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Meet the candidates for Brooklyn borough president

brooklyn borough president
Meet 11 of the 14 candidates running for borough president.
Jim Henderson / Wikicommons

More than a dozen candidates are squaring off for the borough presidency — and with the primary less than three months away, the race is heating up. The winner of the Democratic primary in June will presumably sweep the general election in November and land in Borough Hall in January 2022. 

The post has been held by Eric Adams, who is now running for mayor, since 2014. The next borough president will be tasked proposing legislation, approving zoning changes, making citywide budget recommendations, and directing for land use. Borough presidents appoint members to the New York City Planning Commission, and members to other local boards.

Who is running?

Candidates as of June 22 include Councilmembers Robert E. Cornegy Jr., Antonio ReynosoMathieu EugeneAssemblymember Jo Anne Simon, and community leaders Kimberly Council, Khari Edwards, Robert Elstein, Pearlene Fields, Anthony Jones, Lamor Miller-Whitehead, Trisha Ocona, and Robert Ramos Jr.

Earlier this year, Schneps Media sent all of the candidates a brief questionnaire about the borough’s issues, their favorite restaurants and businesses, and what they plan to bring to Brooklyn’s top seat. Eleven of the candidates got back to us. Read their responses, listed in alphabetical order, either by scrolling down, or by clicking their names in the list above. Additional information has been included on candidates Ocona and Ramos Jr.

Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.

borough president candidates
City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr. making an announcement.Contributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

What truly makes Brooklyn great are the diverse, unique, visionary and dynamic people who comprise this magnificent borough. The story of Brooklyn is one of vibrant innovators pushing the envelope in commerce and economic development; science and technology; arts and culture: social and racial justice; entertainment; green energy; education; cuisine; and so much more. We must market the energy of the people of Brooklyn, because ours is unmatched anywhere on the globe. If you want to be in the midst of an electric city atmosphere, surrounded by smart, inventive, hungry, creative people who look like the entire world — then you only want to be in Brooklyn. As Borough President, my job will be to make sure the world knows it.

Favorite restaurants and businesses: Peaches HotHouse in Bed-Stuy; Michael’s in Marine Park; Tilly’s in Bed-Stuy; MEAT in Crown Heights; Marco Polo in Carroll Gardens.

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

We must break the grip of COVID. This means vaccinating as many people as we can, as quickly as possible; maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing until the virus is crushed; fighting hunger; and making sure everyone gets the healthcare they need.We must restart our economy. This can be done by reopening small businesses safely; expanding MWBEs; leveraging technology to help Brooklyn businesses grow and putting Brooklynites to work; and supporting smart, responsible development that benefits communities, provides affordable housing, and helps grow accessible jobs locally. We must continue to make social and racial justice progress — while also keeping our neighborhoods safe. 

Bigotry and hate must be driven from Brooklyn and NYC, no matter its form.  And we need policing that lowers crime while also treating every Brooklynite with respect.  We need to work with police to ensure safety for all Brooklynites, but also reform how police and communities interact — real discipline and accountability for cops who break the rules, and real support for cops who are out there every day bravely protecting us from harm.

Kim Council

borough president candidates
Kim CouncilContributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit, and do business in?

Brooklyn is one of the great cultural capitals of the world. The pandemic is threatening that status, and as borough president, I’m committed to supporting the businesses, nonprofits, and institutions that make our borough great.

As borough president, I’ll create a guide to Brooklyn’s hidden treasures, both online and in print, that features cultural and leisure businesses and institutions in every neighborhood. I’ll continually highlight them with weekends dedicated to each neighborhood throughout the year.

I’ll also organize a Restaurant Week-style event for cultural businesses – music venues, art galleries, museums and the like – to encourage New Yorkers to get out and explore every corner of Brooklyn.

