EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of an ongoing series, KCP is asking candidates running for state office in the upcoming Sept. 13 primary about issues that matter and that are being debated in Albany.
Incumbent Assemblywoman Latrice Walker is being challenged for her 55th District Assembly seat in the September 13 Democratic Primary by term-limited City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy.
Walker is a lifelong Brownsville native and a product of tNew York City public schools before going on to an undergraduate degree from SUNY Purchase College, a law degree from Pace University and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2007. Her public service career began as Counsel to U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke. Besides Clarke, she also has the support Public Advocate Letitia James and Congress Member Hakeem Jeffries.
Mealy was born in Detroit and raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant and graduated from George Wingate High School. Following high school, Mealy attended BMCC, and entered the workforce, spending 17 years as a New York City Transit Authority employee and member of DC 37. She was elected to the City Council in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.
The district includes Ocean-Hill Brownsville, a chunk of East New York, and slices of East Flatbush, Bushwick, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The following question was put to both candidates:
Brownsville and the 55th Assembly District is one of the most economically impoverished districts in the city. What have you done in your tenure as a lawmaker and what do you intend to do further to help the plight of your constituents economically?
Darlene Mealy: “I love and have worked hard for Brownsville. On my first election I ran on a platform of “Jobs not Jails” and as a result, I have been able to deliver on the need for more jobs for our community. One prime example is my work to stop the conversion of the library on Blake and Dumont to a Probation center. Instead I pushed to build a job placement center.
“I worked alongside of the late great community activist Morton Hall to get that done and I am so glad that he was there with me and the the mayor to do the ribbon cutting before he passed. Now instead of having a facility to maintain keeping people in ‘the system’, we made a job placement center to keep them out of it.
“But, that’s not all. I worked to turn part-time parks jobs into year round jobs that provide a real living wage to give people a better chance. I worked to get constituents OSHA training where they earned their certification. This program went on for 3 years. In the council I pushed for $16 million for 6,000 year-round jobs and for $38.5 million in baseline funding for Summer Youth Jobs.”
Latrice Walker: “As a freshman lawmaker in the New York State Assembly, I was elected with an agenda to help the people of the community in which I was born and raised. I voted to pass the historic $15 minimum wage increase and Paid Family Leave that are now law.
“I worked with Governor Cuomo to strengthen health care delivery in Brownsville. Together, we have allocated $700 million to build a stronger hospital, clinics and urgent care centers through a partnership with Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center and a potential bigger, financially stable hospital. This new partnership will preserve current Brookdale-affiliated health care jobs. As the partnership develops architects will be needed, as well as construction workers from a variety of trades. Residents – from apprentice to skilled trades – will be invited to participate in building a bigger, better hospital system for Brownsville and the 55th Assembly District. Once complete, the new hospital system will offer expanded health care services that require additional health care workers. The ultimate goal is to strengthen urgent care and wellness services with jobs as an added benefit.
“As chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Renewable Energy, I recognized the opportunity to bring 100% clean energy to Brownsville. I worked with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create Solarize Brownsville, an initiative to increase the supply of electricity in the Brooklyn Queens Demand Management (BQDM) catchment area while reducing demand on the Consolidated Edison Substation in Brownsville.
“Solarize Brownsville has made an immediate economic impact. Solar panels are installed on qualified homes at no upfront cost, refuting the idea that solar energy is expensive. Each home owner who has solar panels installed on their home will see a reduction in their monthly electricity bill of up to 25% per kilowatt hour. Since the June 2016 launch, more than 100 home owners have signed installation agreements. Each of these homeowners has or will receive a special cash rebate of between $250 to $500 – disposable income that the home owners can use. In addition, each solarized home will receive a $5,000 State energy credit and a $5,000 New York City property tax credit.
“Brownsville’s demand for solar panels has created jobs. I hosted a Job Drive at my district office for Solar and Event Ambassadors. Community residents were hired from this outreach event. Level Solar is currently asking to host another Job Drive to fill openings for Operations Personnel: Solar Panel Installers and Electricians. I encourage community residents to apply.
“Jobs are one of my top priorities. I encourage affordable housing developers to establish community hiring objectives. The new SUNY ATTAIN Lab at St. Johns provides technology training and job readiness counseling. I worked to expand State funding for Summer Youth Employment Program jobs that increased the number of jobs available for our young people. I support contracting opportunities for M/WBEs.”