On July 24, 2001 the candidates in district 40 gathered at the Brooklyn
Museum of Art in a "Community Conversation" forum sponsored by Citizens Union
Foundation, Coro, and the Center for Excellence in New York City Governance.
The candidates who participated were Alithia Alleyne, Yvette Clarke, Lola
Poisson, Frances Purcell, Ed Roberts, Jean Vernet, and Carl Thomas.
Alithia Alleyne: Good evening everyone, and welcome
to my house. This was my former place of employment, the Brooklyn
Museum of Art. My main job here was to make sure this place
got the educational resources they needed from the City Council;
part of this building restoration was part of my efforts. I
lobbied to City Council. I lobbied to legislative leaders and
to the federal government to get funding so that more than a
hundred thousand public school children would have a place where
they can learn about their history. Education is the focus of
my campaign. I want to make sure the money allocated every year
comes to my students. I want to make sure my children get a
fair share of the funds. If someone else gets something, I want
to make sure I get it too. I've been trained in working in coalitions
with folks and in my administration, forums like this will be
the norm because I wouldn't want to be in a city council doing
what I want; I want to work for you. In the 40th district, people
have become accustomed to a certain amount of leadership and
a certain amount of resources. But, if you want to get more
than that remember Alithia Alleyne for City Council. Let's step
Yvette Clarke: My name is Yvette Clarke and I'm running
for City Council District 40 and I'm here to ask for your support.
My platform encompasses economic development, education, and
all the issues that we talked about. But my vocation is being
a community builder. I've been in public service for over 15
years. I've lived in the 40th district for all my life. There's
a lot of work to be done in my district but there's a lot of
work that has been done. I'm building on a family tradition
of service to our community. I'd like to also take this time
to let you know that HIV and AIDS are major concerns for our
community. That is something I will be campaigning about as
well as the other issues. Until we address that in a way that
we address all the conditions that we parade around, all of
this will be for naught. We will have such a sickly population
and the least of our problems will be our educational system.
Thank you so much.
Lola Poisson: Good evening, my name is Lola Poisson
and I'm running for the 40th district. Each and every one of
you candidates can make a difference when you come here. I pledge,
of course, the same thing they all they do--wishing for a better
everything. However I stand out because I believe only through
the young people can our plan for the future succeed So, ladies
and gentleman, I am the candidate if you believe in lasting
changes for yourself and for your family.
Frances Purcell: Good evening everyone, my name is Frances
Purcell and I'm the candidate incumbent for the 40th district
and these are the issues my platform is built upon: education
of our children, small business economic development, safer
and cleaner neighborhoods, better care for our senior citizens,
and affordable health care. My passion is to resume some integrity
to our youths and give them some sense of hope and belonging
so they can build a future for our community. Thank you.
Ed Roberts: My name is Ed Roberts. I'm running for city
house, 40th council district. What you heard from each of the
panelists was graphic depictions of the defamation of the 40th
council district in mid-Brooklyn.
Jean Vernet: The focus of my campaign is economic development
for a very simple reason. The root causes of many of the problems
we are talking about--housing, education, immigration, racial
issues, police brutality--can be traced back to the fact that
our budget allocation on a city level is off. We are putting
money where it's not needed while neglecting basic human services.
The one thing I will pledge to you is that I will continue to
raise my voice so that those who are least able protect themselves
will be protected. Lastly, my name is Jean Vernet; I should
be last. And you know what they say: the last one shall be first.
Carl Thomas: My name is Carl Thomas. I'm running for
City Council for the 40th District and why I'm running is because
we need leadership. I'm here to tell you that you that this
is a new day. Economic development isn't minimum wage jobs.
I'm here to tell you that we need leadership. We don't need
individuals who will sell out our communities and our children
over the next several years. The schools which are miseducating
and under-educating our kids must be dealt with in this council.
I'm looking for all of you to come out and vote in all the districts
for the right candidate for supporting our people and our children.
Q: We have almost the highest concentration of youth afflicted
with asthma, second only to Harlem. How would you deal with
this? The second question (you can choose) is with schools in
Central Brooklyn vastly overcrowded, the average classroom filled
with over 25 students, what do you propose to do to reduce class
Carl Thomas: Poor people get more asthma because studies have shown
that most of the kids who get asthma get it from insects in
the house. So, what you have to do is make sure that these landlords,
these landlords from outside our community take care of the
pests inside the house, so that when kids get up in the morning,
they can have their breakfast and go to school, rather than
go to the doctor.
Alithia Alleyne: At the Brooklyn Children's Museum,
I worked with the city council on an $8 million initiative to
make sure asthma awareness was number one in the schools in
District 17. We established Awareness Day at the Brooklyn Children's
Museum. Asthma isn't only the number one reason kids are out
of school, it's the number one reason parents are out of work
and asthma is the cause of so much distress and economic development
issues in our community. As a City Council member, I want to
do a full study on why our children are suffering from asthma.
