Hospital exec Khari Edwards launches candidacy for borough president with focus on addressing homelessness

Khari Edwards
Khari Edwards for Brooklyn

Brookdale Hospital executive Khari Edwards officially launches his campaign for Brooklyn borough president this week, entering a growing field of hopefuls looking to replace outgoing beep Eric Adams in 2021.

Edwards, who came to the public health world after a 20-year career as a public servant that included writing healthcare policy for the state Senate, says he hopes to address Brooklyn’s growing housing crisis through a three-point plan.

“Brooklyn is no longer equitable for everyone,” Edwards told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s not just that Brooklyn is just unaffordable, what it is is that if I’m someone making a six figure salary and I have a wife and three children, there is no space for me.”

Edwards’ housing proposal addresses homelessness, long term housing for working class people, and building more appropriately sized units for families through the zoning process — one of the few areas of city government where borough presidents have a direct influence.

To address the homelessness crisis, Edwards proposes building more family-structured dwellings that would serve as places to move working-class homeless families out of the shelter system and into permanent housing. The additional units should in theory increase the amount of family sized homes.

“Now what we do is we increase the availability for families having two or three kids, getting them out of these family shelters and taking our existing homeless population which is usually formerly incarcerated men and women, people who are drug addicted, or aged out of foster care,” Edwards said. “Get them off the streets by moving them into now vacated family shelters, giving them a room, giving them a bathroom, giving them respectability so now they look at themselves as not just living on the street, but they have a place to feel like a human being.” 

In order to increase affordable units, Edwards also wants to work with state legislators to revise the 421-a tax abatement — which offers tax credits to developers for building multi-family buildings in New York — to require that new buildings be 50 percent below-market-rate.

Edwards now joins a number of other local pols running for the seat, including Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, along with Council Members Antonio Reynoso, Robert Cornegy, and Mathieu Eugene.  

Edwards says he thinks his experience in the public health realm and as a staffer in local government make him uniquely positioned to ascend to Borough Hall, due to the hands-on requirements of the position. His experience addressing issues head-on rather than dealing purely in policy like most of the other Borough President candidates is more useful for the role of the beep, he argued. 

“I don’t take anything away from the legislators, I think they do a great job, but I think the borough presidency is something different, is something a little more front facing, more in the weeds than some of these other elected offices,” he said.