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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Yvette D. Clarke, Dem 11,171 - 86 percent
Lola Poisson, Ind 1,227 - 9 percent
Jean D. Vernet, Wor 411 - 3 percent
Kenneth S. Cook, Con 149 - 1 percent
Yvette D. Clarke 4,076
Frances Purcell 1,958
Alithia Alleyne 1,455
Jean D. Vernett 1,420
Wellington Sharpe 1,230
Edward A. Roberts 1,123
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Una Clarke (can't run
- Yvette Clarke (Dem/Lib)
- Kenneth S. Cook (Con)
- Lola Poisson (Ind)
- Jean Vernet II (Wor)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Alithia Alleyne
to Yvette Clarke
to Kenneth S. Cook
to Lola Poisson
to Frances Purcell
to Edward A. Roberts
to Wellington Sharpe
to Jean Vernet
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
TRANSCRIPT OF DISTRICT 40 CANDIDATE
W. Ruth Whitney and Myrna Sulker were both knocked off the Democratic ballot.
Whitney managed to win a partial reprieve from the Board of Elections, but it
was overturned later in court. "The way I look at it, I was on the ballot for
a day," said Whitney. Posted 8/24/01
Unlike a Caribbean cruise, a walk down Nostrand or Church avenues
doesn't offer beachfront vistas or glimpses of palm trees. There
aren't many coconuts growing in Flatbush. But block after block
offers a taste of the many Caribbean islands whose residents have
flocked to the neighborhood. And these commercial districts attest
to how much immigration over the last several decades has changed
The Caribbean impact on District 40 is dominant -- and diverse.
Between 1992 and 1996, the district ranked first in the city in
the number of immigrants from Haiti, Trinidad, Grenada and Panama
and second in the number of Jamaican arrivals.
Storefronts bear signs offering immigration assistance. Restaurants
promote "the best of Barbados" Guyanese roti, and dishes from
Trinidad, as well as ever-popular Jamaican jerk. Churches provide
services in Creole or French as well as English, and window signs
advertise money transfers to the Caribbean. But as proof that,
while immigrants' origins may change, their hopes remain the same,
a bargain store on Church Avenue calls itself American Dream.
Councilwoman Una Clarke has perhaps achieved that dream. Born
in Jamaica, she has represented the district since 1991, the first
Caribbean-born member of the City Council. She has now endorsed her
35-year-old daughter, Yvette, to be her successor.
Four other candidates -- businessman Wellington Sharpe, activists
Lola Poisson and Jean Vernet and Alithia Alleyne, who once worked
for Clarke -- are also running. But the 40th has far fewer council
contenders than other districts in Central Brooklyn, testimony
perhaps to what many perceive as the Clarkes' clout.
Yvette Clarke does not deny she has an edge. "I have the advantage
of having being active politically for most of my life," as well
as the support of the incumbent, she says. But she cites her own
accomplishments, including having worked for State Senator Yvette
Montgomery and served as director of youth programs for the District
1199 union. Currently she is with the Bronx Overall Economic Development.
Her rivals, though, say that Clarke's election, as Alleyne puts
it, "is not a done deal." Sharpe scoffs: "You can't walk in and
start operating because your father was a surgeon."
Both Alleyne and Sharpe say their experience will enable them
to overcome Clarke's advantages. And Poisson, who is Haitian,
says, "I'm not going to be running as the Haitian candidate but
the reality is I already have 90 percent of the Haitian vote."
Vernet disputes this, saying that he has raised money in the Haitian
community, and, he adds, "you can't expect to run on a strictly
Education has traditionally been the path to success for many
immigrants, but if test scores are a guide, district 40's schools
may not be fulfilling that function today. From 1989 to 1999,
only 39 percent of district students scored at or above grade
level in reading and math.
"We have schools that do not have libraries, that do not have
books, that do not have science labs," Sharpe says. But, he continued,
"We're not really short of money. What we are short of is vision
and the political will to make hard, unpopular decisions" on how
to spend money. Vernet calls for an array of educational reforms,
including improving the condition of school buildings and creating
smaller classes. "The only way to reduce class size is to
build more schools," he said. Given the shortage of space
in New York City, many of those schools might have to be small,
which could help many students, particularly immigrants from places
where schools are not nearly as big as they are in New York.
The candidates also stress that economic development is vital
to aid parts of the district where, as Poisson says, "nothing
is happening and life is bad." Key to that, she says, is focusing
on education, the problems of youth and job training.
Although both Kings County and Downstate medical centers are
in District 40, access to health care remains a problem for many
in the district, according to the candidates. Alleyne said that,
while children receive free or low-cost care, "parents are not
getting the health care they need" and so may leave serious and
perhaps even fatal conditions untreated.
