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2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council in the 42nd District

Clockwise from left: Charles Barron, Wilfredo Florentino, and Nikki Lucas.

The race for East New York 42nd District of the New York City Council is heating up, with term-limited Councilmember Inez Barron barred from seeking reelection. 

East New York, Brooklyn’s southeastern most neighborhood, has a population of around 173,000, and around 35.5 of local residents are foreign born, according to census data. Community Board 5, which covers East New York, lists the top priorities of the neighborhood as the need for health care services and control over zoning and land use. 

Whoever the district’s new representative is, they will wield significant influence over the rezoning process, which tends to be left up to the council member who oversees the area. East New York residents often worry about gentrification in the neighborhood, pointing to a recent influx of outsiders into nearby neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick — leading politicians there to typically oppose “luxury” development. 

Policing is another large issue for the predominantly-black neighborhood, which is covered by the 75th Precinct — the station house that boasts the record for being sued more than any other in the NYPD for police misconduct.  

Inez Barron’s husband, Assemblymember Charles Barron is seeking to re-claim the seat he first won in 2001, and held until 2013, when his wife, then in the Assembly, took over. At that point they swapped elected posts, with Charles heading to Albany, and Inez taking the reins of the city legislative position. 

Charles faces steep competition, however, from both community activists Nikki Lucas and Wilfredo Florentino. 

Brooklyn Paper asked the candidates about themselves, their political beliefs, their plans, and more. Check out their answers below:

Charles Barron 

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Charles Barron: I am running for City Council to build on an already productive track record of bringing in over 12,000 units of housing affordable to the income levels of the people in my community; three new one hundred million dollar schools; renovating five parks at over $40 million; securing over 2,000 jobs; securing over $40,000 million for CUNY students; and much more. During the coronavirus pandemic, I secured over 100,000 masks, hundreds of gallons of sanitizer, personal protective equipment for hospitals, and secured testing and vaccination sites in my community. During this crisis, I represent the best experienced, productive, accomplished independent, un-bought and un-bossed leadership.

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district.

CB: I have a great relationship with constituents of my district, particularly seniors, youth, tenant associations, block association presidents, clergy, business leaders, not-for-profit organization leaders, and grassroots leaders. I am known in my district because I show up and successfully respond to my constituents in their time of need. I have been a strong advocate and provided resources for the stakeholders in my district and co-sponsored legislation on the city and state level that improve the quality of life for the people in my district. In addition, I have been a strong advocate during city and state budget negotiations in securing much needed resources regarding healthcare, housing, education, job creation and anti-violence funding.

BP: What’s your political experience?

CB: I served 12 years in the New York City Council, with eight of those years as Chair of the Committee on Higher Education. I am currently serving in my sixth year in the New York State Assembly where I serve on several committees including Health, Housing, Energy and Aging.

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

CB: The biggest challenges are poverty, unemployment, and crime. I will address these issues by continuing to fight for anti-poverty money, work force development money, and funding for anti-violence programs like Man Up!, Inc.

BP: What will you do differently than your opponents in the race?

CB: I will utilize my experience in the city and state legislative bodies to secure budget appropriations that will enhance the quality of life for the people in my district, and I will use my experience as a legislator to sponsor and co-sponsor legislation that will address a myriad of issues for my district. No other candidate in my race has my level of experience and proven productive leadership.

BP: What endorsements do you have? 

CB: We are still in the endorsement interviewing process and we anticipate that we will get numerous union and community leadership endorsements.

Wilfredo Florentino

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Wilfredo Florentino: I am a parent, homeowner, and nonprofit leader in my community who has dedicated their entire life to service. Our district suffers from historic and record disenfranchisement and disinvestment. I’m running to not only continue to serve, but create space for community co-governance and self determination. 

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district.

WF: I’m a Brooklynite born and raised, and the son of Spanish speaking immigrants. I attended NYC public schools, served in the US Army and led soldiers during a period of international turmoil. I have worked in city and state government, and have served on my local Community Board for 11 years – the majority of that time as Chair of the Transportation Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 5. I am a board member of the New Lots Nehemiah Homeowners Association, whose parent organization represents over 5,000 homeowners in East New York and Brownsville. I am also the co-founder of Rooted Theater Company, the only theater company in East Brooklyn dedicated to producing socially relevant theater based on community experiences. With my husband we are raising our two daughters in our community, and we must ensure that they – along with all of our neighbors – have the same opportunities as those in more affluent zip codes. 

BP: What’s your political experience?

WF: I am not a politician, and have never run for elected office. I am an active community member who has been on the ground doing work to ensure equity, justice and transparency in the way that government works for us – from organizing around the Elected Civilian Review Board, the designation of East New York as the first Cease and Desist Zone in the Borough and fighting for the East New York Community Land Trust among others. I am a proud funding board member of New Kings Democrats, a Brooklyn-based progressive, grassroots political organization committed to bringing transparency, accountability, and inclusionary democracy to the Kings County Democratic Party. My first memory of political activation is during elementary school and my mother taking me with her to hand out flyers for a local politician Nydia Velasquez, a Laitinx woman who looked and sounded like her. Representation matters, and as someone living an intersectional existence I want to be sure that we create safe spaces and opportunity for everyone in our community. I’ve also worked on some incredible campaigns, Nydia Velázquez for Congress, Carolyn Maloney for Congress, Diana Reyna for New York City Council, Barack Obama for President and Joe Biden for President among others.

