Gotham Gazette

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In Brooklyn Political Launching Pad, Another Highly Competitive Council Race

cm brad sl join gowanus

Activists, Council Member Brad Lander & others (photo: John McCarten.City Council)

With voting underway in this month’s primary elections, including for almost all 51 City Council seats, including about three dozen that are “open” due to term limits, crowded fields of candidates are pushing for every vote.

The competition is especially hot, if civil, in Brooklyn’s 39th City Council District, one of the most politically-active areas in the city, with some of the highest voter turnout rates, and the home district of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who represented the district before being elected Public Advocate then Mayor. His successor, City Council Member Brad Lander, is now term-limited and attempting a similar jump to citywide office in his bid for Comptroller, hoping to be catapulted by the district’s voters who will also be choosing his replacement among a large and diverse field of candidates.

The district stretches from Cobble Hill to parts of Kensington and Borough Park. It includes Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Park, and Windsor Terrace. Due to an overwhelming Democratic majority within the district, the winner of District 39’s primary will all but certainly become the next Council member.

City Council members are responsible for writing and passing legislation, negotiating and approving the city’s budget, performing oversight of city agencies, making crucial land use decisions, and attending to constituent services in many different ways.

Seven prominent candidates have emerged to take Lander’s place and Democratic voters are choosing among an array of former teachers, labor organizers, and political and civil rights activists. The race is set to be decided through early voting June 12-20 and primary day on June 22, along with absentee voting. It is among the first citywide use of ranked-choice voting, where voters can select up to five candidates in each primary in order of preference, and, as long as no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, votes are redistributed as candidates are eliminated in an instant-runoff tabulation.

In addition to citywide issues including post-pandemic recovery, policing and public safety, and an affordable housing crisis, Lander’s successor will need to address district-specific concerns that have been essential to the campaign. For instance, the next Council member will inherit a planned rezoning initiative for an 82-block section of the Gowanus neighborhood, which has proven controversial but appears likely to be a done deal by January, when the next Council class takes office.

The Gowanus rezoning proposal, which Lander has shaped and supported with conditions still being negotiated, would allow for 8,500 more units of housing in the neighborhood, 3,000 of which would have affordability caps on rent. The plan includes developing a 100% affordable complex on a city-owned lot known as Public Place, which is in need of intense environmental remediation before construction begins, part of the larger issue around the Gowanus canal as a toxic site being cleaned up. Proponents say the plan would bring much-needed affordable housing and modernized zoning to the area; opponents claim the remediation and environmental impact mitigation efforts aren’t enough to keep the area healthy, and some have called for a higher percentage of affordable housing and/or more deeply affordable thresholds. One of the key sticking points in the deal Lander is looking to reach with the de Blasio administration is investments in nearby NYCHA developments.

The Council district also overlaps with much of school district 15, spanning from Cobble Hill to Sunset Park, which has initiated rare integration efforts amid the city’s sluggish approach to racially divided schools. The push was led by parents and activists and realized by Lander and Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who also represents parts of the school district, and has shown encouraging results for those who support integrated schools. In 2019, school district 15 eliminated the use of grade and test-based screening for middle school admissions, instead employing a lottery-based system. The move prompted backlash from some of the district’s white families, a smattering of whom reportedly moved their kids to private schools in response.

Educational equity and pandemic-related school issues, including their full reopening, have figured prominently throughout the Council race, with several former educators and public school parents running for the seat.

According to 2010 Census data, the district had a population of 154,341 people, with 65.9% white, 14.2% Hispanic, 12.5% Asian, 4.4% Black, and 2.3% multiracial. Out of the 58,051 occupied housing units in the district, 40,009, or 68.9%, are occupied by renters, and 18,042 are occupied by owners.

During his time as the City Council member of the 39th district, Lander prioritized worker protections, housing rights, racial justice and police reform, sustainability, public education, safe streets, and participatory government. As he’s running for city Comptroller, he has not made an endorsement in the race to replace him.

