2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council in the 45th District

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Three of the four candidates currently running for to represent City Council District 45.
Courtesy of campaigns

City Council District 45 is made up of Flatbush, Midwood, Flatlands, East Flatbush and parts of Marine Park. The district — currently represented by Councilmember Farah Louis — faces an influx of mega-developments, food and job insecurity, and other quality-of-life issues excascerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Louis, who first won the seat in a special election to replace now-Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, is one of just a handful of New York City Councilmembers who are not term-limited this election cycle. According to current Campaign Finance Board filings, Louis has three challengers for the upcoming June primary.

Louis and two other candidates responded to Brooklyn Paper’s questionnaire. Below are their responses, in alphabetical order by last name: 

Anthony Beckford

City Council candidate Anthony Beckford.Courtesy of campaign

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Anthony Beckford: I am running for City Council to bring about change and to put a stop to the status quo. We have been going through so many struggles in our community and within the last year it has gotten even worse. The people deserve proper representation. The people deserve progressive legislation. The people deserve more than the bare minimum.

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in? 

AB: I am a single father, community leader, mentor, dedicated community member, veteran, son of Afro-Carib immigrant parents from Jamaica and the president of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn. I am a graduate of Midwood High School and have advocated for many issues that we face, such as housing, immigration, education, economical development and so much more. I am an entrepreneur and dedicated advocate for the people. I have lived in the district all of my life, have been a public servant to the community for most of my life and will do everything that I can to save the community.  

BP: What’s your political experience?

AB: I am an elected Kings County Democratic County Committee member. I am a progressive democrat. I have volunteered on many campaigns, such as Jumaane Williams, Bernie Sanders, AOC, President Obama and many others. I have also consulted on a few local races as well. I am the one that holds politicians accountable and work to help get advocates into office to help the people.

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them? 

AB: We must have truly affordable housing. That can only happen when we focus legislation on creating 100 percent affordable income housing and implementing my “Housing Justice Plan” which will create rent rollbacks, property tax rollbacks for small homeowners and stop the privatization of NYCHA.

The current incumbent voted to waste $11 billion in funding to expand mass incarceration with the building of four new jails in New York. I will work with my colleagues to repeal this plan and use those funds to build community centers, fund services and resources for the youth and their families, upgrade our schools and classrooms, provide access to community enrichment programs, free after school and free summer programs. The funds will also be used to bring back sports, music and arts to our schools as well as vocational training. I will also work to help bring about a Free CUNY for all New York City residents.

On immigration services: I will work with my colleagues to provide access to adequate immigration services and work with federal legislators to create an adequate pathway to citizenship.

On Gun Violence: the way to rid the community of gun violence is to actually trade the guns for opportunities, growth and a future. I will expand my Save Our Youth Initiative by having community-based organizations, follow it’s template to providing job opportunities, mentorship, mental health services, apprenticeships with union based jobs and so much more.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent? 

AB: There are many things that I will do differently than the incumbent. For one, I will never vote to expand mass incarceration. I will never co-sponsor a bill that can cause small homeowners, especially in our community to lose their homes and lose any landmark status that their homes may have received. I will never vote in a disastrous city budget that ended up cutting funds to sanitation, education, social services and housing. I will never cut funding to organizations based on petty politics and spite. I will never take this position for self interest. I will never abandon the community, especially in a great time of need. I will also be sure that I am accessible to community members.

BP: What endorsements do you have? 

AB: I have been endorsed by New York Communities for Change, Concerned Citizens For Change (chapter of NYPAN), League of Humane Voters – NY, Brooklyn Progressive Alliance, NYC Against ICE, Caribbean Unity Alliance, Sakia Fletcher (CUNY Graduate, Advocate and Former Medgar Evers SGA President), Amber Rivero (Domestic Violence Advocate and CUNY Advocate), Jamell Henderson (CUNY Graduate and Community Leader),  Corrinne Greene (Activist and Elected Bernie Sanders Presidential Delegate), Kenneth Lee (Medgar Evers SGA Member and Advocate), Sima Karetnaya (Director of the American Jewish Coalition and W.H.O. Certified Health Advisor), Anthony J. Finkel (Small Business Advocate), Sami Disu (Adjunct Professor, CUNY and Social Justice Advocate), Winsome Pendergrass (Housing Advocate, NYCC and Housing Justice For All Coalition Organizer).

