The special election to replace Charles Barron in East New York’s 60th Assembly District is in full swing: Friday marks almost a full week of early voting ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, Feb. 15.
The district, which is centered in East New York and also includes bits of Canarsie and Brownsville, had been represented by Barron from 2015 until last year, when he vacated the seat to assume his old City Council seat. Before that, it was represented by his wife, Inez, since 2009; Inez had been expected to seek the Assembly seat but instead chose to retire.
The resulting special election has pitted the iconoclastic Barrons against the Brooklyn Democratic Party, and its boss Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, over the future of the district’s political representation. The county party has thrown its backing behind Nikki Lucas, a local activist and longtime critic of the Barrons who unsuccessfully challenged Charles Barron in last year’s City Council election. She was selected as the Democratic nominee by the county committee last month.
But in a rare move, the Working Families Party decided to back Keron Alleyne, a former staffer in Charles Barron’s Assembly office. Alleyne is the Barrons’ pick for the seat, and he closely aligns with the duo’s Black socialist politics. Should he win, Alleyne would be only the third elected official in New York history ever elected on just the WFP line, joining fellow Brooklynites Tish James and Diana Richardson in the history books. He has also said that if he loses the special, he will likely still contest the June Democratic primary.
Also on the ballot is Marvin King, who is running on the Republican and Conservative Party lines.
Brooklyn Paper sent out a candidate questionnaire to all three candidates on the ballot, covering a range of issues important to residents of the 60th. Only Alleyne responded to the questions in full by press time; his responses are below. Lucas did not submit her questionnaire, while King did not submit his responses by press time but answered some of the questions over the phone. Lucas did not return Brooklyn Paper’s phone calls.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Keron Alleyne (Working Families): I am 31 years old, married for the past 3 years to Ameria Alleyne, and we are the parents to a 5-year-old. I have been a lifelong resident of East New York, Brooklyn. My parents came to this country from Trinidad and Tobago in the late 80s. I grew up in an inter-generational household with my grandparents, parents, and other family members. I began my education in East New York’s Public School 202 and then moved on to Boys & Girls High School. My bachelor’s degree is in Government & Politics and a master’s in public administration.
I am a community organizer that continues to organize around issues affecting my district and implement long-term solutions that address problems affecting my community. My current position as the Deputy District Manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 5 reflects my commitment to working for my community. Community Boards serve as one-stop shops for information, community development, community-based solutions. Throughout the pandemic, I worked hard to be responsive to the needs of the community. For example, I started a snow shoveling service for seniors in the community, delivered fresh food to the community, led numerous community cleanups, co-founded a garden group collective (East NY Garden Advocates), delivered masks and continued to check in on vulnerable community members. Additionally, I rallied the community to shut down a smoke shop that held itself out to be a candy shop.
I have several hobbies, but the one I favor the most is being a marathon runner. Last year I ran the Chicago, NYC, and Philadelphia marathons in the fall. I finished the NYC Marathon with a personal best of 3:30:21 which breaks down to an 8:02 pace per mile. Running allows me to relax and spend some time alone. I’m also a gardener and love growing fresh food for the community.
Marvin King (Republican) told Brooklyn Paper by phone that he is 70 years old and has lived in Brownsville since 1967.
Why do you want to represent the 60th Assembly District?
Alleyne: I want to represent the beloved people of the 60th Assembly District because they deserve a fighter that is unbought and unbossed by special interests that include the real estate lobby. The community deserves a radical voice in the state assembly to bring about radical change that makes a significant difference in their lives. I am fully informed about the issues and problems affecting my community because I have a proven track record of community activism. I now want to continue that work in the NYS Assembly representing the people. This community has been my cornerstone and home. I owe it to the community for the next generation to fight for the most vulnerable people on issues such as true affordable housing, health, education, public safety, etc.
King: I’m planning to run for the seat because I see some real problems in New York City as a whole, but especially in Brownsville and East New York…we see problems in our communities and we simply grow to accept them.
As a state legislator, how would you go about bringing money into the district? What are some resources the community lacks that the state should invest in?
