Army veteran from Woodside challenges Van Bramer for Council seat

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (l.) faces a challenge from Woodside resident Marvin Jeffcoat.
Photos by Michael Shain
By Bill Parry

A U.S. Army veteran who saw combat during Operation Desert Storm is challenging City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) in Tuesday’s general election. Woodside resident Marvin Jeffcoat hopes to upset Van Bramer, who is running for a third term and is one of eight candidates for Council speaker.

“I didn’t like it, and I took it personally, when I saw him take a knee at City Hall in solidarity with Colin Kaepernik,” Jeffcoat said of the NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police killing unarmed black men. Kaepernick was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who is no longer in the league. “As a combat veteran, I found that deeply distressing and it showed me a lot about him.”

Jeffcoat decided to run on the Republican and Conservative party lines at the urging of his neighbors in Woodside.

“They just felt like their interests aren’t represented here in Woodside by a guy who’s always with the moneyed crowd in Long Island City,” Jeffcoat said. “They turned to me because they know I’m a leader and I’ve been politically active and they know I do my homework. My problem with today’s city government — there are too many people in positions of power with little life experience and no common sense telling me how to live my life. I’m sick of it.”

The 52-year-old is running a grassroots campaign with eight volunteers.

“It’s not easy in western Queens, there are hurdles and negativity when you tell them I’m a Republican and a Conservative and I voted for President Trump,” Jeffcoat said. “But I say look what I’ve done in service of this country as well as my community.”

Jeffcoat, who was born in Jamaica, retired from the Army as a sergeant first class in 2004 after a 22-year career. He moved to Woodside 13 years ago and became a facility manager with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and became a member of Community Board 2 for several years.

Jeffcoat ran against state Sen. Michael Gianaris last year but only received 14 percent of the vote.

“I don’t like what I see. We have a failed mayor and an incompetent City Council,” Jeffcoat said. “We get bike lanes and bag taxes and they ignore small business, the backbone of our economy. They’re getting killed with burdensome regulations and fines. It’s just unfair. The city should never fine a private entity until they have their own house in order. If it doesn’t help the health, safety and welfare of the people, it shouldn’t be law. It’s as simple as that.”

If elected, Jeffcoat would push for better treatment of veterans and the homeless and he would put an emphasis on safer streets and law enforcement.

“I want the police to do their jobs,” he said. “I also believe in vouchers and charter schools. We spend so much money educating illiterate children. If public schools aren’t getting the job done, then we have to give parents a choice.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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