Cyril Joseph

City Council candidate Cyril Joseph.Courtesy of campaign

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Cyril Joseph: I am running for City Council to bring healing and positive change to my district. I seek to solve the crises of housing, education, and jobs, advocate on behalf of small businesses, and protect immigrant rights. I believe that our community deserves a committed, honest, and reliable representative who will bring necessary goods and services which are not currently being provided to them. As a community activist with over 30 years of experience, I am committed to creating a district and a city where we can all thrive. 

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

CJ: I am an immigrant who migrated from the island of Saint Lucia in the West Indies in the early 1960’s. I spent my early years in the U.S. as a migrant farmworker putting food on America’s tables, then became a caseworker with the Department of Labor and with several nonprofits, where I connected immigrants with stable housing and high-paying jobs. I founded and ran my own nonprofit organization, Togetherness with Love Community Center, in Brooklyn for 15 years. In this capacity, I provided housing, jobs, and immigration assistance to members of our community. 

As a 25-year veteran of Community Board 4, I have assisted Brooklynites by getting the Q24 bus route restored, and I have advocated on behalf of small businesses to create an inclusive Business Improvement District (BID). 

I am currently retired and serve as Director of Umoja Community Garden, where I collaborate with the City Parks Department to provide green space, educational programs for our youth, and free food for folks who need it. I live in District 45 and have built relationships with business owners, churches, the 67th Precinct Council, and Community Board 17.

BP: What’s your political experience?

CJ: I have been elected twice as Democratic County Committee member, and I have been appointed as Democratic State Committee member. I also work for the Board of Elections as a coordinator. 

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

CJ: Our district lacks adequate housing, job training programs, support for small businesses, and mental health services.

I will cap rent increases, cut the incentives that are currently given to building contractors and real estate developers, and demand that a greater percentage of units be allocated to our community residents at sustainable rents. I will establish a job training center in our district to train our community in the skills for high-tech, high-paying jobs. I will offer on-the-job training programs along with targeted job training tax credits to local businesses who hire students and graduates of this center. 

To support small businesses, I will introduce legislation to cap the price of commercial rents. I will also implement the Small Business Act to give small businesses the funding they need, and allocate specific funding for women-owned and operated small businesses. I will fund also mental health trainings and services. I will hire mental health professionals to educate the community in detecting the early symptoms of mental health problems.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

CJ: My district is suffering due to a lack of investment, especially during this pandemic and economic crisis. Out of a budget of $1,626,500 for this year, our current councilmember gave over $1.3 million to organizations outside of District 45. This left only $209,000 for my district. It has also been noted that our current councilmember has not built deep relationships with residents and organizations in the District.

I believe in putting our community first, and I will provide resources to my district’s residents and businesses as a first priority. I will be transparent and committed in providing funds, and I will demand accountability and progress from the organizations that receive funding from me in order to ascertain that residents’ and businesses’ needs are met to satisfaction.

I am also committed to engaging with residents, businesses, and organizations within my district. I will hold educational forums on all issues which impact my district, and I pledge to further dialogue within the district community and my council office. 

BP: What endorsements do you have?

CJ: Reverend Terry Lee, By-ways & Hedges Youth for Christ Ministry, Real Life Times News, Pastor W.J. Smith, Bell Mount Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Sharon Cundy, South Bushwick United Methodist Church and Bishop Gerald Williams, Universal Outreach Ministry.

