Our sit-down with Bay Ridge Council candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter

Our sit-down with Bay Ridge Council candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Republican Bay Ridge Council candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter sat down with Community News Group editors on Aug. 18 to discuss her campaign for the party’s nomination for the Ridge seat. The lifelong Bath Beach resident, who owns a tile and stone company in Bay Ridge, is no stranger to campaigning: she served as the Republican district leader of the 49th Assembly District from 2006 until 2012, when the district was re-apportioned. She was then elected to lead the newly drawn 46th Assembly District in 2013, a post that she still holds today. She also ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Regina-Potter praised the diversity of the 43rd Council District and promised to be an active Council member, touting her political experience and grassroots approach to solving the community’s problems. She said she feels that securing the Council seat would allow her to have more impact in the community than would an Assembly seat, and promised to tackle illegal home conversions through strict enforcement and promoting legitimate affordable housing. She also called for expanded school choice to ease overcrowding in the district’s schools and said there needs to be more education and support to solve the opioid crisis. Regina-Potter did not say whether or not she would support the Republican nominee, instead pledging to mirror her own contentious past history within the party: “I will give them the same support I’ve received in the past,” she said.

On her qualifications:

Regina-Potter cited her status as the only Republican woman in the race, her close ties to the community as a small-business owner and lifelong resident, the political clout and experience she has amassed as a grassroots-supported district leader, and her independence from the local party machine.

“I’m very concerned about what’s going on in the community, and I see we’ve been neglected in southern Brooklyn for a long time. I am one of the most active district leaders in Brooklyn, I have raised the Republican enrollment in my area by 30 percent. I am the only Republican woman running and I am the only one out of all the Republican primary candidates that has never worked for an elected official.”

On illegal conversions:

Regina-Potter criticized the Council for not doing enough to curb illegal conversions or accommodate the growing population in the area. She called for holding utility companies accountable for furnishing illegally converted homes with too many meters. She demanded better enforcement by the Department of Buildings but also called for recognition of the plight of tenants who suffer from the area’s housing crisis.

“First and foremost the utility companies need to be held accountable for why they’re writing off and allowing a one- or two-family homes to have 16 and 17 gas and electric meters. The only thing they have been doing is shutting these buildings down and throwing the people out. Again, it’s going back on the poor people who are trying to make a better life for themselves here. The Council, I feel, has been very lax on this issue. They’re more concerned about giving illegal immigrants court-appointed fees than they are taking care of the people that really need them. We’ve grown in Brooklyn, we have more people here, and they’re not keeping up with the infrastructure. A lot of people want to blame the tenants that live there, but I can empathize as the daughter of an immigrant — people have to have some place to live. They don’t choose to live there, but financially, economically, they have nowhere else to go, because there is no more affordable housing in Brooklyn.”

On the Council raise and whether a Council seat should be a full-time job:

Regina-Potter said she would make the seat her full-time job, and serve a full term. She said she does not support the raise since the new salary is more than what most constituents make, and instead advocated devoting those funds to constituent service.

“I would definitely make it a full-time job. That’s the type of job that I would do, from early in the morning to the evening. I would be one of the most enthusiastic, raring-to-go councilwomen you’ve ever seen. As for the salary, I wouldn’t have voted for the raise. I’m a business owner, so my main concern is putting it back into the system, and maybe giving someone else a job, for things that need to be done. Have someone go around and make a list of all the traffic problems in the community or where the turning lights are, or how come this house with illegally converted apartments hasn’t been addressed in three or four years?”

On campaign finance:

The small business owner did not participate in the city’s taxpayer-financed matching-funds program, and she chided her opponents both for taking matching funds and for paying workers to collect signatures on their ballot petitions.

“I’m not participating in the matching funds program, because I don’t believe that taxpayers should pay for my campaign. I believe over $750,000 was allocated to the 43rd Council District. I think that $750,000 could be better spent enhancing the community and tackling some of the issues. Don’t forget, I’ve been out there so many times that people know who I am. I petitioned myself on the ballot, basically. I mean, I know my opponents — especially my Republican primary opponents — some of them spent over $50,000 just to get on the ballot.”