I’ll also help small businesses in Brooklyn get started and grow through a Small Business Resource Center in Borough Hall. It’ll be a one stop shop that helps business owners with anything they might need help with — anything. As the vice chair of the Local Development Corporation of East New York, I’ve already been doing exactly this kind of work. I’ll make sure every business in Brooklyn has access to the same breadth of resources and support.

Favorite restaurants and businesses: Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, Kum Kau Chinese Restaurant, Lindenwood Diner, Exotic Cutz, and Shic by Soketah

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

Affordable housing, healthcare, and education

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Time and again, I see communities come together to solve problems when the government fails us. Working with community nonprofits, I’ve developed 1,000 units of truly affordable housing, opened an affordable health clinic, expanded a food pantry, organized youth extracurricular programs, provided housing and resources for seniors, launched violence interruption programs, and overseen programs that help small businesses. And I did all of this while working full time as a law librarian and raising two kids.

Rob Elstein

brooklyn borough president
Rob ElsteinContributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

Brooklyn is the most diverse place in the world and is home to an incredible number of historical pioneers and contemporary masters. With the help of our artists and community leaders, I aim to turn Brooklyn into the world’s largest, most beautiful public art gallery. Through Borough Hall discretionary funding, we will also make Brooklyn a much cleaner and greener community. Through the Reimagined Schools and Safety Commission, we will develop a plan for safe neighborhoods and the best school system in America.

Favorite restaurants and businesses: D’Vine Taste (Park Slope), Brancaccio’s, Food Shop (Windsor Terrace), Greenlight Bookstore (Flatbush), Cafe Tibet (Flatbush), King Mother (Flatbush).

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

The lack of a comprehensive plan to address climate change in NYC is the most urgent issue we must address. Luxury real estate developments that displace neighbors and community businesses are the primary cause of gentrification and are also extremely damaging to our environment. School segregation, overcrowding and mayoral mishandling of schools have resulted in a school system that has stalled in making progress; we need to draw new school district lines to address school segregation and overcrowding and empower the school community, staff, parents and students to make decisions for the future of our schools.

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

I’ve dedicated my career to serving the students of Brooklyn as a theater and English teacher at Edward R. Murrow High School. One of the most demanding aspects of my pedagogy is the direction of large scale musicals. In 2010, I directed a production of Les Miserables with more than 90 students in the cast. A director must present a vision, put a team together and work tirelessly everyday to make the vision a reality. After a long day of teaching, it isn’t always easy to find the energy to continue for another three-and-a-half hours; it’s only possible because of the dedication of my students and colleagues. Whenever I am afforded a leadership role and a group of eager collaborators, I am proud to say I have facilitated some amazing accomplishments.

Khari Edwards

borough president candidates
Khari Edwards.Contributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

As borough president, I will be Brooklyn’s greatest cheerleader but let me be clear, Brooklyn is already an outstanding community to live, work, visit and do business in. We are home to vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, amazing people, world class museums and parks, and a rich history. This is why pre-COVID, Brooklyn’s economy saw record growth and I am confident that growth will continue when we fully recover and reopen from the pandemic.

Favorite restaurants and businesses: Suede, Ryerson Brooklyn, The Islands, Cafe Rue Dix, Nick’s Lobster.

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

The three most important issues Brooklyn is facing are healthcare, housing and education. Each of these issues are interconnected and have been exasperated by the pandemic. Without adequate healthcare, especially a successful vaccination effort, we will not be able to reopen businesses and schools safely. During the pandemic, we have seen countless families struggle to pay their rent. We need a Borough President who will put people first in Brooklyn’s post-COVID recovery and I am that candidate.

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

Through my 20 years of work in healthcare and government, I have more experience than my opponents in representing the entire borough. This is a grassroots job and I know how to organize a food pantry and not just show up for one. From day one, I will be working with every community, from Brighton Beach to Bushwick, to ensure they have a voice in Borough Hall.

Mathieu Eugene

borough president candidates
Councilmember Mathieu EugenePhoebe Taylor Vuolo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit, and do business in?

