Brooklyn’s 56th Assembly District race heats up as progressive newcomer challenges incumbent

The race for Brooklyn’s 56th Assembly District is heating up, with first-time candidate Eon Tyrell Huntley (right) vying to unseat Democratic incumbent Stefani Zinerman (left).
File photo/Photo courtesy of Eon Tyrell Huntley’s campaign on Facebook

As New Yorkers head into the primary election on Tuesday — and as most eyes are on the hotly contested race between Bronx Rep. Jamaal Bowman and his challenger, Westchester County Executive George Latimer — another race has been heating up in Brooklyn’s 56th Assembly District, where first-time candidate Eon Tyrell Huntley is vying to unseat Democratic incumbent Stefani Zinerman.

Huntley, a lifelong Brooklynite backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, is running on the issues of affordable housing, world-class education and free, universal and accessible healthcare, among others.

He has also been outspoken for a ceasefire in Gaza, the liberation of Palestine and supports the “Not On Our Dime!” campaign to end funding of the ongoing war in the Middle East. The campaign supports legislation introduced by Queens Assembly Member Zohran Mamdai, which would end the nonprofit status of New York-based organizations that fund Israeli settlements.

In a recent tweet, Huntley accused his opponent — who has represented the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights district since 2021 — of remaining silent on issues related to Israel and Palestine, and pointed out that Zinerman has received hefty campaign contributions from AIPAC of NY.

But a recent Huntley campaign mailer drew the ire of Jewish constituents. The mailer, printed in the colors of the Palestinian flag with the headline “Palestine is on the ballot this June,” was perceived by some as an attack on Jewish donors, incumbent Zinerman, and the local Jewish communit.

“This campaign mailer, sent to thousands in Bedford-Stuvyesant and Crown Heights, focuses on Israel, something the office Huntley is seeking has nothing to do with,” Sara Forman, executive director of the New York Solidarity Network, wrote in an email to members and supporters of the organization. “An attack on Jewish donors and Israel as much as it is an attack on [Zinerman], Huntley’s gross display demonstrates the critical importance of our work to support Stefani.”

Huntley for his part has been endorsed by a slew of progressive lawmakers, including State Senator Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn), Assembly Member Phara Souffrant Forrest (D-Brooklyn), and organizations like The Jewish Vote, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn and IATSE Local 161.

Zinerman, meanwhile, has the support of Brooklyn political powerhouses like Congress members Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clark, New York State Attorney Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and unions like the United Federation of Teachers. She also has the backing of the Kings County Democratic County Committee.

Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman at a 2022 rally to stop the sale of the historic Dangler Mansion site in Bed-Stuy.File photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

The chair of the Committee on Emerging Workforce has been busy during her tenure in the state Assembly. She secured foundation aid for New York City public schools after a 30-year fight, provided COVID-19 relief to homeowners, renters, and small business owners, and created a Small Business Council and People with Special Needs Committee.  

Honoring the arts, culture and entrepreneurship in her district, she created a District 56 Arts and Culture Council to turn the area into an international tourism and economic development destination. 

Zinerman believes in supportive housing policies that provide the increasing number of unhoused New Yorkers with permanent housing. She is advocating for $3 billion from the federal government to fund Homeless Assistance Grants, Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, Project-Based Rental Assistance, Public Housing Operating Funds and Public Housing Capital Grants.

She has also partnered with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the NAACP’s NextGen program to increase and create a pathway to homeownership within the Black community. Zinerman has also reportedly called for a ceasefire in the Middle East, according to statements made by Public Advocate Williams in regards to his endorsement of the incumbent, though Huntley claims there is no evidence to back that claim.

In a statement to Brooklyn Paper, Huntley said the upcoming primary election is “about accountability and the future of our community.”

“I do not take any money from real estate developers, charter school interests, or the pro-war lobby. I will always stand strong for Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, and fight to protect renters, fully fund our public schools, invest in free childcare and free CUNY, win healthcare for all, and demand freedom and justice for all people around the world,” he said. “This is a campaign about representing people who have not been heard and whose voices have been drowned out by special interests.”

Reps for Zinerman’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 25. Head to the Board of Elections website for more information, and to find your voting site.