Shahana Hanif
Hanif, who was born and raised in Kensington, has worked in Lander’s office as Director of Organizing and Community Engagement in Lander’s office, and the Bangladeshi Community Liaison previously. If elected, Hanif would be both the first Muslim woman and the first South Asian woman elected to the New York City Council, along with being the first woman to represent Council District 39.

Hanif has been a Community Board 12 member and a County Committee member in Assembly District 44. She has also worked as a public housing tenant organizer with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV).

In Lander’s office she has worked especially on establishing and running the participatory budgeting program, which allows residents to have a say in where some public funds are spent, among other initiatives.

Hanif lists her top three issues and solutions as integrating public schools, providing affordable housing for all, and divesting from policing. She also places emphasis on radical language justice and her “NYC Survivor Security Plan.” Hanif’s policies are reflective of her own lived experiences as a daughter to Bangladeshi immigrants, a Lupus survivor, and a member of Muslim student clubs that were said to be infiltrated by the NYPD.

While discussing integrating schools, Hanif has called for abolishing admissions screens, expanding culturally responsive education, and creating sustained pipelines for Black and brown teachers. Additionally, Hanif outlines a plan to expand free childcare in the district and on CUNY campuses, along with fighting for better wages for early childhood educators. She also emphasises mental health services for students throughout schooling including into college.

Within her affordable housing platform, Hanif calls for investing in permanent affordable housing over temporary shelters and combating the ill-effects of gentrification within the district. She says she would prevent the privatization of NYCHA by pushing for more funding for public housing. She also aims to expand tenants rights, specifically the right to legal counsel, and wants to work towards creating a more participatory city planning process, saying the Gowanus rezoning discussion has too often excluded impacted residents.

Hanif calls for defunding and demilitarizing the NYPD, citing a rising budget despite the deaths of Black and brown New Yorkers at the hands of police. She wants to end mass incarceration, surveillance, and over-policing. She calls for defunding the NYPD budget by $3 billion and reallocating those funds to various mental health and youth services, while also insisting on police-free schools that invest in guidance counselors and mental health services as an alternative.

Hanif wants to expand participatory budgeting so community members can help decide where funds are needed the most.

Having watched the most linguistically-diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn become devastated by COVID-19, Hanif calls for “radical language justice” to defeat barriers to city services and care. Her goals for resolving language injustice include establishing a “Citywide Interpretation Fund” for interpreters, translators, and other interpretation services, creating a pipeline for diverse translators that include a variety of languages rather than those most prominent in New York City and expanding IDNYC, which gives all New Yorkers municipal identification cards.

Among many other policy proposals in a variety of issue areas, Hanif also places emphasis on her “NYC Survivor Security Plan,” which is aimed at helping end homelessness among domestic violence survivors. The plan, developed from Hanif’s own experiences helping victims, calls for the creation of a new citywide “Survivor Security Fund” to provide immediate financial support to survivors and cover essential costs like housing, medical care, and mental health resources. It also outlines a plan to advocate for reforms that allow survivors to leave abusive homes, particularly by ending early lease termination fees and forcing landlords to cover the cost of changing building locks. Hanif says that she would create a social-worker run domestic violence hotline out of her City Council office if elected.

Hanif has gained many notable endorsements, including from the Working Families Party, the Sunrise Movement, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Muslim Democracy Club of New York, New York Communities for Change, Met Council Action, the Sierra Club, and UNITE HERE Local 100, the union representing local restaurant and food service workers. Along with Brandon West, she also received a co-endorsement from U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As of June 7, Hanif had raised $84,050 in campaign contributions from 1,184 contributors and qualified for $160,444 in matching public funds.

Justin Krebs
Krebs is among the candidates running a campaign prioritizing education. “Excellent and equitable public schools,” “vibrant and safe main streets” and a “green future” take up the most space within his campaign. According to Krebs’ campaign website, his campaign hinges on energy, creativity, and a 20-year track record.