I have lived in Brooklyn for many years, and I have seen the uniqueness of this borough and the qualities it has that attract people from all walks of life and motivates them to be successful. This is a historic area, where entrepreneurs are inspired to make a difference in their communities. We need to capitalize on the passion that we find in our neighborhoods and build Brooklyn as a center of commerce and industry. I envision this borough as a global destination for people who want to build their dreams and create a sustainable infrastructure for the future. 

Favorite restaurants and businesses: I do not have a favorite business that I frequent because there are so many business owners who contribute to our economy and they are all hard working people. 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

The three most pressing issues facing the borough are the state of healthcare in the wake of COVID-19, more opportunities for job creation to strengthen the workforce, and the need to expand affordable housing for all New Yorkers, regardless of socioeconomic status. There remain significant inequalities in Brooklyn in terms of resources and opportunities that different communities have access to, and we need to change that and help more people improve their quality of life. By working together, we have the power to solve these issues, and as Borough President I will focus on achieving equality in those areas.

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

I have been a public servant all my life, including the time I spent living abroad, many years before I was elected, when I created and ran organizations that allowed me to connect and interact with people from different cultures. Brooklyn is a melting pot, and I want to use my experience creating partnerships among diverse communities to resolve many of the issues facing our borough. As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am committed to working to rebuild the economy and strengthen our local institutions so that we can be prepared for a more prosperous future.

Pearlene S. Fields

borough president candidates
Pearlene S. Fields.Contributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in? 

I intend to be the biggest cheerleader this borough has had since Marty Markowitz. I will tout the excellent diverse people, the amazing shopping, the tasty food, and the charm of each community as they each have different perspectives of Brooklyn to offer. They can tour our historic Weeksville, created by African Americans, or when the city opens up, they can visit historic Kings theater then mosey on down to our very own Chinatown. Brooklyn is also a great place to start a business and I will make sure everyone knows that. 

Favorite restaurants and businesses: My favorite restaurant in Brooklyn is Junior’s downtown. I love their chicken salad sandwiches and I could eat a whole cherry cheesecake if gravity and father time wasn’t so mean, after-all they do make the best cheesecake in the world. Unfortunately, my favorite place to get a roti was on the corner of Rogers avenue and Church avenue called Nio’s Trinidad Roti shop. They recently closed so that the building could be demolished for more development to happen. Which is a shame. I also love Napoli’s Pizza at 594 Crescent in East NY, BBQ’s in the Junction and there is nothing like Nathan’s from Coney Island. 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough? 

Housing is number one. There is a lot of development happening, which is pushing out the local community members from renters who can no longer afford the high rents to homeowners who are seeing their property taxes rise. And as someone who was once homeless herself, I will fight for “real” affordable housing and lower property taxes because what they’re doing isn’t right. We also need to better fund our public schools, create apprenticeships, fund programs, and raise teachers’ pay. Finally, we need to make sure small businesses have easier access to capital especially in marginalized communities so they can bounce back and thrive after going through this pandemic. 

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?  

I am not a politician so I am reliant on my lived experiences. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, so I have an idea of our wants and needs. My experience as board president for Sierra House fostered my leadership skills and taught me the importance of connecting with stakeholders, my experience within the United Nations system prepared me for a multicultural environment, and my experience serving on Community Board 17 helped me better understand serving the community.

Anthony T. Jones

borough president candidates
District Leader Anthony JonesContributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business?

That’s a great question! Like every big city in the United States, Brooklyn, with a population of about 2.5 million people, has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I believe that my very first duty as Brooklyn’s next borough president is to renew a sense of optimism, confidence, and exciting possibilities in all Brooklynites. Secondly, I will focus relentlessly on building back Brooklyn – bigger and better – our small business community that is essential and paramount to both lowering unemployment and providing new investments in our communities. I will also work to create a safe and secure environment for families to raise children, and promote Brooklyn’s historic sites as the foundation for building a post-COVID-19 21st century “Brooklyn tourism product.”

