of jobs and positions, from
survey interviewer and postal worker to cab owner/operator and
radio talk show hostess. She has a history of public service in
the Brooklyn community, serving as a poll site coordinator and
election inspector for the Brooklyn Board of Elections. She has
also served as the coordinator of Health Education for the Brooklyn
chapter of the March of Dimes, and was the co-founder of the Central
New York Minority Contractors Association. Imogene has also served
as a youth coordinator on Community Board 17, and Community Board
8. Currently, she is a caseworker for the Human Resources Administration,
serving on the Substance Abuse Services Center. Imogene has been
a member of District Council 37 and Local 371 for the past 23
James Davis is a police officer, and the chair of a youth
organization called Stop the Violence, a non-profit organization,
which he founded in 1990. Davis has also fought against youth
violence, child abuse, domestic violence and police brutality,
winning widespread media attention for his efforts. In 1994, he
helped stop the sale of "look-alike" toy guns following the shooting
of two children by police officers who mistook their toys for
real weapons. He has also campaigned successfully to have MTV
change its broadcasting policies, arguing that the network1s former
policies resulted in the broadcasting of excessively violent images
and lyrics during the daytime. A graduate of Pace University,
he has also served as a democratic district leader, working to
register voters in neglected communities.
Robert Hunter serves on several community boards, including
Community Planning Board 3, School Board 16 and the Advisory Committee
to Senior Citizens Health Care. He is the founder and CEO of Concerned
Citizens for a Better Brooklyn and has over 15 years of managerial
experience in commercial and investment banking with Merrill Lynch
and Chase Manhattan Bank. He is also a Vietnam veteran.
Letitia James is a staff member of the office of the state
attorney general and a former deputy state attorney general. Since
1999, she has been the assistant attorney general in charge of
the Brooklyn Regional Office. In the past, she has championed
such causes as the family day care registration bill in the City
Council, a bill that expanded day care for working families across
the city. She also helped in expanding health care services under
the Primary Health Case Development Bill in 1994, and later pushed
the 1996 Welfare Reform Act in the New York State Assembly. James
has also served as the Counsel to State Assemblymember Albert
Vann. In addition, she established the Urban Network, a coalition
of African-American professional organizations aimed at providing
scholarships for young people. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Letitia
James resides in Prospect Heights, and is a graduate of Howard
University School of Law. She completed her Master1s Degree in
Public Administration from Columbia University1s School of International
and Public Affairs.
William Saunders currently serves as a legislative aid
for the 18th Senatorial District, and as a District Leader for
the 57th AD. In 1998 he was elected as a state committeeman. In
addition, he served as the president of the Housing Corporation
from 1980 to 1986. He is a graduate of Empire State College.
Barbara L. Smith-Boyd is a member of Community School
Board 13 and of the Black United Front.
Sidique Wai is the president of the United African Congress.
Abraham Wasserman is the first member from the Lubavitch
Hasidim community to run for City Council. He is an elected board
member of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council and also
sits on Community Board 9. He is currently employed as a project
scheduler for Muss Development Corporation, a contractor for the
$230 million Brooklyn Renaissance Plaza project.
Edward Wright is a labor organizer for Local Union SEIU
Peter Williams is currently the director of Housing and
Community development for the National Urban League, a civil rights
and social service organization. Williams has also worked as a
project associate at the Medgar Evers College1s Center for Law
and Social Justice. During that time, he founded the New Budget
Majority--which publicized issues of racial inequity in the NYC
budget process--and the Coalition of African-Americans, Asian-Americans,
and Latinos for Justice in City Government. In addition, he has
taught courses in government as an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt
Institute Graduate School of City and Regional Planning and at
Medgar Evers College. He is a member of the Bedford-Stuyvesant
Restoration Corporation Board of Directors, and City Limits, a
public affairs magazine. Williams graduate from Arizona State
University with a degree in criminal Justice, and received his
Master1s degree in Public Administration from American University.
Williams was born and raised in the Marcy and Lafayette Gardens
housing project in Brooklyn.
New York Times endorsement:
"35th District (Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene):
Letitia James, a former assistant attorney general for Brooklyn, is the
Democratic organization's candidate in this race. But Ms. James, who has
compiled a fine record as a legislative counsel in Albany, seems to have the
strength of character to chart an independent course. Her main opponent,
Peter Williams, is the director of housing and community development for the
National Urban League. Mr. Williams has an impressive background of city
activism, but we endorse Letitia James, with the hope that she will recruit
Mr. Williams to advise her on housing and development issues."
