When Councilmember Robert Cornegy’s term expires at the end of this year, his successor will take over one of the most dynamic council districts in Brooklyn.
The district spans Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, and the next legislator will have to contend with the recovery from COVID, as well as the existing crises of gun violence, a lack of affordable housing, deed theft, struggling small businesses, and deteriorating conditions in public housing.
The race to replace Cornegy is one of the most crowded in the borough with 12 candidates filed to run, though there are only half-dozen active campaigns with significant fundraising.
Here’s a rundown of those six candidates in the race for Council:
Money raised through contributions: $33,093
Democratic District Leader and Community Board 3 District Manager Henry Butler comes into the race with the weight of the New York political establishment behind him, already boasting endorsements from some of the city’s biggest labor unions, including 32BJ SEIU, the United Federation of Teachers, Hotel Trades Council, District Council 37, the New York State Nurses Association, and the Communications Workers of America.
The candidate, unsurprisingly given his role as a district leader, can count on bigwigs of the Brooklyn Democratic Party for support. Campaign finance filings show Party Boss Rodneyese Bichotte gave $175 to his campaign on Jan. 9.
Butler touts a list of improvements he has helped secure for the neighborhood through his posts, including the reopening of the Bedford Avenue entrance at the Nostrand Avenue station, funding for a new sanitation garage and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Housing Initiative, as well as participation in fights to save the B25 bus line and Interfaith Hospital.
“A lot of candidates talk about what they want to do, but I can talk about what I have already done for our community,” Butler said. “During a time of crisis we need experienced leadership.”
Butler was one of three candidates to qualify for matching funds at the most recent period, receiving $160,444.
Money raised through contributions: $22,782
Regina Edwards, a coordinating manager at Kings County Hospital in Flatbush and longtime New York City Health and Hospitals administrator, says she is running to give back to the community she has lived in for 30 years.
Edwards said she would push for legislation to revamp the city’s Third-Party Transfer law, a home-seizure program that has been found to unfairly target communities of color like the 36th District.
“Their tactics of targeting Black and brown communities is totally unacceptable and should be held accountable,” she said.
Edwards argues her 20 years of experience as a healthcare administrator, combined with 10 years in the corporate world, have prepared her for the challenges of serving in the council.
“I am new to the political arena, although, with my skill set, effective communication skills, and my level of commitment to the people of this great district, I would be a great asset to the district and city council,” she said.
Money Raised through contributions: $295
John Joyner, who ran for the 36th district in 2017 as a write-in candidate, says he plans to focus his campaign on social development, gun violence, affordable housing, and family support services.
The 30-year-old entrepreneur is the founder of the housing group Say No Irresponsible Development and the political group the Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights Political Coalition, and has worked on numerous political campaigns including Diana Richardson’s 2015 assembly campaign and Geoffrey Davis’s 2014 district leader campaign.
Joyner argues his life experiences make him the best candidate.
“The only difference between me and the other candidates are our experiences,” he said. “I not only know our communities’ issues and have solutions, I’ve lived them, and through them. From gentrification, homelessness and section 8 to the lack of family supportive services, sexual abuse, unequal access to investment funds for my small business, and fear of gang and gun violence.”
Money raised through contributions: $33,141
A current employee of the de Blasio administration and former staffer for outgoing Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Tahirah Moore arguably has the most political experience out of any of the 36th District candidates.
During her time in Cornegy’s office, Moore, who was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Marcy Houses, worked to combat deed theft and the displacement of low-income tenants, problems she identified as among the biggest facing the district today, along with gentrification, a lack of repairs for NYCHA buildings, underfunded schools, and gun violence.
The most important part of addressing those problems is involving community members in the planning and resolution process, according to Moore.
The candidate vowed to implement more protections for homeowners from scammers, push for more housing that is in line with the neighborhoods Area Median Income, and work with state and federal officials to secure more funding for schools and public housing.
To address gun violence, Moore said she would work with the crisis management system to develop district-specific community lead approaches to stem shootings.
Moore was one of two candidates to qualify for matching funds in the most recent period, receiving $149,264.
Money raised through contributions: $53,116
Chi Ossé, a 22-year-old activist, launched his campaign for the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights council seat shortly after the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests hit a fever pitch. Ossé became a protest organizer with the grassroots group Warriors in the Garden after attending a number of marches in the late spring, and soon after launched his campaign.
“During my work as an activist organizer, I realized the City Council was a major key to changing the culture and tactics of the city’s cops,” Ossé said.
Along with defunding the NYPD, Ossé said he hopes to address the “stability crisis” rocking central Brooklyn, citing tenants struggling to make rent, small businesses struggling to keep their doors open, and public housing residents dealing with poor living conditions.
Ossé’s foray into the political activism world did not begin until 2020, but he argues his lifelong residency of Crown Heights combined with his on-the-ground work during the past year makes him a viable candidate.
“I am the only candidate that is actually doing the work on the ground. I am marching in the streets, cleaning up my parks and community gardens, volunteering with my neighborhood’s mutual aid organizations and talking to my constituents first hand,” he said. “I am not the establishment, far from it.”
Ossé received $160,444 in matching funds, his campaign announced in February.
Money raised through contributions: 33,093
After unsuccessful runs for City Council in 2013 and District Leader in 2020, pastor and community organizer Robert Waterman is giving the 36th district seat another shot.
Waterman has been a pastor at the Antioch Baptist Church for two decades, has served as the chair of the Interfaith Medical Center board, and the vice-chair of One Brooklyn Health.
“I have a long history of working in my community as a ‘bridger’ to bring people together and make Brooklyn a better place to raise a family, to give our youth positive alternatives, and make our neighborhoods vibrant places where we can work, thrive, and retire,” Waterman said.
Waterman said he would work to upgrade school buildings in the district, and build affordable housing by “standing up” to developers through the council’s powers on land use decisions.
“As our city council member, I will put meeting the challenges we face front and center, and demand our city do better so everyone who works 40 hours a week can find a decent place to live, support their family, give their children the education they need to succeed and retire with dignity,” he said.
Money raised through contributions: $25,858
Activist candidate Jason Walker enters the race with years of experience working in grassroots causes around New York. The Washington D.C. native has lived in New York since 2012, when he moved to New York as an Americorps fellow and volunteered with the Crown Heights chapter of the cure violence group Save Our Streets, before becoming an organizer with Vocal New York where he has worked on housing and homelessness issues.
To combat homelessness, Walker has proposed raising the citywide minimum wage to $25, providing subsidies for low income families that ensure they are not paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent, ensuring tenants facing eviction have the right to counsel, and requiring that all new developments — including those built as-of-right — dedicate 20 percent of their units to residents of the city shelter system.
“I have committed my work to improving the lives of our most vulnerable New Yorkers and know and understand what it takes to pass bold progressive policies and advance social justice issues that benefit our most vulnerable and marginalized New Yorkers,” Walker said.
Also filed to run for the seat as of March 2 are Gregory Green, Shadoe Tarver, Ronald Colter, Maya Cantrell, and Reginald Swiney. All either could not be reached or did not respond to requests to be interviewed.