Voting records, party changes, and important issues: A look into southern Brooklyn’s most heated city council race ahead of Election Day

brannan and kagan city council
With Election Day upon us, take a last look into the contentious race between Council Members Justin Brannan and Ari Kagan.
Photos courtesy of John McCarten and Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

With Election Day upon us Nov. 7, two southern Brooklyn pols draw closer to victory or defeat in one of this year’s most eventful and talked-about City Council races. 

Republican Council Member Ari Kagan, who represents District 47, and Democratic Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents District 43, have fought harder than ever to secure a win in District 47.

The politicians are facing off for the first time due to a district rezoning. District 47 — which formerly represented parts of Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Sea Gate, Gravesend — was redrawn in 2022 to include parts of Bath Beach and Bay Ridge — bringing both candidates’ neighborhoods together into one district. Kagan, a former Republican, switched parties at the end of last year — setting the state for the contentious election. 

Both elected officials have led a strong, sometimes heated campaign, with tension on both sides. 

Council Members Ari Kagan and Justin Brannan
After a long and heated campaign, Justin Brannan and Ari Kagan will finally face off on Nov. 7. File photos courtesy of Corazon Aguirre

Brannan has built his campaign on public safety, support for senior citizens and the building of new city infrastructure — including parks, schools, and senior centers.

He recently celebrated the opening of the new 21,000 square-foot Bay Ridge Senior Center, which he helped secure capital funding for, and was instrumental in securing $6 million for renovations of the Bay Ridge Community Center

“Bay Ridge has always been built on this volunteer service and spirit of helping one another, but we never had a place to gather, so this is a really big deal,” Brannan told Brooklyn Paper regarding the Bay Ridge Community Center funding. 

justin brannan city council
Brannan helped secure funding to renovate the Bay Ridge Community Center earlier this fall. File photo by Paul Frangipane

Kagan is campaigning for improved public safety, merit-based school education and better sanitation. 

This year, he signed on to bills that would require street sweepers to use more water, introduce tracking services for street cleaning operations, and establish more recycling centers and organic waste drop-off sites.

The council member often posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, to share news about recent clean-up operations.

Kagan has also recently introduced and signed on to bills that advocate to protect healthcare options for retired city employees, increase the number of  public restrooms, create a map of mental health services, and increase accountability car owners who drive with false or expired license plates. 

Both candidates have pushed for transportation improvements in their southern Brooklyn districts, which are both wanting for sufficient subway and bus options — and both signed on to a local law that would increase the penalties to those who use e-bikes on sidewalks. 

Brannan recently came under fire after Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, spoke out against his alleged involvement in a seven-year-old harassment lawsuit that has since been handled out of court. 

Brannan publicly denied the allegations as district leaders jumped to his defense.

“My loyalty will always be to my constituents, never to a party boss. If that gets me in hot water with the party boss then so be it. Rodneyse’s allegations are completely false and she knows it,” Brannan told Brooklyn Paper in response to Rodneyse’s assertions. “My job is to deliver for my community and I’m doing my job. Her job is to help get Democrats elected. Is she doing her job?”

Kagan shook things up when he switched parties mid-term last winter. He claimed the decision was due to the Democrats moving too far to the left.

Since the switch, Kagan has been called out for contradicting stances on widely-discussed political topics including abortion and immigration rights. In a candidate questionnaire, Kagan stated that “Life starts at conception” and said he believes abortions should rarely be allowed — only in cases of rape, incest of danger of the mother’s life and health.” 

However, last year, before the party switch, Kagan voted to support a bill to increase reproductive rights and abortion access in New York City. 

Ari Kagan
Kagan switched parties late last year. Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Kagan, who immigrated to the U.S. from Belarus, has been vocal against the city’s approach to dealing with the migrant crisis and open opposed migrant centers in southern Brooklyn. In May, as the city struggled aid more than 65,000 asylum seekers in need of housing, Kagan spoke out against the use of parks and public school as emergency housing shelters

“It’s insane. I’m totally opposed to it. We’ll continue to oppose it because it’s a mess and absolutely unacceptable,” Kagan said

Brannan also called out the city’s decision to house migrants in P.S. 188, stating “Our schools should not be used for this purpose.” After widespread opposition, including from both Kagan and Brannan, the city chose to scrap the shelter at P.S. 188. 

The pair have taken public jabs at each other on social media throughout the campaign – and took advantage of an Oct. 8 political forum hosted by Schneps Media to get in some in-person swipes between answering questions. 

With all eyes on District 47, the polls open at 6 a.m. on Nov. 7. Southern Brooklyn voters can find more information about their polling sites and the general election here