Candidates Face Off For Assembly Seat
Two Assembly hopefuls answered questions from voters on topics ranging from housing, education and economic development to public safety at a candidates forum held Tuesday, Aug. 12 at the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC).
At the forum, former City Council Member Erik Martin Dilan and local church pastor Kimberly Council–competing for the 54th Assembly District–outlined their platforms and answered questions from voters for almost two hours. The district represents the northeast Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick and Cypress Hills, among portions of others, in the legislature.
Both are running as Democrats and will face off in the primary, Sept, 9. Every member of the state body is up for election in 2014, including the 66 districts which represent parts of New York City.
Residents quizzed the candidates by scribbling questions on index cards left on every chair, and no restricted topic areas for questions were mentioned.
The seat was vacated by Rafael Espinal when he ran successfully for the 37th District City Council seat in 2013. Though four candidates have declared campaigns for the seat, it was noted, Council and Dilan were the only two to attend the forum.
In her opening comments, Council emphasized housing, education and jobs as main issues within the district.
“We need more jobs that pay a living, sustainable wage. Not minimum wage,” Council said.
Dilan covered similar ground, and mentioned economic development and health care in his opening stump.
“The biggest thing that I think this neighborhood continues to need like every other neighborhood … is housing,” he said.
Council further stated that what many consider affordable is actually for many not, and needs to be redefined.
“We definitely need more units of affordable housing and we need to redefine what affordable is,” she said. “Because what most people consider affordable and what we know to be affordable are two totally different things.”
“One of the things we really need to do is redefine what is affordable. We’re pricing people out of projects before we even build them,” she added.
Dilan promoted the work he did in the City Council on the issue as chairperson of the Housing and Buildings Committee. He stated that in partnership with CHLDC, “all affordable housing,” was built.
“We didn’t do the … 80/20 deals in this neighborhood that most of the city believes is affordable,” he added.
Dilan said he helped bring an end to stop and frisk in the City Council and stated, “We need to go back to policing where we stop crimes in their infancy. What we need to do is just get rid of the quotas.”
“I think the broken windows theory is flawed,” Council said. “Too often we have a level of disrespect between the community and police. We have to work together with each other and we have to invest in young people.”
Council believes in the importance of after-school and job preparation so young people can secure living-wage jobs.
“We need to completely revamp the way education works,” Council said. “And maybe bring back some of the vocational schools. We need to get out of the box and think.”
On education Dilan said he believes “community initiatives could help prepare young people to be successful.”.
He feels the initiatives need to get to young people while they are “in school, while people are young to get them on a track to be college-bound.”
Both Council and Dilan said they support the passage of the DREAM Act, a bill to grant undocumented youths a path to citizenship provided they achieve a college degree or serve two years in the military.
“We also need to put more money and resources into our educational system,” Council said. “We need more education. We need more early childhood programs; we need afterschool programs.
“We need to invest in our young people so that we can kep them off the streets and keep them engaged which will then promote community safety,” she added.
Council also spoke on development continuing to reach further east into many areas that were less desirable in the past, like Cypress Hills. She believes that long-term residents need a seat at the decision making tables, and told the forum she favors community involvement in development decisions.
“I think that we’ve seen an overdevelopment of our neighborhoods,” she said. “We live in a wonderful community that is predominantly residential and we want to make sure that we don’t overdevelop or we don’t develop in a way that’s irresponsible,” Council stated.
“We need to bring government to you, and that’s what Kim Council would do as your assemblyperson.”
Both candidates also responded to residents questions on their plan for the former Blue Ridge Farms factory site at 3250 Fulton St., where a seven-alarm fire in 2012 burned out nine connected buildings and, since then, remains unused and undeveloped.
“I think that we need to do collectively … is to find some private entity that is willing to come in, fix up the lot, create jobs,” Dilan said.
“As long as that site is like that, whether I’m in office or out, we do seek for any legal means to get that site demolished immediately. There’s tremendous opportunity that can be done there,” he added.
“I agree that we definitely need to do something on that lot, it is an eyesore, and its been that way for over a year,” Council said.