Krebs’ track record involves years as a progressive campaigner, including the past five years as the National Campaigns Director for MoveOn, said to be the country’s largest, progressive grassroots membership organization. He also founded The Tank, a non-profit, non-commercial theater, and Living Liberally, which is a network of progressive social communities. Krebs also describes himself as an author and father of three children who attend District 39 public schools, where he has been involved in parent organizing and advocacy.

Krebs was previously a constituent liaison for U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton and a professional advocate for parks, civic engagement, culture, labor and democracy reforms, he says.

During COVID-19, Krebs called for more attention from city leaders regarding education in both in-person and remote settings. He also established the Camp Friendship Food Pantry alongside community leaders, and organized a local protest in an effort to help protect the Post Office.

Krebs had been demanding a plan to return to in-person learning full time in the fall. While Mayor de Blasio announced that as the goal, he has yet to present a full plan.

Krebs has called for all proper public health protocols to be followed, as well as outdoor learning, COVID-19 testing, and ventilation for every school in the district.

He has also called for integrating and reimagining schools within the district. He wants to remove the NYPD from schools, eliminate high-stakes standardized tests, and recognize that families have a right to choose their child’s education -- whether that be in a Yeshiva or a special needs institution.

Additionally, Krebs says he will fight for more school funding in order to shrink class sizes, invest in teachers, champion universal summer school to make up for time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, re-invest in lost programs in STEM and the arts, and increase special needs funding; and he mentions transforming more venues into classrooms, saying “think big.”

Krebs’ is also proposing ways to make District 39’s  main streets safer, which includes treating public space and the arts as crucial to neighborhood culture, along with providing viable COVID-19 support to small businesses. He suggests including government-backed loans to cover payroll for small businesses and similar entities. He says that these loans should come in the form of direct payments, and should include undocumented workers within the district. Krebs says he would support proposed legislation (Intro 1796) that stabilizes rent for commercial spaces, while also looking into ideas like vacancy taxes and legal support regarding evictions. Additionally, he says he would advocate for a “Bar Czar” to examine New York City’s nightlife and hospitality industries (though there is already a recently-created city Office of Nightlife with these responsibilities).

Within Krebs’ small business relief plan, he also says that he would support measures to alleviate the disadvantage that retailers like Amazon put small businesses at, while also working at efforts to build collective power among the district’s retailers.

Krebs plans include creating one regular and funded “open street” in each neighborhood while simultaneously creating a “pedestrian first” model within the district overall and creating safe bike lanes everywhere. He places a lot of emphasis on the arts, and giving New Yorkers access to live performances through school and community-based programs, guarantee space for the arts in any new development, create a fund dedicated to the arts and cultural institutions, give creators access to present their work in public spaces like storefronts and provide legal counsel for artists facing landlord conflicts.

He also wants to increase the parks budget and maintenance of green spaces within the district. Krebs seeks to remove the NYPD from traffic enforcement, instead placing control in the hands of the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program by fully funding it.

Another main priority for Krebs is a “Green Future” for the 39th District, including making “New York a climate leader and investing in the parks, green spaces and open spaces that help our neighborhoods thrive, with four main tenets: rooftop solar, safe streets and pedestrian-first zones, reducing waste and food footprints, and accelerating the cleanup of toxic legacies.

Krebs has received endorsements from many local New York City artists and parent leaders as well as Zephyr Teachout, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the American Institute of Architects in New York, and the League of Independent Theaters. Like several others in the race he got the seal of approval from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC.

As of June 7, Krebs had received $58,746 in contributions from 497 contributors and qualified for $160,444 in public matching funds.

Briget Rein
Rein, a full-time union organizer with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has emerged as the candidate with the strongest focus on labor, and she’s been backed by the UFT in the race. She previously worked as a teacher at PS 104 and PS 109, and has also centered much of her campaign on improving education quality and schools’ pandemic safety.

