Councilwoman Letitia James has represented Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights since winning a special election after the assassination of James Davis in 2003.
She is a talented community leader who has shown gutsy independence by breaking with the city’s power elite when appropriate.
That she is running against two unqualified challengers sealed our endorsement of her in the Democratic primary, which is tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic 35th District. But we would find it easy to support her even if her challengers were more up to the job.
James is the model of what a councilmember should be: one who spends time in the neighborhoods she represents, rather than holding meaningless rallies on the steps of City Hall. When an uptick in crime worried her constituents, for example, she demanded accountability from the 88th Precinct, rather than swallow the NYPD’s constant claim that crime is down. Her constituents knew better.
She also led the charge against the elimination of the two-term limit. And her support for David Walentas’s Dock Street project, while politically damaging to her with the anti-development crowd, was the right thing to do.
And where many of her colleagues have used their “member items” to dole out political favors to well-connected insiders, James’s list of community groups that received her earmarks is replete with soup kitchens, precinct community councils, senior centers and small arts groups — the very groups for whom such grants were designed.
But above all, Letitia James has consistently been ahead of her colleagues in criticizing much-hyped development projects that don’t create as much affordable housing or community benefits as promised.
As a reward for her various fights, James finds herself in a tough struggle for re-election. Her opponent, Delia Hunley-Adossa, is a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, which has allowed her to raise enough money from the construction trades and other allies of the development to wage a serious campaign.
James has had to raise her money the old-fashioned way: by hitting up members of her community for small donations.
Despite her large war-chest, Hunley-Adossa offers little else but her support for Atlantic Yards. In a debate sponsored by the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of this newspaper, Hunley-Adossa was uninformed on land-use issues and unconvincing that she would be available to the community if elected. She has run a secretive campaign and has complained that reporters have called her on her cellphone and home phone after she has not returned calls at her campaign office.
A third candidate, newcomer Medhanie Estiphanos, is too arrogant and hostile to warrant consideration for our endorsement, but we do hope he will take the time to learn the district, as his fiery spirit will certainly shake up future elections.
For all these reasons, we heartily endorse Letitia James for the Democratic nomination in the 35th District.