Nancy Tong: Community Trailblazer Could Be Brooklyn’s First Asian-American Lawmaker

The blue ribbon was barely visible atop her zebra-printed blouse, but that didn’t stop Nancy Tong from sporting her own “police badge.” The small satin ribbon represents her gratitude and allegiance to the New York Police Department (NYPD).

“I want the good ones to know that we do support them,” said Tong, the lone female Democratic candidate in the contentious District 43 City Council race. “They are the ones who do the work for us, the good ones need to be recognized.”

Nancy Tong at the popular United Progressive Democratic Clubhouse.

Tong, the co-president of the United Progressive Democratic Club began making the ribbons because she felt the NYPD’s reputation had unjustly come under fire. While the candidate admits there are bad police officers, she contends the good ones need to know we support them. Her attempts at showing her support came in the way of making and wearing a small blue satin ribbon.  It did not take long for the trend to catch on and soon it became impossible for Tong to keep up with the demand.  She recruited the help of a local senior citizen center and in a jolt of irony she enlisted, as one of her helpers, Xiu Yan Li, the mother of slain Asian American police officer Wenjian Liu.

A gunman who reportedly acted in retaliation for the murder of Eric Garner shot officers Liu and Rafael Ramos to death in Dec. 2014, while on duty in Bedford Stuyvesant.

Tong supports her local station house, the 62nd precinct, and says she has a direct line into the station.

While the candidate may be on the radar of her local police station, Tong has been criticized as being in the shadows on the campaign trail. She has been absent from most political group forums and debates within the district, but the quick-witted Asian-American isn’t concerned with what people say about her campaign tactics, because she feels like she’s doing the most important work –– community activism.

Tong is an active district leader and has volunteered her services to Assemblyman Bill Colton (D-Bensonhurst, Bath Beach) for eight years prior to her winning the Democratic district leadership seat. She has been a New York City resident since her arrival from Hong Kong at the age of seven. Both parents and her seven siblings settled in Chinatown in Manhattan where her mother still resides.

The district leader is the proud mother of 24-year-old Albert Tong, and has been happily married to Gary Tong since 1992. Her husband, Mr. Tong, is an engineer consultant and has had the fortune of traveling the U.S. with his family. The transient lifestyle of the family entrusted Mrs. Tong the responsibility of housewife and caregiver to her son –– those task-accomplishing skills and motivation led Tong to her community activism endeavors.

“Even before I worked for the Assemblyman [Bill Colton], I was a volunteer,” said Tong. “I love the people. I didn’t work. I was a volunteer. I was a housewife taking care of my son, but at the same time I wanted to help the community.”

“Yes, I’m a mom. I’m a woman,” retorted Tong in response to the seemingly surprised question, “Oh, you have a son?”

If elected, Tong will be the first woman to hold a Councilmember seat in District 43 and the first Asian-American legislator in Brooklyn.

Nancy Tong, right, out in the district getting her petitions signed to enter the Sept. 12 primary.

Having sent her child to public school in District 20 and 21, Tong appreciates the advantages the top-rated school districts provided for her son, an aspiring doctor. At the same time she recognizes the overcrowding that has plagued the revered school district.   

“There are over 40 students per class, something needs to be done,” said Tong.

The candidate applauds the mayoral universal Pre-K but emphasizes the need for more vacancies to better implement the plan.

Overcrowding in schools served as a gateway to overcrowding in homes. District 43 is riddled with illegal home conversions. Last month, the city council approved Councilmember Vincent Gentile’s bill that would impose $15,000 fines on tenants who violate illegal home conversion guidelines.

While Tong acknowledges the problems that related to the illegal home conversion crisis, the candidate prefers that lawmakers approach the problem with solutions rather than fines. Tong contends that renters, had they a choice, would never opt to participate in illegal home conversions and suggests affordable housing as the best solution to the illegal home conversion issue.

“There are no win-win situations,” said Tong. “[For] health reasons and safety reasons –– this is the main concern.  Fining them ain’t going to do anything, finding solutions is what we need.”

More. Affordable. Housing!” declared the candidate, pounding her fist in unison with the words she spoke. “It’s booming here, we need to do something.”

Tong admits that as a staffer for Colton her purview is limited, but says she does her part by encouraging those in the community to apply for affordable housing. The candidate has assisted constituents first hand with processing the online New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) applications. Tong said some constituents do not have access to a computer or are unable to navigate the tedious online form. But she feels it’s crucial for residents to apply, noting that the number of applicants signals the demand for affordable housing.

As far as her media diet, Tong says she listens to FOX News in the morning and channel 7 [ABC] at night. Both serve as background for her waking and retiring, indicating she has very little time to sit back and leisurely read a newspaper or scour the internet for breaking news. “Other than that, I’m always working,” said Tong.

“I’m not doing this for myself,” said Tong. “I’m only doing this because I want to help everybody.”

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