On her website, Rein promises to support UFT efforts to secure sufficient Personal Protective Equipment in schools and promote COVID-19 vaccination. She would seek to expand existing schools and open new ones with the goal of reducing class sizes and overcrowding. Specifically, she proposes a new high school on the border of Gowanus and 7th Avenue, a high school in the Carroll Gardens area, and a new Brooklyn-based specialized high school, preferably in Kensington.

Rein does not want to see the SHSAT scrapped as the entrance exam for the city’s specialized high schools, which admit very few Black and Latino students. She supports universal access to test prep and calls for factors outside the test to be incorporated into specialized high school screening.

Rein also supports the community schools model, which incorporates wrap-around health and social services for families into schools.

On her website, Rein outlines that she would work to bolster police accountability by giving the City Council the power to confirm police commissioners nominated by the mayor, and endow the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) with final disciplinary authority.

While several candidates have promised to support defunding the NYPD and reallocating dollars to external departments devoted to social work, Rein said she supports having the police department itself hire social workers and psychologists to take on calls related to mental health and drug use. Rein has also said she would work with transit workers about where more officers are needed in the subways.

Rein has called for a halt to the Gowanus rezoning efforts, arguing that the area’s flood zone status and necessary remediation should be more thoroughly addressed; expressed staunch support for a municipal Green New Deal program to create green jobs; pledges to institute municipal broadband for all students to access wifi; and supports workforce housing programs for union members.

As of June 7, Rein had raised $84,879 from 513 private donations and received $142,891 in public matching funds. She has an array of endorsements, including a large number of labor organizations, from her employer at the UFT to 1199 SEIU healthcare workers, the NYC Central Labor Council, the Transport Workers Union Local 100, two chapters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the NYC Council of Carpenters, two unions representing firefighters and FDNY employees, and more.

She has also been endorsed by the National Organization for Women, Stonewall Democrats of NYC, the New York Amsterdam News, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Carolyn Maloney, and Tom Suozzi, State Senators Leroy Comrie, John Liu, Diane Savino, Brad Hoylman, and Robert Jackson; and City Council members Ben Kallos, Daniel Dromm, and Mark Treyger. She also got the seal of approval from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Courage to Change PAC.

Douglas Schneider
Schneider, a Democratic Party district leader from Park Slope, is running a campaign centered around education and childcare. He is both a civil and defense lawyer who has touted his experience fighting workplace discrimination in court. He has pushed hard for city public schools to reopen five days per week and hosted a town hall on the subject in the summer of 2020. He has spoken to his own experience as a parent to a first-grader in the district.

In particular, Schneider has criticized the school system’s lack of preparedness for the pandemic. He is now running on creating a Pandemic Response Emergency Plan for future public health emergencies, which would prioritize in-person learning, air quality and ventilation-related maintenance, and classroom expansion spaces for possible social distancing measures.

In an interview with South Central Brooklyn United For Progress, Schneider stressed an immediate need for schools to hire more “social workers and child psychiatrists and trauma informed professionals, because there’s going to be a lot of kids coming back to school with real trauma, especially in communities that were hit hardest by COVID.” He added, “We need to reinvest unprecedented amounts in public education.” On his website, Schneider calls for the removal of police officers from schools, instead supporting more social workers and mental health providers to intervene in place of school resource officers.

Schneider supports integration efforts such as the end of screened middle school admissions and prioritizing school seats for low-income students, English Language Learners, and students facing housing insecurity. He also promises to expand affordable and multilingual childcare opportunities, with a focus on “childcare deserts” like in Kensington, Boro Park, the Ocean Parkway corridor, and Windsor Terrace, he says. He would also expand after-school offerings, partnering with higher education students.

To address small businesses’ struggle to survive the pandemic, Schneider proposes tax relief and utilities assistance for local commerce. He would institute commercial rent control practices, including incentivizing landlords to fill vacant commercial spaces, and would cap commission rates for “app-based services” like Seamless.

