It was an overcast and cold day when I sat down to talk to 41st Council District candidate, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, a tall and professional women who believes she is the best person to succeed term-limited Council Member Darlene Mealy and usher in a new era of progress in the 41st City Council District race covering Brownsville and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and East Flatbush.
We met in the 3 Black Cats Cafe, a new neighborhood staple at 3 Belmont Avenue, a success story of the Dream Big Foundation that opened it’s doors last year and now serves as an arts, business, community and innovation hub. Three sisters Diana, Melissa and Ionna Jimenez co-own the business, which started as a cake business out of their apartment with the original intent to locate outside of Brownsville, but ultimately decided that they could do more to support their community if they stayed in the neighborhood.
Ampry-Samuel notes that places like the 3 Black Cats Cafe are not an exception to the rule in Brownsville, an area known for crime and poverty, but the new normal for a neighborhood looking to start a new narrative.
“It’s about telling the story of our community. It’s not just gun violence, it’s not just gang violence. It’s not just crime. It’s also a level of entrepreneurship and loving our community and wanting to be a part of the process,” said Ampry-Samuel.
Ampry-Samuel shares in that feeling, considering herself “not an exception but an example” of the level of achievement Brownsville residents have always reached but are just now getting their recognition.
A native of Brownsville, Ampry-Samuel grew up in the Marcus Garvey Houses on Chester Street before going on to North Carolina A&T University and then to City University of New York School of Law (CUNY). The proud neighborhood girl wants to give back to the community that has given her so much and made her a success.
“I am running because I am a product of my environment and the community deserves leaders that not just look like them with similar stories, but have gone on to do great things and are continuing to be in the community with a skill set that can really be meaningful in government, which a lot of communities don’t thrive because they don’t have that. So I’m running because I love my community, I’m a product of my community and my community deserves for me to run,” said Ampry-Samuel.
With a campaign slogan of “Hope is inside”, she is hoping to inspire her community and reach out to those outside of the district to show that the 41st Council District has everything a thriving community needs without the help of outside forces.
“Right now you see across the board, across the country where communities are right on the cusp of progress and growth, but then you see an influx of people coming from other communities, other areas taking credit for all the hard work and dedication that was already happening from the ground up. We, the 41st Council District, are at that point right now where we can be an amazing community more than we are right now if we tell our stories and take ownership over everything that is happening or about to happen,”said Samuel.
If elected, Samuel said she would immediately tackle the housing crisis, introducing legislation to protect homeowners from losing their apartments or house to incoming developers. In addition, Samuel would take on the affordable housing and shelter system in the district. In particular, Nehemiah homeowners who are losing their deeds and homes to incoming investors at an alarming rate.
“My goal, literally day one, is to go into City Hall and introduce legislation that speaks directly to protecting our homes. That speaks directly to stopping the craziness that happening in our neighborhoods. I want to hold these owners accountable with legislation that will say if you purchase this particular property you can’t just flip it. You can’t steal someone’s home and then next thing you know you own it for $200,000 and then you flip it and sell it for $1.3 million,” said Samuel.
When it comes to the competition Samuel isn’t worried, she is confident that the residents of the district will take her to a win. She also feels her experience, which spans a background working with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) all the way to working as an international aid in Ghana to her time as Chief of Staff to Assemblywoman Latrice Walker gives her great qualifications.
“We need a leader that can be effective on day one, but who also have an organizing background so they can get the right people to come in and push their legislation. I’m really in a class by myself and everything else is like smoke and mirrors. I had a lot of people ask me to run so now it’s about letting them know that I’m running,” said Samuel.
Samuel, though considered one of the frontrunners, is in a tough multi-candidate race. Other top-tier candidates include Henry Butler, Cory Provost and Deirdre Oliver. The Democratic Primary is Sept. 12.