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

WF: As a community and city, COVID recovery must be our top priority. As a member of the New York City Council, I will prioritize legislation that directly addresses our broken societal systems: equitably creating and protecting jobs, education – and ensuring that housing, healthcare and access to internet are human rights! Our city is on the precipice of an extraordinary fiscal crisis. No idea should be left off the table in order to ensure that our most vulnerable do not continue to suffer. For five years I was a Project Manager for Loans, Grants & Special Initiatives for Empire State Development where I managed a $3B portfolio focused on job creation and retention throughout New York State. Our legislative priorities must create opportunity and space for communities to rise and thrive. 

BP: What will you do differently than your opponents in the race?

WF: The COVID pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities that exist in our community. Zip code 11239, which is part of the 42nd District, has suffered from the highest COVID infection rate in the city. Our local infrastructure suffers from lack of intentional organizing, and spaces for community exchange, which has lead to information and resources not getting to those who most need it. We must centralize resource sharing in our community ensuring that folks don’t continue to be left behind. Our Equity, Justice and Transparency Platform was born from years of virtual community listening sessions and one of the top suggestion was the streamlining of information to the community.

BP: What endorsements do you have? 

WF: Our campaign is leading in our race with grassroots endorsements. We have been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office, in November 2020, we were endorsed by Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s only LGBTQ Democratic club. We have also been endorsed by Run for Something, a national organization that supports and encourages first time candidates, Leftists for Office, Churches United for Fair Housing Action, a borough-wide non profit committed to housing and immigrants rights, and Citizen Action of New York, a city-wide organization fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice. Our 7th and most recent endorsement is from the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).

Nikki Lucas

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council? 

Nikki Lucas: I am running for City Council in the 42nd District because I am a 40 year resident of East New York and I have been advocating for East New York residents for the past 20 years. As a City Council member I will be able to create legislation that would help those who I have been advocating for, such as seniors, educators and students. We need legislation that will stop the rise of homelessness in the District. East New York is number one in homelessness in the city and this trend is unsustainable. The health disparity is another major problem that has not been addressed. During the pandemic, in Starrett City, where I have been living for the past 40 years, the death toll was among the highest in the city during the pandemic because the district is ill-prepared for disasters of any kind.

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district.

NL: As a 40-year resident of Starrett City and an advocate for East New York residents, I implemented many programs and initiatives that continue to uplift and empower residents throughout Brooklyn and citywide. For the past three years I partnered with the New York for Seniors initiative, bringing the New York for Seniors Health & Wellness Resource Series to seniors and caregivers throughout New York City. I partner with the senior centers to make sure the seniors are aware of the resources that are available at these health fairs and panel discussions.

I also partner with HealthyNYC, an initiative that brings healthcare information to families and children, including mental health awareness panel discussions and workshops. 

I am the Founder and President of The People First Democratic Club and The People First Education Fund. This organization provides opportunities for members of the community to become educated and engaged in concerns and decisions with legislators of all levels of government, civil service agencies and organizations that impact their quality of life.

I was recently selected by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, to serve as a member of the East New York Neighborhood Advisory Board. I also served as member of the Brookdale Hospital Advisory Board. I also served on the Education, Economic Development and Sanitation/Environmental Protection committees on Community Board 5.

BP: What’s your political experience? 

NL: I was the NY State Committee Member in East New York, defeating Inez Barron’s Chief of Staff.

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

NL: The biggest problem in the district is the continuous rise in homelessness. I would look to create legislation or policy that will turn hotel shelters into permanent housing for families in need. I am a founding member in the Coalition to Save NYCHA, which is a coalition that is fighting against the privatization of NYCHA, keeping NYCHA out of the hands of private developers. With the homeless crisis in the district we cannot turn over our only real source of low income housing to private developers.  

BP: What will you do differently than your opponents in the race? 

NL: One of my opponents has been in either the City Council or Assembly for the past 20 years and during this time homelessness has skyrocketed in the district and he has not authored any legislation to decrease this trend.  This same opponent has not had any legislation passed, which should be a person’s number one reason for becoming a legislator. I would create legislation that would positively impact the lives of residents in the 42nd District. My opponent is notorious for not being able to work with legislators on the State or Federal levels. In order to move the community forward you need to create partnerships with all levels of government.  I have positive relationships with the Senator and Congressman in the district and they are aware of my concerns.  We will work together to fight homelessness. Please see my plan, the 21st Century Rescue Plan for East Brooklyn. In the coming weeks I will be working with other candidates and community members to roll out a series of Town Halls , which will address each aspect of the plan.

BP: What endorsements do you have?

United Federation of Teachers (UFT); DC9 IPUT; Progressive Action; 21 in’21; Congress Member Hakeem Jeffries; Sen. Roxanne Persaud; District Leader Cory Provost; Former Congress Member Ed Towns; Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte; District Leader Ari Kagan; District Leader David Schwartz; District Leader Melba Brown; District Leader Anthony Jones

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

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