Not only because of cockroaches but brownfields and all kinds
of environmental issues. We have to clean up our environment
so our kids are healthy when they get to school so that they
Jean Vernet: Asthma can be dealt with if we put the
money into preventive care instead of curative care. For less
than a thousand dollars a year you can keep a child fairly healthy
when that child suffers from asthma. Meanwhile, we'll build
the new housing stock we need.
Ed Roberts: I will call for the immediate transfer of
the functions of rent stabilization and rent control to be administered
by the city of New York and not by the state division of housing
any more. There has been a lack with respect to maintenance
of standards and rendering apartments habitable in the city
of New York. Since there has been a new administration in the
state they have virtually rendered rent stabilization and rent
control in essence landlord protection. I would transfer that
back to the city with full governmental authority to do so.
Lola Poisson: I don't believe the teacher can really
teach kids when there are 30 children at the same time. So,
I want to reduce class sizes by training more teachers and also
having more classes so there will be less students in the classroom.
Yvette Clark: I believe the question was really about
attracting qualified teachers to those classrooms. I'd like
to address that by saying that incentives have to be built in.
One of those incentives is providing our teachers with the appropriate
resources in the classroom. Many of our teachers are struggling
because the material and resources in the classroom are unavailable.
One of the things I would do is provide an incentive through
the Board of Education to draw qualified teachers to our community,
coupled with the resources required to teach our children adequately.
Jean Vernet: Give teachers incentives, not only so they
come to bad schools but so they can become certified in the
tough subjects--science, mathematics. Right now we aren't producing
teachers we need for the next generation. We are producing workers
who can't function in the modern economy. We can't continue
this way. Let's spend the 35 million dollars in the city budget,
and let's spend it wisely and put it where it's needed the most--prevention
and preparing the future.
Frances Purcell: I will bring in new programs to bring
funding to get more schools. History has proven that the larger
a classroom size is, the more difficult it is for a teacher
to give children a quality education. And I will advocate for
the building of more schools to lower classroom sizes.
Q: As a city councilperson, what would be your stance on
gentrification? How would you try to shape public policy and
economic development plans to serve those interests, and how
would you define what is in the best interests of your community?
Carl Thomas: First of all, economic development as I
said before is not minimum-wage job creation. Rather, these
individuals who are bringing Pathmark and Edward's Supermarkets
and all these outside businesses into the community are giving
minimum wage jobs to our people. Nobody in our community owns
anything, so there is an economic convection current. The money
comes in when you work in Manhattan, you come to Brooklyn, and
then goes out with Edward's and Pathmark and the like. So when
you look at what is taking place in this community we need to
have programs that will enable people to be trained in resource
centers to become entrepreneurs. We have to have money in our
community. We have to be able to pool our money together as
a means of owning stuff, not just getting a job at Pathmark,
but owning what we need for production within our community.
Lola Poisson: I don't believe that gentrification is
really an issue for my district. The 40th district is not just
about Midwood, or Maple, or that area. I believe I have to look
at the economy more in what I see is the best for the community.
And by that I mean taking care of the young people, we have
to include them in our plan for economic development. So I would
want to make sure that young people who are graduating from
my school can be responsible for themselves and their family
to get to college.
Alithia Alleyne: I would say that affordable housing
is definitely an issue in our district. People cannot buy a
house and elderly people are telling me that their rents are
going up. A lot of them are not eligible so they can't afford
the rent that they have to pay. The economic development situation
in our district is also crucial. As a councilperson I'm going
to be mainly making sure that I can attract public-private partnerships,
something like what the Fleet Bank is doing so we can train
the young entrepreneurs on how to sustain their business, not
just open one and have it close. Every time you walk down the
block there's been 20 different businesses in one spot. Our
people are entrepreneurs in our blood, in our spirit, in our
heart, and we need to support them, whether it's tax incentives
for them, but definitely training, technical training, and resources,
Yvette Clarke: I come from an economic empowerment perspective
in the sense that we have a good foundation for growth and development
of businesses in the 40th council district. I believe that gentrification
is not something that you have to be concerned about if you
are able to cultivate a small business base that can serve the
needs of the people within the district. I'm concerned that
we are able to one, inspire entrepreneurship in our district
and work with the small business ownership expansion. Expansion
of business is part of the job creation chain. One of the problems
there, and one of the challenges we face as a community, is
that we've always gone to others for jobs. It is now time and
I believe we now have the ability through the city council and
through the resources available to cultivate our own economic
development engine within the 40th council district to provide
for our own needs.
Jean Vernet: It seems to me that the 40th district represents
some type of paradox. On the one hand we have very wealthy enclaves,
on the other we have very poor people. I think we need to do
three things. One: I pioneered a loan program that established
a corporation where we made loans to workers so we can expand
that program. Give merchants technical assistance so they can
compete against the big chains. I also believe we need to consider
rezoning the district. We have overcrowded housings. We need
to renovate anyway, why not change the zoning so maybe instead
of a three-story building we can have a four-story building.