On education:

Regina-Potter praised the district’s schools but also said the overcrowding issue is to due a lack of foresight. She characterized herself as a school-choice advocate and called for developing shuttered parochial schools and other available properties into new schools. She also called for an increase in arts and vocational programs in the district, along with programs to accommodate students in special education and gifted and talented programs.

“I think it’s crowded for the simple fact that we overlooked a lot. I like charter schools and we overlooked that issue. A lot of the parochial schools in the neighborhood closed, which was a good opportunity to have people in the neighborhood go in — and it’s not affordability, because charter schools are covered under the public school system. And maybe take over some of these parochial schools, like they’re doing now, and make them charter schools. There are properties in the district that could be developed.”

On Citi Bike coming to Bay Ridge:

Regina-Potter said she does not support Citi Bike coming to the district because it would limit parking. She said she would support docking stations and biking along the shoreline, but also called for improved accessibility to the area.

“Not a fan, because it’s so overcrowded, the parking is atrocious as it is. So instead of double-parked cars, we’re going to have triple-parked cars. A lot of the streets are very small and narrow — you can barely have a bike go up and down 69th Street, and if there’s a double-parked car, everything is stuck. That’s why we need to fix up the shore, there are great bike paths there, but they’ve never really been fixed since the hurricane. And also access to that bike path. There’s certain areas in Bath Beach where children and families have to literally cross a highway to get over and get to the shore.”

On the sanitation issues in Bay Ridge:

She said she does not support the new policy halting garbage collection on four private streets in the area, and criticized the new organics collection program, which she said creates too much pollution and was not discussed widely enough in the community. She called for community-led, at-home composting instead.

“I think we might have been better off instructing people how to compost for themselves. If they live in a building, they could create a little community garden, and make it self-sustaining. This organics program, I think it’s creating more pollution, because trucks have to come back now and pick up the bulk. It’s just creating problems for people, especially the senior citizens on those little side streets.”

On the opioid epidemic:

Regina-Potter does not support the proposed $100,000 study safe-injection spaces, and instead called for more transitional medical support to help opioid addicts kick the habit, more drug-prevention education in schools, and greater community support for families dealing with addiction.

“I think that we should open up the medical facilities and tell them, come on in. And I think more should be done to get them off the drug. And more help to the families of the people. Unfortunately, some families enable it because they’re afraid that they’re going to go off [the drug] and hurt them. But teach the families how to deal with it, and try to wean these people off these drugs, and try to put them into some sort of normal environment so they can live a better life.”

On her political aspirations beyond the Council:

Regina-Potter said that after her time on the Council, she would gladly return to her district leader position and work to get more young people into politics.

“I would always love to be the district leader, because that’s a real grassroots position. I want to get more young people involved in politics, especially the women. I will always be a community activist.”

Lightning Round

After the interview, Regina-Potter answered a short series of questions.

• Favorite restaurant: “My kitchen or my mom’s kitchen. There’s nothing better than a home cooked meal made with love.”

• Favorite movie: “Titanic.”

• Last book she read: A James Patterson novel.

• Main news sources: “Everywhere. Print, digital, radio, TV. And that’s real news, not fake news.”

• Is the media fair to politicians? “Depending on the politician. I don’t think the media gives a lot of credence to female candidates — especially the Republican women. They never try to find the good, they always try to create a dig and create a diversion away from the issues as to why that person is running.”

• Does global warming exist, and if so, is it caused by humans burning fossil fuels?: “That remains to be seen. We don’t know. I can’t say yes, I can’t say no. I don’t think we’re going to be living long enough to find out. I believe that we over-pollute the environment.”

• Fracking in upstate New York?: “Yes, if it’s done correctly, because there are many ways to frack.”

• Should Fort Hamilton Army Base rename the streets within it named after Robert. E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson?: “Absolutely not. Those that do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.