Schneider also proposes a Green New Deal-esque plan for a “green jobs pipeline,” creating jobs by retrofitting buildings for greater sustainability, constructing renewable energy infrastructure, and jumpstarting flood prevention projects. On his website, he notes that he would create training initiatives for those jobs through partnerships with CUNY and local organizations and businesses.

Schneider has prioritized traffic safety, declaring support for more speed and red light cameras as well as protected bike lanes. According to his website, he is in favor of restricting commercial deliveries to “off-hour deliveries” between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. and creating more pedestrian-oriented “open streets” for outdoor dining and other public events.

By June 7, Schneider had received $49,342 in campaign contributions from 368 donors as well as $160,444 in public matching funds. Bklyner reported that Schneider has been endorsed by a group of 39 individual community activists, including safe streets advocates, police reform activists, Parent-Teacher Association members, and Democratic District Leaders Shaquana Boykin and Julio Pena. He has also received the endorsement of the Brooklyn Young Democrats.

Brandon West
West is, along with Hanif, running furthest left in the primary, and he has the backing of the New York City branch of the Democratic Socialists of America. The two candidates were co-endorsed by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.

West was a budget analyst in the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget from 2013 through 2015 and then served as the City Council’s Senior Legislative Financial Analyst from 2016 to 2017. He then worked to increase voting rights as a manager of the Center for Popular Democracy’s national voting rights and democracy campaign. West is also a former president of New Kings Democrats, where he led a borough-wide engagement campaign called Rep Your Block that got hundreds involved with the local Democratic Party on a reform platform.

One of West’s central plans is restructuring the NYPD. On his website, West calls for the city to divest at least $3 billion from the NYPD and to halve the number of uniformed police officers, currently about 35,000, remove police from schools and hospitals, and eliminate the NYPD’s role in responding to mental health, homelessness, and drug-related calls. He wants to see the department’s problem-riddled Vice Enforcement Division shut down. West would work to make sure the city provides job training and counseling to NYPD officers transitioning out of the job. He would expand the city’s Mobile Crisis Team program so that it can respond to all mental health-related 911 calls. West wants to see the Rikers Island jails closed without constructing new jails.

Among housing and anti-poverty initiatives, West supports “community-based” and publicly controlled utility models, arguing that no one should be denied utilities based on their ability to pay the bills. West subscribes to a Housing First philosophy for homelessness intervention, which prioritizes housing shelter residents and other unhoused individuals, regardless of employment status or addiction. He opposes any privatization of NYCHA properties, though does not appear to have made clear where he thinks the public housing authority can get the $30-40 billion it needs for repairs. West proposes a Green New Deal focused on NYCHA properties, promising to “eliminate NYCHA’s carbon pollution by 2030” while creating new “green jobs.”

He would also prioritize plans to “de-center the automobile” and enhance public transportation with a focus on transit deserts.

West is a staunch opponent of the current effort to rezone parts of Gowanus. On his website, he calls for more affordable housing than promised, with units offered at a deeper level of affordability. He also criticizes the placement of housing on an environmentally contaminated site, echoing some activists’ skepticism that the plot can be adequately remediated. West would require a Racial Impact Study to assess every rezoning initiative a bill that just passed the City Council in mid-June but has been part of Lander’s approach to the Gowanus plan.

Finally, West supports school desegregation efforts like those of the local school district, district 15, which recently switched to lottery-based admissions for middle schools, rather than grade, test score, and audition based admissions, along with other pro-integration measures as mentioned.

As of June 7, West has raised $78,813 in campaign contributions from 1,107 donors, and he has received $160,349 in public matching funds. He has been endorsed by organizations including the Democratic Socialists of America, New Kings Democrats, New York Communities for Change, Citizen Action of New York, Tenants PAC, Met Council Action, Resilience PAC, Streets PAC, Churches United for Fair Housing, and the union for CUNY Faculty and Staff, PSC CUNY. West also has the backing of State Senators Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, two socialists from Brooklyn, and progressive leaders and former candidates Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout. And along with the personal co-endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez, he also got the seal of approval from her Courage to Change PAC.