Favorite restaurants and businesses: That’s a hard one! But my five top restaurants are Footprints Café – Brooklyn and New York City’s premier Caribbean restaurant that serves up its famous “Rasta Pasta” dishes. Then I would pick Peter Luger Steak House for obvious reasons, and Greenhouse Café in Bay Ridge that serves up a mean onion soup! Crab Stop in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn is all about Cajun food and finally there is Mo’s Original that’s popular for barbeque.

 What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

There is absolutely no doubt that Brooklyn faces many challenges today. All of these challenges are the result of high unemployment, systemic and endemic poverty, and a lack of political will. In my view the top three most pressing issues are: poverty alleviation and how to lift people out of poverty. Housing – including rampant and rapid gentrification and an acute lack of real and genuine affordable housing and access to quality, affordable healthcare. In this respect I applaud and support the Biden Administration’s retooling and enhancing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a renewed focus on low-income, poor Americans.

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

First, I am the only “Blue Collar” candidate in this race. I know what it is to be poor and homeless. I know what it is to struggle each and every day to get ahead, to put food on the table, and keep a roof over the heads of my family. This life experience has prepared me to be sensitive to the needs of all Brooklynites – especially the poor and powerless without a voice. I will be the VOICE OF THE VOICELESS at Borough Hall. I’ve been a District Leader and have a history of working with community leaders, elected officials, the faith community and social justice advocates as well as with law enforcement, bringing all together for the betterment of the community, building bridges of cooperation and of understanding.

Lamor Miller-Whitehead

brooklyn borough president candidates
Lamor Miller-WhiteheadFacebook photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

Our current borough president, Eric Adams, has done a great job leading our borough. When he’s elected mayor, and I’m elected borough president, I will work closely with him and his administration to promote Brooklyn through our rich culture of entertainment, development, and diversity. I will work with our state and city tourist department to market Brooklyn as the place to hold conferences. I plan to work with community stakeholders, neighborhood leaders, public safety officials to move in one accord to build a better Brooklyn.

Favorite restaurants and businesses: I love all Brooklyn restaurants; you can catch my family and me a little bit of everywhere depending on what my wife and kids say. Brooklyn has a rich history of diverse restaurants, and I love them all. 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

The top three issues facing our borough are obviously COVID and vaccination, development and rent control, and criminal justice reform. 

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

The aspect that speak best to my abilities, I’m not a career politician. I’m not running because I’m term-limited, or because I seek higher office. I care a great deal about Brooklyn. I truly want everyone to thrive and live their best life. I am Brooklyn, it’s failures and successes. I know, I can take Brooklyn to the next level. 

Antonio Reynoso

borough president candidates
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso advocates for the census count in 2020.Photo by Ariama C. Long

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

I love Brooklyn. I love our neighborhoods, our communities, our diversity, our arts and culture — everything. I believe that Brooklyn is the embodiment of the success of progressive values and policies, and it is truly the progressive heart of our state and nation. For so many, the American dream started in Brooklyn, and I am confident that that will continue to be the case if we invest in building Brooklyn back from the COVID pandemic. Brooklyn has given me everything I have, now it’s my turn to give back. 

Favorite restaurants and businesses: Paulie Gees; L&B Spumoni Gardens; Puerto Plata; Carnaval; Crest Hardware. 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

A just COVID recovery. The COVID pandemic has ravaged our communities. From small business support to improved access to healthcare, we need a bold vision for how we are going to build back our communities. This starts with addressing the immediate needs of those most impacted while confronting long-standing inequities that the pandemic exposed. 

Climate change and environmental justice. Climate change is the greatest threat facing us today, particularly in Brooklyn, a borough surrounded entirely by water. I am committed to taking bold, swift action to fight climate change and address environmental injustices in frontline communities. 