Clarke cited police community relations as a concern saying police
"need to be sensitive to the plight of people who are newly arrived
in the city of New York."
According to Clarke those newcomers include as many as 78 different
nationalities, many of whom she no doubt hopes will decide that
she should follow in her mother's footsteps.
The race in district 40 has seen its share of dramatic events. Candidate
Carl Thomas, the Brooklyn lawyer, died in his sleep of an apparent heart
attack on August 6. Thomas, who helped bring attention to the case of Abner
Louima as one of his attorneys, was 41 years old.
In July, an argument and shoving match broke out on the lawn of candidate
Jean Vernet, as supporters of Lola Poisson tried to serve him a subpoena for
their legal battles over petition signatures. Vernet's 79-year-old
mother-in-law was reportedly shoved and police were called to the scene. No
one was arrested. According to a report in the Daily News, the feud between
Vernet and Poisson began as the two Haitian-American candidates tried to get
each other to drop out of the race, then tried to force each other out with
challenges to their petitions.
Two candidates, W. Ruth Whitney and Myrna Sulker, were both knocked off the
Democratic ballot, though Whitney did manage to win a partial reprieve from
the Board of Elections, later to be overturned in court. "The way I look at
it," said Whitney. "I was on the ballot for a day." In the fundraising
battle, Jean Vernet has raised more than $44,000 from donors and received
$60,000 in matching funds. Frances Purcell has raised $44,000 from
individuals and received $55,000 in matching funds. Yvette Clarke has raised
about $23,000 in individual donations, but has yet to qualify for matching
funds. Lola Poisson, who raised about $26,500, and Alithia Alleyne, who
raised $13,500, also have not received matching funds either.
At a forum in July, seven candidates spoke about what they would do to help
the area. Most candidates vowed that they would be "advocates for the
community" and then added their own specific ideas.
Ed Roberts said he would try to bring rent control under the power of the
city instead of the state, and also called for free tuition at city
universities. Yvette Clarke wants to provide incentives, like student loan
repayment, to draw more qualified teachers to the area and said HIV and AIDS
would be at the top of her agenda. Alithia Alleyne hopes to build
public-private partnerships to district 40 and train local entrepreneurs on
how to open and sustain a business. Francis Purnell wants to provide more
vocational training for young people, and Lola Poisson said she would hold
regular hearings on police community relations.
Carl Thomas, who died shortly afterward, had the quote of the evening. When
asked if he would resign his seat if he did not hold regular meetings on
police issues, Thomas responded -- "That's a stupid question. The issue is
whether the council and all these council members will have the courage to
stand up to the injustices of the police department."
Alithia Alleyne has worked as director of government relations
at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She also worked on Councilmember
Una Clarke's staff and on Wall Street handling investment products.
She is a graduate of City College of New York.
Yvette Clarke is director of business development at the
Bronx Overall Development Corporation where she is working on
initiatives to develop the South Bronx. She was born and raised
in Brooklyn and attended Oberlin College. In 1985, she was awarded
a public policy fellowship at Stonybrook University.
Lola Poisson emigrated to New York in 1968. She is a graduate
of City University of New York and has master's degrees from New
York University and Hunter College. She founded the Haitian Community
Frances Purcell is the owner/broker for Century 21 Pelican
Properties. In 1987, she opened up her own community financial
services firm in Flatbush, which today serves over 100 small businesses.
She is a graduate of St. Francis College. She was born in Curacao,
Netherlands Antilles and emigrated to the U.S. in 1978.
Edward A. Roberts is an attorney with a private practice
in Brooklyn. He represents tenants and homeowners and has represented
clients in police brutality and job discrimination cases. In the
past, he worked as an attorney at the New York State Division
of Housing & Community Renewal and as deputy director at Bedford
Stuyvesant Community Legal Services. He graduated from City College
and St. John's University Law School.
Wellington Sharpe operates a day care business and has
been a community activist in district 40 for years.
Jean Vernet was born in Haiti and runs the Legal Education
and Assistance Program for the National Coalition for Haitian
W. Ruth Whitney is a retired chemist and social worker.
She is a coordinator of Ecumenical Churches Program and a member
of Community Planning Board 9 Health and Social Committee. She
is an active member in the Lefferts Garden Block Association and
the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.