Mamnunul Haq
Haq is running a campaign centered around bridging healthcare access, improving affordable housing, and protecting workers’ rights. As a Bangladeshi immigrant himself, Haq says he truly understands these issues, and has fought to resolve them in his roles as a labor organizer, a public health advocate, and a working class New Yorker.

In an interview with NYC Votes, Haq explains that his vision for the office is to reinvest in communities. To Haq, these investments can range anywhere from improving multilingual resources to building and securing affordable and dignified housing.

Haq’s past experiences include time as a labor organizer, a public health advocate, an activist, a member of Community Board 12, and a yellow cab driver. He helped advocate for the Avenue C Plaza, safer streets, participatory budgeting, and improvement of language and social service access, he says. He currently works as a Program Associate and Community Health Worker at NYU’s School of Medicine.

In his time as a cab driver, Haq advocated for drivers’ rights and support. Between 1994 and 1996, Haq founded the Bangladesh Yellow Society New York, Inc., and co-founded the Bangladeshi Cabbie Society to gain monetary support and safety for him and his fellow cab drivers. Then, in 1998, he co-founded the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the largest cab driver union in the country to date. Haq advocated for the Taxi Driver’s Protection Act intensely after he was stabbed by a passenger. The act was passed in 2014, marking a victory for both Haq and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

Within his platform for bridging healthcare access, Haq says many poor New Yorkers likely have not received medical care in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and says “community health workers” are the solution to this issue. They would be members of the community who work with the local healthcare system to provide care to people in need, operating at a neighborhood-wide level. Haq sets his goals as improving healthcare access in unserved communities, using community health workers to serve as a primary go-to for neighborhood residents instead of emergency services and increasing health screening.

Haq aims to set up community health worker access points within a 10-minute walk from everyone in District 39. He also aims to recruit and train community residents to create a pipeline for community health workers, meaning jobs for area residents.

Another one of Haq’s main priorities as a candidate is affordable housing. Haq divides this issue into three subsections: protection for renters, homelessness, and community ownership and small landlords.

Within the “protection for renters” part of his plan, Haq proposes mobile housing clinics every week within a 10-minute walk for all District 39 residents. These clinics would educate renters about tenant rights while also providing free legal counsel. Haq also says he would advocate that the government cancels all rent fully and automatically from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to the conclusion, along with expanding eligibility for rent relief to include everyone who cannot afford it, regardless of immigration status. Haq wants to raise fines for negligent landlords, use tax policy to curb speculative behavior by landlords, and improve conditions for basement apartment conversions. 

When discussing community ownership and small landlords, Haq proposes advancing tenant, nonprofit, and public acquisition of distressed rental buildings, giving small landlords priority access to landlord relief funds, and supporting small landlords with mortgage forgiveness.

Haq has spent many years advocating for workers’ rights, including his own, and it is now a pillar to his campaign. He divides his plan into four sections: bettering the workplace, helping workers understand their rights, protection for gig workers, and generating jobs.

He outlines steps to improve workplace standards, strengthen legal protections for organizing, offer hazard pay for frontline workers, and create a citywide fund that supports undocumented workers. He also proposes setting up bi-weekly free clinics to recover workers’ unpaid wages, access workers compensation benefits, and address health and safety violations. He aims to provide free training to workers regularly on critical health and safety rights, and says he would work to provide free legal support when workers confront various violations.

Haq uses his own experience as a cab driver to place emphasis on sending yellow cab drivers back to work by forgiving many loans, fees, and leases. He also proposes full employment status to gig economy workers, which would give workers protections like paid sick leave and unemployment benefits.