Alleyne: As a representative in Albany, I would use the capital money to renovate and build new public parks and fund education programs housed in schools. For money designated for programs in my district, I would make sure that money is dedicated to youth programs, senior programs, community-based organizations, food pantries, and assisting families that may be facing eviction or foreclosure. We need more community gardens, more after-school programs, more affordable housing, more youth programs such as youth entrepreneurship, and cultural centers.
What would you do as an assemblymember to ensure there’s enough affordable housing in East New York, to prevent homelessness, and to stem gentrification and displacement?
Alleyne: One of my six campaign pillars is affordable housing. The best way to not only guarantee affordable housing, but to increase it in East New York is to use the Area Median Income in East New York rather than the AMI for New York City which is considerably higher. Additionally, my emphasis is on 100% affordable housing with no market-rate housing. A percentage of the housing units will be for people who make $60,000 to $80,000.
Moreover, rather than support the construction of new shelters, the best way to end homelessness is to make sure people have access to permanent housing. Thus, any new affordable housing will have a percentage of affordable housing units dedicated to families that were homeless.
King said that he sees inequity in property tax burden as a major issue. “Our homes are beng taxed at rates much higher than some other places in the city which have much higher valuations than our homes have.” He claimed that politicians rarely pay attention to property tax rates after they’re set, despite lobbying by homeowners.
What do you think of Mayor Adams’ plans on crime, and gun violence? How do you want to use the assembly platform to advance public safety?
Alleyne: The mayor’s plans on crime and gun violence reveal a reactionary approach that embraces stale and debunked ideas on addressing public safety issues. The plans rely heavily on policing and do not place significant resources on economic development, job creation, mental health services, youth entrepreneurship, and cultural centers. For example, Mayor Adams has indicated that he will resuscitate the NYPD’s anti-crime unit that was notorious for stop and frisk, he has proposed changes to no cash bail, he supports raising the age of youthful offenders, and wants to increase cooperation between the NYPD and the state police, ATF, FBI, and all federal partners. None of these initiatives has been proven to reduce and eventually eliminate gun violence or crimes. Additionally, Mayor Adams stated that he will permit the use of solitary confinement, a practice whose brutal effects on people is well documented.
I will use my platform to advocate that more resources be directed towards community-based anti-violence programs such as ManUp Inc., after-school programs, a year-round youth employment program, no-to-low-interest loans for youth who want to start a business in their community, affordable housing, more living-wage jobs, etc.
King said that he supports rolling back bail reform and voiced support for numerous other “tough-on-crime” policies, including increasing the size of the NYPD rather than defunding it, and handing down automatic prison sentences for anyone caught with a gun in the city. “The level of violence in our city and country has gotten out of control,” he said. “It’s something we should not have to live with.” King said he disagreed with the mayor’s focus on ridding the streets of illegal guns to reduce gun violence, saying he instead preferred “focusing on the individuals using those guns.”
What are your thoughts on the proposed Interborough Express, which would run through the district?
Alleyne: I am opposed to the plan in its current form because there are environmental concerns that have been raised by environmentalists that have not been addressed. I share their concerns as well. Additionally, one of the companies involved in the plan, CSX Transportation, was an active participant in slavery and I am strongly opposed to having that company involved in any way on this project.
King said he hadn’t heard of the proposal.
What other issues we haven’t mentioned do you plan to focus on as a legislator? Are there any committees where you would particularly like to serve?
Alleyne: We must do more when it comes to climate change. The evidence is overwhelming that if we do not do more, the extreme weather events we are already experiencing are going to intensify and lead to avoidable catastrophes. As a community gardener, communities should be afforded land where they can begin to grow their own food which will allow them to have healthier food choices and increase their food security.
King said a major priority of his is to ensure that young men, especially young African-American men, are reading at grade level from a young age, which he said would significantly reduce disciplinary problems in middle school, high school, and beyond. He also called for greater funding for senior centers and elder care.
Early voting began on Saturday, but turnout has been notably low, according to the city Board of Elections. Early voting ends on Sunday, Feb. 13. For more information, visit vote.nyc.