Interviews and evaluations of candidates in districts 40 and 45 (Caribbean Research Center of Medgar Evers College -- pdf format only)
New York Times endorsement:
"40th District (Central Brooklyn): Una Clarke is one of the many term-limited
Council members attempting to bequeath her seat to a relative. Her daughter,
Yvette Clarke, is a politically sophisticated candidate with experience in
economic development. Another strong candidate is Jean Vernet, a community
activist from the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. But he does not
have the energy level that we think Ms. Clarke would bring to the job. Our
endorsement goes to Yvette Clarke, in the hope that she will use her
mother's better instincts in fighting for social services while avoiding
W. Ruth Whitney could barely contain her glee last week when her
lawyer got a challenge to her petitions dismissed at the Board
of Elections. But she was booted off the ballot in court only
a day later. "They chased us in Supreme Court the next day and
got us tossed off, and I chose to walk away," she said yesterday.
"I wanted to keep the high road." But Ms. Whitney and her campaign
manager, Kevin Yard, said that they would be meeting with the
other candidates in the 40th District in Brooklyn to decide whom
to support, and that they felt the process was a great learning
experience. "The way I look at it," Ms. Whitney said, "I was on
the ballot for a day." (NY
Carl Thomas, the Brooklyn lawyer and activist who helped bring
public attention to the police torture of Abner Louima, died in
his sleep Sunday, apparently from a heart attack. He was 41. Thomas,
a former prosecutor who came the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago
about 20 years ago, was one of 10 candidates seeking to fill the
term-limited seat of City Councilwoman Una Clarke in district
40, which covers Flatbush. (Daily
A bitter political fight in district 40 in Central Brooklyn became
an actual shoving match between the feisty mother-in-law of candidate
Jean Vernet and the volunteers for the only other Haitian-American
in the race, Lola Poisson, causing a commotion that brought police
to the scene. The two candidates are among 11 West Indians vying
for Una Clarke's City Council seat. (Daily
Some members of the Lambda Independent Democrats believe that
Yvette Clarke, who is running for mother's 40th district Council
seat, has a grudge against them for endorsing Rep. Major Owens
last year. That feeling, according to one prominent Lambda member,
was born out last week when Yvette Clarke did not show up to seek
the group's endorsement in her own race. "No one responded to
us. No call backs, no anything," said the source, a bit miffed
especially because Lambda backed Una Clarke early on in her career
(as did Owens, and look what it got him). But Yvette Clarke said
that she has no animosity toward Lambda. "I had no idea that they
had already made endorsements in this district," she said. "It's
probably just been my delay in reaching out to them, or them reaching
out to me. I'm going to reach out to them because I don't want
them to be under that impression [that she has a grudge against
them]." Ultimately, Lambda endorsed Alithia Alleyne, who is close
to the Owens camp. Other candidates in the crowded race include
Lola Poisson, Frances Purcell, Edward Roberts, Carl Thomas, Jean
Vernet and Wellington Sharpe. (Courier-Life
Supporters of Rep. Major Owens, apparently still angry at Una
Clarke for her run against the congressman last year, are urging
James Davis to enter the District 40 race in the hopes of defeating
Clarke's daughter Yvette. Davis, a Democratic district leader,
has said that he's a candidate in the 35th District, but notes
that representative of Owens and Assemblyman Al Vann have spoken
with him about switching to the 40th. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
Yvette Clarke is one of several children of councilmembers running
for their parents' seat.(Searchlight
on Campaign 2001)
More than 200 pages of line-by-line challenges to petition signatures
filed by State Senate hopeful Wellington Sharpe mysteriously disappeared
from the Brooklyn elections office. Sharpe had hoped to challenge
veteran State Sen. Marty Markowitz, but was kicked off the ballot
after the Board of Elections rejected 2,000 of his 2,800 signatures.
Sharpe appealed that decision in Supreme Court, but then some
of the specific challenges vanished. Sharpe's lawyers argued he
should not be kept off the ballot if the written challenges could
not be found, but a state Supreme Court justice rejected his claim.(Daily
These days she spends her time analyzing charts and statistics
and running over to City Hall to smile at councilmembers and whisper
in their ears how wonderful the Brooklyn Museum is, so that the
city's budget provides the museum with the money it needs. But
there was a time when she sat in a teller's cage counting money,
six-inch stacks, $10,000, $25,000 in bills, and handed them over
to excited stockbrokers. Those were her Wall Street days, her
Donna Karan suit days, at Bank Leumi. "It was l987, before the
crash. I was at the window where the brokers came to cash their
checks. They were all tall, very nice. They used to laugh because
my hands would shake. Well, I didn't want to miscount the money.
"I was always good in math," said Alithia Alleyne, 30. "I'm not
sure why. I skipped two grades in grammar school in Flatbush.
My father's a retired MTA inspector. My mother was Eubie Blake's
executive assistant." She sang, "I'm just wild about Harry." (Village