The 35th Council District in Brooklyn is the scene
of one of the most hard- fought City Council campaigns of this
election season, where seven candidates are battling for the Democratic
nomination and the opportunity to succeed Councilwoman Mary Pinkett,
who has represented this district since 1973. The candidates'
resumes could hardly be more divergent. Letitia James, 41, the
endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party organization in Brooklyn,
has worked for several Democratic officials, from Assemblyman
Albert Vann to Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer. Peter M. Williams,
42, the director of Housing and Economic Development for the National
Urban League, served his political apprenticeship as a technician
in the mayoral campaigns of David N. Dinkins. James E. Davis,
a police officer, minister and Democratic district leader, came
close to beating the Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman in an
Assembly race three years ago.The race also includes Sidique Wai,
the president of the United African Congress and a longtime community
organizer on health concerns; William Saunders, another Democratic
district leader and a long-term aide to State Senator Velmanette
Montgomery; and Robert Hunter, a former investment banker and
Vietnam veteran who serves on several community boards. And then
there is Abraham Wasserman, a real estate developer and the first
member of the Lubavitch Hasidim community to run for a City Council
The New York Times called this one of the ten races to watch.
Several candidates have emerged in a highly competitive race to
succeed Mary Pinkett in a district anchored in Fort Greene and
Clinton Hill. Letitia James has been endorsed by the Democratic
Party; she faces Peter Williams, an official with the National
Urban League; Bill Saunders, a Democratic district leader, and
James E. Davis, a police officer who once narrowly lost an Assembly
race to Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr. (New York Times)
Errol Louis, a candidate for the City Council seat in district
35, currently held by Mary Pinkett, says Brooklyn Democratic leader
Clarence Norman suggested he drop out of that crowded race in
return for a possible job in a Hevesi administration. Norman,
whose candidate in the race is Letitia James, denies he made such
an offer. (NY Post)
James Davis, who has said he's a candidate in the 35th District,
is being urged to switch to the 40th. The entreaties reportedly
come from allies of Rep. Major Owens, who survived a bitter primary
challenge from Councilmember Una Clarke last year. Clarke's daughter,
Yvette, is seeking her mother's seat. Assemblymember Al Vann is
also thought to be behind the maneuvering. Vann, who is running
in the 36th District, is backing Letitia James in the 35th. (Courier-Life
In the crowded race in the 35th Councilmanic District, Assemblymember
Clarence Norman, the county leader, is backing Letitia James.
Norman says, "Letitia James is a very qualified candidate, and
we'll pull out all the stops to see that she'll win" James was
the head of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's Brooklyn office,
a job that she left to run for Council. She is now working for
Assemblymember Al Vann, who has himself declared for City Council.
James has said that if elected she would vote for him as speaker,
and he has endorsed her candidacy. Meanwhile other candidates
are not giving up. District Leader Bill Saunders, who says he
has the backing of State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, for whom
he works, and is close to getting the nod from Assemblymember
Roger Green,will host a large fundraiser on April 8. Errol Louis,
executive director of the Bogolan Merchants Association said that
he recently had a "fairly friendly chat" with Norman during which
Norman asked him to stay out of the race in exchange for a potential
assistant commissioner post if city Comptroller Alan Hevesi takes
City Hall. But Louis says he is definitely running, as are several
Crown Heights Hasidic leaders report they are not lined up behind
Avrohom Wasserman, the lone white and Jewish candidate in a large
field of hopefuls seeking term-limited Councilwoman Mary Pinkett's
seat. Leaders of the Crown Heights Political Action Committee
say Wasserman did not check with them before jumping in. They
may support him, or may back others in the field...The Hasidic
leaders' unspoken message seems to be that they don't want to
upset ethnic peace in the area. (Daily News)
At least one Lubavitch Hasid is seeking to challenge the decades
of African-American control in District 35. Avrohom Wasserman,
the first Lubavitcher to run for public office in New York City
in recent memory, joins an already crowded field of African American
and Caribbean candidates. Usually, about 1,500 Crown Heights Lubavitchers
vote in city elections, out of about 10,000 voters in the district.
But this year, many more Hasidim could turn out to show support
for one of their own. Wasserman is an elected board member of
the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council and sits on Community
Board 9. He works as a project scheduler for Muss Development
Corporation, a contractor for the $230 million Brooklyn Renaissance
Plaza project. Also strongly considering a run is Devorah Halberstam,
who came to international prominence seven years ago when her
son Ari was shot by an Arab-American sniper while crossing the
Hopefuls to replace Mary Pinkett in City Council District 35 in
Crown Heights and Clinton Hill include a police officer, Democratic
district leaders, a former aide to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,
a longtime social critic, a Pratt Institute professor, an African
immigrants, a storeowner, members of a community board and a Hasidic
man who works for a downtown developer. (Daily
Article on activist turned politician features several district
35 candidates (City