Co-founder of the reform-oriented political club New Kings Democrats and former Mayor Bill de Blasio staffer, Lincoln Restler, launched his campaign for City Council Thursday, joining the seven-way race to take over Councilman Steve Levin’s seat after the legislator’s term-limited out of office at the end of 2021.
The 36-year-old Brooklyn Heights native, who now lives in Greenpoint, kick-started his campaign on Oct. 1 — which Politico first reported — with a focus on affordable housing.
“Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen our neighborhoods become more and more unaffordable and now we have to do something about it,” Restler told Brooklyn Paper. “I’m running for City Council because I believe government should do big things.”
The 33rd Council District includes Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Vinegar Hill, the Navy Yard, and parts of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and Gowanus.
The Brooklynite joined the fray with a proposal sure to make the city’s real estate bigs balk, namely a city and state package of bills dubbed “Lower NYC Rent” which would give Big Apple officials the power to decrease prices on properties landlords keep vacant for more than three months.
He said that major rezonings in the district, such as Downtown Brooklyn and Greenpoint-Williamsburg, have been “failures” with city legislators bowing down to developer interests who end up building mostly luxury housing.
“The strategy of build build build and predominantly build luxury housing has only made our neighborhood more unaffordable,” he said. “There has been far too little affordable housing built and far too much of that ‘affordable’ which can’t actually be afforded by working people.”
The Brooklynite started his political career working on the presidential primary of then-Senator Barack Obama against then-Senator Hillary Clinton in 2008 and has served as district leader in Greenpoint and Williamsburg from 2010-2012.
He was one of the co-founders of New Kings Democrats, a political club focused on reforming the Brooklyn Democratic Party to make it more transparent and accountable to voters, which led to frequent clashes with then-party boss the late Vito Lopez.
Under the de Blasio administration, he worked on issues like homeless shelters and supportive housing, along with problems that arose in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods such as southern Williamsburg, which are an important voting block in local elections, Politico reported.
Restler has garnered the endorsement of progressive stalwart Representative Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg) and within the first 30 hours of his campaign, has raised more than $30,000 from more than 200 donations no higher than $250 each — according to the candidate — putting him head-to-head with the current leader in campaign donations, Levin’s legislative director Elizabeth Adams.
In addition to Adams, Restler will face off against Benjamin Solotaire — another staffer of the lawmaker — along with candidates like Greenpoint activist Victoria Cambranes, Brooklyn Heights resident Toba Potosky, Legal Aid attorney Stu Sherman, and Brooklyn Heights activist April Somboun.
The borough native believes he has an edge over his opponents through his lifelong knowledge of the district and through working for locals in and out of public service.
“I know neighbors on just about every single block of this district,” he said. “I’ve lived in this community for my entire life and I’m Brooklyn born, raised, and always, as I like to say.”
Correction (Oct. 5, 12:35 pm): A previous version of this article stated that Glomani Bravo-Lopez — a staffer for Councilman Steve Levin — is also running for the seat. However, Bravo-Lopez has since told this paper he plans to formally withdraw his candidacy.