District 40 Central Brooklyn

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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.

Opening Statements:

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 it up!

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 size?

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 can learn.

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, public-private partnerships.

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.

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council 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. 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; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic 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.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Board of Elections
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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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