Democratic Bay Ridge Council candidate Kevin Peter Carroll met with Community News Group editors on Aug. 18 to discuss his campaign for the party’s nod for the Ridge seat. The 64th Assembly district leader made history in 2010 when he became Brooklyn’s youngest-elected state committeeman at 24-years-old. In this race, he is again the youngest candidate — as well as the only Dem hopeful who has won an election. Despite his status as a party insider with family ties to politics — his cousin, Robert Carroll, is a Democratic Assemblyman — Carroll said he would be an independent councilman. He also promised restrictions on new charter schools and a further crack down on the illegal home conversions. A self-described moderate, he said he would be open to the different opinions and political views of his diverse constituents. Carroll is running against four other candidates in the Democratic primary, and promised to back whoever wins the party’s line, but expressed concern with potentially having to endorse opponent Nancy Tong, who he says does not live in the district.
On his qualifications:
Despite his past allegiance to the party, his position on Democratic Councilman Stephen Levin’s staff, and his endorsement by Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, Carroll touted himself as the centrist candidate the “moderate district” needs in order to connect with constituents across party lines.
“I think this district is a moderate district — it elects Democrats, it elects Republicans — and I think it needs a moderate member. And I think in terms of all the candidates, I’m the one that can reach out to all sides. I can work with people and yet I’ve shown my independence as a district leader, not always supporting the county organization. I do what I think is right. And when I’m talking to voters, I’m not pegged as a ‘liberal’ or a ‘conservative,’ I’m pegged as a community person, and I think that’s a main reason of why I should be a member of the Council.”
On his 2010 vote to re-elect Vito Lopez as Chairman of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party after bashing the pol during his campaign for district leader:
Carroll insisted that he never promised he would vote against party boss Lopez during his run for district leader, despite lambasting the former Assemblyman during the course of his campaign as an anti-establishment candidate. He characterized Lopez as the better choice who was ultimately more focused on the issues — including protecting Democratic seats — that affected the party and the constituents.
“I never said in the campaign that I would vote against Lopez. When it came time for the district leader’s vote, I voted against every one of the proposals that Lopez, the chairman at the time, had put forward. However, I did not think that someone who had only been elected at the same time as me, who was put forward as the alternative candidate — namely, Chris Owens — was going to be the best person to lead the party. And at the end of the day, I have to do what I think is best as a district leader for the party.”
On the Council’s vote to raise members’ pay:
Carroll said he opposes the raise that the Council recently gave itself when voting to make the position full-time, and suggested pay increases the body votes for should not take effect until the term after they are approved. The Levin staffer said he’s on an unpaid leave of absence from the councilman’s office and is living on his savings during the campaign.
“I think it’s a full-time job, however, I would have not supported the raise, only because I believe we should do what Congress does. It says that you can’t raise the salary mid-way, and that all you can do is raise it for the next Congress, so that the people know this is what we’re hiring them for, this is the amount of money that they’re going to make, these are the rules. I’m using my savings in order to run this race because talking to the voters and making sure that they know who I am and the type of person that I am … if I was not doing that, it would be a disservice to them.”
Carroll said he supports bringing Citi Bike to Bay Ridge with the caveat that residents are allowed to be involved with determining the conditions under which the service is instituted. He floated the idea of installing the bike docks on sidewalks, where applicable, and promised to consult members of local business improvement districts about the issue.
“I support the idea of Citi Bike coming in to Community Boards 10 and 11, however, there needs to be greater community participation … I think before any bikes are placed anywhere, the community really should be looking at it and saying, ‘Is this the best spot for it?’ ”
On the sanitation issues in Bay Ridge:
Carroll characterized the neighborhood’s trash problems as citywide issues. He said he would advocate for a number for residents to call before they put out bulk items so the Sanitation Department knows where to collect. And regarding the new collection policies for four private roads on 94th and 97th streets, Carroll said he would work with the residents and support mapping the streets in order for them to receive the same Sanitation services they did for decades — but he said he would not press for restoration of service if the private streets were not mapped.
