We met in the heart of Brownsville, a bustling and developing area, on the corner of Pitkin Avenue and Thomas Boyland Street, where 41st District City Council candidate Royston “Uncle Roy” Antoine has his store of over 25 years.
The day was a little gloomy but you wouldn‘t be able to tell by the big smile on Uncle Roy’s face. He greeted me with a smile from cheek-to-cheek not missing a beat to greet every passerby that came his way. Even a group of older women who passed him on the sidewalk were quick to shout out “Uncle Roy!”, a name that now follows him everywhere he goes. Some would even say that that is his name.
“It was like I was born in this community. I love this community, that‘s why I’m not going anywhere. I’ve owned businesses here for a very long time. This community has never turned it’s back on me and when I get to City Hall we are going to bring whatever belongs to this community back,” said Antoine.
Royston Antoine has been a pillar of his community for over 30 years,originally immigrating to the United States from St.Vincent as a child. Antoine started as a cost analyst with a number of companies, gaining experience and knowledge of the city’s commerce before deciding in 1981 to go into business himself. He opened his first business, a clothing store, on Pitkin Avenue that has gone on to provide quality goods and merchandize to the community in addition to employment for many local residents.
“If they don’t have it, I’ll give it to them,” said Antoine.
In 2014, Antoine was one of the many candidates running for the 55th Assembly District, an open seat that was previously held by then-incumbent Assemblyman William Boyland who was removed from office after being convicted of 21 counts of bribery, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and theft. Antoine did not make the final ballot being removed before the Democratic primary, in which Latrice Walker won the Democratic primary and then went on to win the district in a landslide over Republican candidate Berneda Jackson and Independent candidate, Lori Boozer.
However, Uncle Roy is still holding steady and has confidence in his current City Council bid. The community leader is hoping to really make an impact when it comes to youths in his community. He believes it is their lack of employment and structure that is causing some of the major issues in the district.
“Our biggest challenge is that our youth are unemployed and we need STEM [Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics] in the schools so kids can learn science and mathematics, so when they graduate they not only get a diploma, but graduate with the ability to sell themselves into the work force. I want to be able to foster that relationship and bring it to the schools,” said Antoine.
The beloved businessman is also hoping to use some of his “business smarts” to appeal to top earning Wall Street Hedge funds as a means to bring resources back to the community.
“I want to go down to Wall Street and engage with hedge fund executives because I don’t believe any of our representatives have taken the time to go to Wall Street and tell them, “look if you invest in our youth now, we will have less crime, better industry and will pay off across the entire district,” said Antoine.
The idea is that bringing back funding and resources to the Brownsville community will create job and community opportunities to change the narrative of the district from one of “poverty and violence” to one of “economic and social growth.”
Uncle Roy knows all too well the vast potential that Brownsville has to offer and is hoping that his term in office will exponentially grow his community and benefit the place he calls his home.
“I believe that our community has been underserved for far too long. I feel that with my business savvy and entrepreneurship, I can teach the community and our youth so that they can be independent and not solely dependent on a job or an institution. I want to be able to give people an opportunity to be self-sufficient,” said Antoine.
And as far as the competition is concerned, Antoine isn’t thinking about them.
“I’m a people’s person. I am in touch with the people, I have never changed. I don’t worry about the front-runners, I worry about the one who is going to finish the race, said Antoine.
Currently, candidates for 41st Council District are in the petitioning process, in which each candidate must collect a minimum of 450 valid signatures from voters registered as Democrats and Republicans within the district. The deadline for submitting petitions is July 13.
The Democratic primary is on September 12 with the winner going on to the general election against the Republican candidate on November 9.