Haq also claims that these proposals will generate jobs through allocating funds for workforce development, adult education, and job training opportunities, along with devoting funding for Community Health Workers in order to create a strong, grassroots network. 

Additionally, Haq’s campaign places emphasis on abating some of the effects of the Gowanus rezoning and examines the slack in OneNYC 2050 and the NYC Green Deal.

As of June 7, Haq had raised $33,130 from 589 contributors and qualified for $160,349 in public funds.

Jessica Simmons
Simmons is running as an educator, a former principal, and a parent. She was the principal at a charter school that is part of Uncommon Schools, the Brownsville Collegiate Charter School; according to her LinkedIn profile, she served in this role from 2008 to 2015, and now works at The New Teacher Project, a national organization focused on teacher training and education consulting.

On her website, Simmons promises that if elected, she would fulfill all office needs with local small businesses’ products. She proposes the creation of a small business roundtable to provide her office with input on the business community’s needs, and to create a Business Improvement District in the area. And she supports funneling rent assistance to small businesses.

Simmons supports defunding the NYPD by $3 billion, and would redirect those funds to mental health resources and youth activity programs, she says on her website.

While she has not laid out specific education plans on her website, she has expressed broad intentions to “accelerate learning” in schools to make up for learning losses over the course of the pandemic; to focus resources towards special needs students; and to end school segregation. She told Patch that she supports expanding school integration efforts similar to those of Brooklyn’s School District 13, where middle schools began giving admissions priority to low-income and housing-insecure students for 57% of seats at each school.

Simmons opposes current plans to rezone part of Gowanus, expressing concern that the Combined Sewage Overflow tanks would be overwhelmed by storms.

Simmons had raised $18,771 from 90 contributors by June 7, and did not qualify for matching funds.

Housing and Policing Spark Debate
At two recent forums, candidates clashed on how to balance historic preservation with affordable housing development, as well as how to address police brutality and public safety.

On May 26, the District 39 Democratic candidates participated in a forum hosted by the Park Slope Civic Council to further communicate their plans for the area to prospective voters. According to reporting by Bklyner, the candidates had different perspectives on the preservation of Park Slope Historic District, an area that prohibits drastic changes to their buildings, and what it means for affordable housing development.

Earlier that week, on May 24, the candidates had convened for an online forum hosted by Politics NY. Through friendly dialogue, they expressed a clear focus on education reform and desegregation. Krebs, Schneider, and Rein argued that students urgently need to return to in-person, full-time education; Rein urged families to enroll their kids in summer school this season to catch up on learning loss from the course of the pandemic. And Hanif and Simmons spoke out against screened admissions for local schools in favor of lottery admissions systems.

The only major point of disagreement between candidates that emerged during the debate pertained to police accountability and the movement to defund the NYPD.

West argued in favor of defunding the police department; he has pledged to reduce the police budget by $3 billion. Police don’t fix the root causes of crime, he argued. “When we overinvest in policing and cops, it’s too late — we’re just dealing with the symptoms. We’re funding the city in a way that isn’t keeping the community strong.”

True public safety, he said, happens “when people’s everyday needs are met.” Hanif, Simmons, Krebs, and Schneider did not weigh in at the debate but have expressed somewhat similar points of view.

Haq disagreed. “Simply defunding is not the solution,” he said, stressing that he would prioritize “reform and transparency and accountability” without dramatically reducing operations. Still, he said he would reallocate funds from smaller parts of the NYPD budget, like police dogs and helicopters, “and send it to mental health, guidance counselors, and social workers.”

Rein and Haq said they would put forward stronger accountability measures for police.

Rein said she would prioritize “making sure the City Council is the hiring agent for the police commissioner — making sure the City Council has oversight over the day-to-day structure of the department.” She would also integrate social workers into police activity.

West pushed back on this approach. “Accountability for police racism and brutality isn’t enough,” he said. “Every reform we’ve had, the police have tried to undermine...They find a way to get around it.”

Kira Silbergeld co-authored this article.

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