“If a street is not mapped, I’m not going to force a garbage truck to go down it. And that’s the issue now, is that a lot of the garbage trucks don’t fit down the private streets. If it’s private, it should remain private. If something happens, if the garbage truck is going down that street and it damages something, it’s not damaging city property, it’s damaging private property. So they should bring the garbage to the curb. Should it all be piled in one spot? No … I’m specifically thinking of Wogan Terrace, where it does pile up. You gotta spread it out a little bit.”
On cracking down on illegal home conversions:
Carroll promised to ramp up pressure on landlords, who he principally blamed for the headaches around the district’s illegal home conversions. He said that he would like to take the problem to the courts, set up a system where residents with proof of illegal home conversions can file complaints.
“I saw it when the census occurred, when they claimed there was 30 percent vacancy in Bay Ridge. We’ve lost hundreds of thousands in tax dollars, because that’s how they use all their calculations to distribute money for the state, federal, and city governments — through the census data — and people were afraid to open up their doors because there were 30 people living in each home. I view it as a landlord issue. The landlord is at fault for these things. I want to have a court that says if you have so much proof that the house has been illegally converted, you go to a court, you show them, ‘Here’s the proof, here’s all the complaints we’ve received, we want to go in and inspect, and force an inspection,’ but a judge makes the decision.”
On education and charter schools:
Carroll said he would not support charter schools until they accept all students — even those with disabilities — and until they allow teachers to join unions.
“There are two fundamental problems that charter schools would need to address before I could say I would support one anywhere in New York City. The first is about the children: They can kick out children based on their record of achievement, so they are literally trying to get the best of the best. Until the charter schools start to take every single child in our city, and treat them equally, I cannot support a charter school. The second issue is that as long as they prevent their employees from joining unions — and specifically from joining the United Federation of Teachers — I cannot support a charter school, because I am 100 percent pro-union.”
On Councilman Gentile’s accomplishments:
Carroll — who was appointed by Gentile to Community Board 10 — said that despite the councilman’s popularity with constituents and his 2004 success in getting rid of parking meters on Sundays, he has not made nearly enough legislative achievements. But he praised the councilman for “showing up,” and for his ability to connect with the community.
“He’s very popular and that’s great … but I do believe you also need to have a legislative portfolio, so if I had to give him a letter grade for his whole term in office — 13 years is the longest-serving member of the Council — I would give him a B-. He has done an effective job of communicating with people in the district. Events like the senior picnics are things that I would probably want to continue, because they mean a lot to people. Also, to be quite honest, among our current members, he shows up. There are some who don’t even bother to show up, so you got to give him props for that.”
On the opioid epidemic:
Carroll characterized the opioid epidemic as widespread, both nationally and within the community. He touted the 77th Street Resource, Training, and Counseling Center, which provides outpatient services to addicts, as a service he would like to see replicated throughout the district. He said he needs to further probe the city’s $100,000 study of supervised injections for heroin users before he can make a definitive judgment on the fiscal allotment.
“I do think we have a good spot, now it has to be used. People have to go there. We fought very hard for it, and I’d fight anyone who said that we should close it. Within the council district [I would advocate for more], but I think 77th Street is pretty central to Bay Ridge, but maybe we can get one for Dyker. As for dedicating $100,000 to the study, it’s easy to pinpoint one expense and attack that, but you have to look at the whole picture in government. But it is a national crisis and too many kids are dying.”
At the end of the meeting, Carroll answered a quick series of questions.
• Favorite restaurant: Skinflints.
• Favorite movie: “Mary Poppins.”
• Last book you read: “What a Party!: My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals” by Terry McAuliffe.
• Main source for news: Online, via his smartphone, newspaper subscriptions, and television. “I read First Read [the email newsletter of City & State], the local papers — Courier, Home Reporter, the Eagle. I try to avoid Facebook because you never know what’s true or not. And in terms of television: NY1 and MSNBC.”
• Is the media fair to politicians?: It depends on the reporter and it depends on the relationships.
• Does global warming exist, and if so, is it caused by humans burning fossil fuels? Yes and yes.
• Fracking in upstate New York?: No.
• Should Fort Hamilton Army Base rename the streets within it named after Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson?: Yes. “If you take up arms against this government, you should not have anything named in your honor.”