We also need to look at the housing code so we can transform
two-family homes into three-family homes. We again need to look
at the code and make sure that it reflects how housing is used
right now, not how it was meant to be used.
Frances Purcell: Small business is the economic life
of any community. And I'm going to advocate for the vocational
training for young people so they can become entrepreneurs,
so they can get training and sustenance and things like that
to encourage them to become entrepreneurs.
Ed Roberts: The 40th Council district is the most dichotomized
district. You see splendor and luxurious houses and people doing
extremely well. You come south, specifically south of Church
Avenue, and you see the youngsters frustrated with no hope,
no expectation of success, and they stand on the street corner
in groups of 15, 16, 17. The first order of business: What began
in 1849 and stood fast until 1976: Free tuition at the city
university. The restoration of free tuition will not bankrupt
the city. We're going to do it programmatically over a 10-year
period of time, dropping it 10% per year, until we reach free
tuition. It lasted for 109 years. Throughout history it was
meant to be a free academy.
Q: Will you commit a specific percentage of your budget
to hold hearings on police misconduct, and what percentage are
you willing to commit? In addition, will you commit to hold
such hearings in your district, at least once a month? If you
don't keep these commitments, do you commit to resign your seat?
Carl Thomas: That's a stupid question. But the thing
is, the fact is that police brutality and police misconduct
is not the product of our community. Most police officers do
not live in our community, they don't know our children, and
they come into our community and terrorize our children. So
the issue is not whether an individual city councilperson will
help. The issue is whether the council and all these councilmembers
will have the courage to stand up to the injustices of the police
department in this district and in other districts. And that's
the question that should be asked, not whether somebody will
submit a portion of money we're going to get. The bottom line
is we have to fight against these police. They're from Rockland
County, they're from New Jersey, they're from Essex County,
they're not from our community, and they terrorize our kids
and we've got to stop them.
Lola Poisson: I definitely will resign if I would not
keep my commitment. As the mother of young black men I'm really
worried about the safety of my community. I'm worried about
the safety of young people because it is mainly our young black
men that are in jail. I would definitely have regular hearings
so that people can be aware of what's happening, and I still
believe that we have to work with the police. So it's a matter
of training both our communities and the police so that there
can be a real good relationship between the two sides.
Alithia Alleyne: When I walk along Church Avenue and
I see the young men on the sidewalk and I ask them what their
number one issue is, they always say to me "Are you going to
talk to the police about that way that they stop us at night,
the way they harass us, the way they throw us up against the
wall?" And I say "yes." Because in our community we have a couple
of shootings that we still don't know the correct answers for,
for young men that were shot by the police right in my neighborhood.
There are killings going on. There're drug wars, there's gang
violence, and there's got to be a sense of decorum. We have
to bring back integrity to our neighborhood, and we have to
definitely work with the police because there is a feeling of
shakiness, that we're not really safe in the community. There's
got to be a balance. We're definitely having forums in our community,
and I'm going to be on top of the police precincts.
Yvette Clarke: The tension created by the problems that
we're having between the police and our community has been longstanding.
I think that one of the things we need to do as a community
is to come together and make some demands on our police department
in terms of establishing the proper relationship. There has
to be a respect for ourselves as a community, and there has
to be a respect from the police department to the residents
of our district. I commit to holding hearings in the community,
but one of my concerns is that I've seen hearings being held,
and I've seen how much of our people actually turn out to address
the issues of concern. Only in times of crisis does it seem
we are able to stand up and fight for our rights. I'd like to
see, and I'd like to motivate the people in the community so
we are more pro-active on this front.
Jean Vernet: I will not commit to putting aside a certain
percentage of my budget for hearings. Nor will I commit to a
certain number of hearings. I will commit to addressing this
issue with all the resources it needs. It is unfair that we
should feel unsafe in our cars, on our streets, etcetera. I
have walked the line between the police and the community. I
was there, along with Norman Siegel calming the crowd. I talked
to the police and negotiated for them to back off. And afterwards,
when we sat and talked, you know, police officers feel under
pressure, the community feels under pressure. I think we need
to do three things. A: The police must respect the community.
That is, you must go back to having police officers who live
in New York City. Two: We need to train police officers better.
Six months is not enough to adequately uphold the law.
Frances Purcell: I will explore whatever it takes to
have adequate police training and to continue training for police
officers. What we really need to do is to have more police officers
respect our community. And that's the biggest problem we are
facing. And I will commit to training a recruitment of local
people to become police officers.
Ed Roberts: I will not commit a certain percentage of
my budget to go towards these hearings. What I will do, however,
is to one, block off for example between Church and Lyndon every
six months, publicize it, and hope the police department will
give me a permit, so we can have a public session of the community
in the middle of street in the middle of the day at least once
every six months. This idea has emanated I believe from Queens,
and I think it's a good idea to be replicated throughout the
city. But the community like in the days of Adam Clayton Powell
should meet on 125th street and permit the people who elect
them to discuss the issues and I am committed to doing that.