The candidates running for the 41st District proposed incubation programs, apprenticeships, vocational training and more
On Wednesday, the Democratic candidates running for the 41st District, which covers Brownsville, Bedford Stuyvesant and parts of Crown Heights and East Flatbush, gathered at the First Baptist Church in Brownsville where they addressed the affordable housing crisis and presented their plans on how to facilitate economic growth within the district.
The debate began with the question on how to stimulate business growth in the district as well as how to bring career opportunities to the residents.
"We need to repurpose higher education, through both satellite and physical campuses within our district," said Cory Provost, a grassroots political leader and one of the candidates. "We need to create incubation programs for small businesses which provide real first-hand knowledge to the people, so that they know what they need to do when starting their business."
Another candidate Henry Butler, member of Community Board 3, added, "To truly empower our community economically, we need to create small business satellite (SBS) offices to offer direct access to services to all the small business owners, and to get them certified as Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) so they can qualify for some of those contracts with the City."
Brownsville native and community organizer Alicka Ampry-Samuel emphasized the need to think outside the box and to identify new industries and business opportunities. "We need to be able to look at what's next. Not only within our community but the next thing that's happening in our city, as for example within the energy industry, and bring that into our district," said Ampry-Samuel.
[perfectpullquote align="left" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]"We have to make sure that individuals that live here permanently are the priority," said Provost. "Let's fix and rehabilitate the housing we already have versus just increasing the housing stock."[/perfectpullquote]
All of the candidates emphasized a need to provide young people with greater access to apprenticeships and vocational learning programs to create real career opportunities and not only jobs.
Deidre Olivera, a small business owner and local activist, called on the support of unions and local businesses in providing training opportunities to the community. "We have enough businesses and services here in our district, and we absolutely must demand that they train our young adults on how to build and operate these businesses."
Butler agreed and added, "I told the union leaders, 'You need to come out from behind your desk, come out to the community and train and teach.'"
Next up for debate was the question on how to create truly affordable housing - and thanks to the participation of the assembled community, the conversation got quite heated.
"It's all about the land," shouted a concerned voter. "You are robbing the people. Which one of you is going to play party politics, and which one of you is you going to deal with the people?"
The candidates commonly agreed that the community needs to have a greater say in both the management of the existing housing stock as well as new developments.
Yet, Provost warned audience members about the dangers of creating more housing, which would bring an influx of new people into the district, overwhelm the public transportation system and clog the streets with the increase in traffic.
"We have to make sure that individuals that live here permanently are the priority," said Provost. "Let's fix and rehabilitate the housing we already have versus just increasing the housing stock."
Olivera went further, calling the housing affordability "a sham, a lie." According to her the existing rules and regulations are not properly communicated nor enforced, and encouraged the community to get involved, get informed and to take back control.
Butler set on stronger collaborations with not-for-profit developers whose mission it is to "house people and not to make money." He advocated for the creation of land trusts to purchase city-owned property and to entrust it to community-based organizations. Additionally, he expressed a need for a property tax freeze to keep rents stable and controlled.
The debate went beyond the allocated time with touching briefly on the state of health care in the district, as well as public safety, and the relationship between the local community and law enforcement
Interested constituents have another opportunity to present their questions to the candidates during the next community forum at Brooklyn Collegiate High School, 2021 Bergen Street, on Wednesday, September 6.
The primary election will be held on September 12, and the general election will is on November 7.