Farah Louis

City Councilmember Farah LouisCourtesy of Councilmember Farah Louis’ office

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

During my nearly two-year tenure as the councilmember for District 45, I hit the ground running to close our city’s disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how the racial inequities in healthcare, education, housing, justice, and parks devastated our communities. I fought alongside advocates to address the systemic racism and the worsening crises faced by Black and Brown people. We are reforming our hospitals to combat maternal and infant mortality while improving accessibility and awareness of supportive services for mental health.

With food insecurity at a record level, I expanded access to fresh, nutritious food through neighborhood pantries. As our students struggled with remote learning, I helped close the digital divide in our schools and sought ways to provide tech support and increase computer literacy among parents. I pushed for equity in parks and recreation and housing stability within our community. I have sponsored legislation to help protect and empower the marginalized populations of our city. 

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

FL: I identify as a progressive Black young woman born and raised in District 45 by immigrant parents who taught me the importance of fighting for the underdog by being outspoken for equal rights and opportunities for all. They instilled in me the importance of higher education and activated my passion for civic engagement. Through my parents’ experience and example, I became a community organizer to push back against sexism, racism, and xenophobia. Currently, I serve as the first woman elected as Councilmember for the 45th District in Brooklyn. I live in Flatbush. 

BP: What’s your political experience?

FL: As the incumbent, I had to deal with a pandemic that hit my community harder than the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s, an economic depression that left more black and brown Brooklynites unemployed than the 2008 crisis, and a social and political environment so volatile, that I marched in the streets for months protesting the mistreatment of my brothers and sisters at the hands of the police. If re-elected, I will continue to fight tooth and nail to secure services within my community, as I have been doing for the past year and a half.

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district, and how will you solve them?

Black maternal mortality and morbidityEast Flatbush has among the highest rate of maternal complications in the city, resulting from racial disparities in healthcare. As Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus and Vice Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, I called for an oversight hearing on Black maternal health and morbidity to hear from affected families, advocates, and the administration on the challenges and practical solutions. 

Housing Insecurity: I secured funding to build the first affordable housing development exclusively for seniors in the district. Seniors can now age in place at the BPHN Residence. Currently, I am working with Riseboro on a second senior housing project to combat the displacement of our aging population who live on a fixed income. I will continue to deepen partnerships with housing advocates and organizations to provide application assistance and services to support tenants and homeowners. 

Food Insecurity: During the onset of COVID-19, I created and successfully implemented a plan that would provide food access in the four corners of the district. As one of the city’s hardest-hit communities, we took the necessary steps to protect our constituents’ health and well-being. We worked in partnership with the mayor’s office and the food czar to create new GetFoodNYC sites and open 22 pantries to provide fresh food and PPE access. During the height of the food crisis, we partnered with MetCouncil to deliver over a thousand high-quality meals to the most frequented sites. 

Economic Insecurity: As small businesses closed their doors – temporarily or permanently, the unemployment rate soared. We are adding new jobs with businesses in the district like Smashburger and other major retailers. In addition, I was able to introduce several pieces of legislation to address COVID-19 matters relating to rent, mortgages, and small business relief. 

BP: What, if anything, will you do differently than you’ve done so far?

FL: I am lucky enough to be the 45th Council District’s representative after a hard-fought campaign in 2019. Over the past eighteen months, I have used my platform to work with the Mayor on significant community initiatives and brought him to the district to see pandemic-related relief efforts. During the contentious budget battle in the summer of 2020, I actively engaged in restoring funding for the Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEP), the City University of New York’s ASAP program, and increased support services for seniors, partially gained from the reduction of the NYPD’s budget. While there is much more work to be done, I intend to keep pushing ahead in the same fashion for my first full term. 

BP: What endorsements do you have? 

FL: 32BJ, DC37, RWDSU, UFT, Iron Workers, 1199 SEIU, NYSNA, CWA1 and HTC.

Additional candidates

Louis Cespedes did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Note: Some responses have been edited for brevity, clarity, and style consistency.