City Council candidates meet in public forums as special election draws closer

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The race is on, and candidates for the 31st City Council District are sprinting through a series of public forums.

“We want to know their vision for the community,” said Dwight Johnson, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton.

Nine candidates have filed to run for Councilmember-turned-Senator James Sanders’ seat: Jacques Leandre, Michael Duncan, Donovan Richards, Selvena Brooks, Saywalah Kesselly, Marie Adam-Ovide, Earnest Flowers, Pesach Osina and Allan Jennings.

The Laurelton civic association hosted one of five public forums in which each candidate was given the opportunity to answer questions directly from the community.

Osina, Flowers and Jennings were not present, but the six attending candidates made clear their stance on each issue.
Flooding, a rampant problem throughout the district, is something that each candidate knows needs to be fixed, but each has different proposals on how to do so.

“We are living on top of water,” said Duncan. “Unless we dredge the area, nothing will change.”

Brooks believes the solution lies with rebuilding the sewer system’s infrastructure. Kesselly, on the other hand, thinks the area should first have a systematic analysis, and from there funds can be properly allocated to fixing the flooding.

Many residents were concerned about how the district’s education system was going to improve, and Leandre, for one, believes that partnering with local enterprises could benefit students and get them career-ready.

Adam-Ovide, Community Board 8 District Manager, sees a future with smaller class sizes, and more after-school and internship programs. Richards, Sanders’ former chief-of-staff, would like to invest in schools long-term, providing more technology and library resources. Duncan, former PTA president and community activist, believes that more parent involvement is the key, and that the community needs to look within to fix the problems.

When it came to topics such as stop-and-frisk, all candidates were against the controversial policy, and believed it unfairly targeted their young people.

“We need to find a better way to combat crime in the community,” said Leandre.

On the topic of police programs, all candidates also agreed that an extra precinct presence in southeast Queens is necessary.

“We want the theme here to be making progress together,” said one resident.

The special election for the 31st District will be held Tuesday, February 19.



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