Housing affordability and homelessness. Housing is a human right, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to access affordable, reliable housing in our borough. With homelessness spiraling out of control, a looming eviction and foreclosure crisis, and continued overcrowding and displacement, I will use the power of the Borough President’s office to protect existing affordable housing and increase Brooklyn’s affordable housing stock. 

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president?

As someone who grew up in the Southside of Williamsburg, in a family that relied on government assistance, I understand the obstacles that so many residents face and the critical role that government can play in overcoming them. My lived experiences and desire to give back have translated into my becoming an accomplished City Councilmember. 

Jo Anne Simon

Assemblymember Jo Anne SimonContributed photo

How do you plan to market your borough as a place to live, work, visit and do business in?

Despite our city’s incredible diversity, we must be honest and proactive about the inequities that make opportunity harder for so many in our borough. I will work towards a more vibrant and inclusive Brooklyn, regardless of race, class, age, gender or sexual orientation. I’m running to create a Brooklyn where communities have a real voice to determine how their neighborhoods grow and change, and that uplifts working families and small businesses over developers and corporations. Brooklyn can become the worldwide model for equitable, sustainable urban life, but it will take serious community investment in climate resilience, creating safe streets, and transforming public safety to recover from COVID-19 and to create lasting social justice. 

Favorite restaurants and businesses: Jordan’s Lobster Dock, Chez Oskar, Gumbo, Cafe Luluc, Convivium Osteria. 

What, in your opinion, are the top three most pressing issues facing the borough?

We must preserve Brooklyn’s affordable housing stock and ensure that new affordable housing is more deeply affordable. I have worked closely to bring community interests to the forefront of any development and land use decisions, so that when rezoning occur developers can work toward fulfilling community priorities, addressing neighborhood concerns, ensuring environmental justice. 

We need to work in collaboration with community leaders, violence interrupters and law enforcement agencies to reduce gun violence in Brooklyn without over policing our communities. The Brownsville Safety Alliance was an encouraging pilot program that demonstrated we can rely on local validators – working in good faith partnership with the NYPD – to reduce violent crime, instead of only sending more police officers into the community when crime rates go up. We need to further invest in our most marginalized communities – such as providing more afterschool programs and summer youth employment opportunities – to further community wellness and promote public safety.

Fully funding our schools and ensuring schools provide timely interventions to students with learning disabilities are essential steps to ensure our children are well-prepared to accomplish their goals in life – and a critical step in ending the school-to-prison pipeline. 

What aspect of your background speaks best to your abilities as a borough president? 

I am a longtime community activist, a disability civil rights attorney, and progressive assemblymember for six years. I am running to become the first ever woman Brooklyn president. Not only is it time for a woman to lead Brooklyn, but I am a woman with substantial experience in the community, legal, and political arenas. I am a fierce advocate for Brooklyn and I have never shied away from standing up to powerful interests or big developers. I am an extraordinarily accessible legislator, with a storefront office and frequently hosting public meet and greets.

Trisha Ocona and Robert Ramos Jr.

Trisha Ocona, a real estate broker, was a late entrant to the race, announcing only at the tail end of March. She is an appointee of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to the state’s Board of Real Estate, which sets policies on licensure for real estate professionals, and has also served on Community Board 17. She has said that her main priority as beep is to combat “predatory housing practices.”

Rob Ramos is the President of District Council 37’s Local 205 Daycare Workers Union, a position he first held in 2015 and which he recently reassumed, and formerly served on CUNY’s board of trustees. Ramos cites education inequality, affordable housing, homelessness, and environmental justice as issues he would prioritize as beep. He has been an early childhood educator for nearly two decades; he has long been a proponent of pay equity for daycare workers with city public school teachers, which Local 205 won in 2019.

Additional reporting by Ben Brachfeld

This story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com

Update (June 22): This story has been updated to include the most up-to-date information for voters.

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