Cornegy Straddles Queens/Brooklyn Line In Speaker Race

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City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) is steadily making a move to the front of the pack in the battle to replace term-limited City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and both Brooklyn and Queens might be the better for it.

That after Congressman and Queens County Democratic Party Boss Joe Crowley, and Kings County Democratic Party Boss Frank Seddio, who are barely, if at all, on speaking terms with one another, both appear to like Cornegy for the job.

Cornegy grew up in both Hollis Queens where he graduated from Andrew Jackson High School, and in Bed-Stuy, where his family also owned a house, and where his father was the head pastor of the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.  The seven-footer also played backup center on the 1985 St. John’s University Final Four NCAA basketball team, which counted Crowley as a fan.

Queens Congressman Joe Crowley

While Crowley would not comment directly on whether he would back Cornegy for the Speaker position,  sources close to the Queens County Democratic Party Organization say that, “Congressman Crowley enjoys a good relationship with Councilmember Cornegy.”

Meanwhile, Seddio said he is fully supporting Cornegy.

“He’s my candidate. I think Cornegy would be a terrific speaker. He would bring a outerborough perspective to that office that hasn’t been there since [Queens Councilman] Peter Vallone,” said Seddio, adding if Queens and Brooklyn stick together on Cornegy it would be a win-win for both boroughs, and a good starting point to possibly patching things up with Crowley.

Seddio said while he personally likes the other Brooklyn contender for the speaker position, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood), he is a “purest” with his progressive views, which would hinder coalition building throughout the council.

Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio

“He [Cornegy] would be the first African-American to hold the position and he has a very encompassing viewpoint. If I had to give him a title, I would call him a common sense progressive,” said Seddio.

Cornegy counts himself as a progressive, but has had political issues with the council’s Progressive Caucus, and its founding members and original co-chairs Williams and Park Slop Councilmember Brad Lander since its inception.

This dates back to the 2013 election to replace Cornegy’s mentor, the term-limited City Councilmember and longtime Assemblymember Al Vann. Cornegy squeaked out the narrowest of wins against Kirsten John Foy, who had the backing of both Williams and Lander as well as several hundred thousand dollars in independent expenditures from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).

“Brad Lander likes Kirsten John Foy and wouldn’t let me in [to the Progressive Caucus], which was fine by me,” said Cornegy, noting that Williams was both against gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose. “So I made a vow to myself to be the most progressive non-titled progressive in the history of council, and I was actually the first city council member to perform a wedding ceremony for a gay couple.”

Cornegy is also something of a policy wonk, having worked a number of years in the council researching policy and legislation. He also has a Masters in Public Policy and was noted to be an excellent writer dating back to his basketball playing days.

This has translated into Cornegy quietly introducing and getting a number of bills passed in every committee he sits on ranging to getting door alarms put on public schools that have special education students to requiring the Department of Education to post information about gifted and talented programs in communities of color to most recently getting a public basketball court named after the late rapper Christopher Wallace (Biggie Smalls).

Beyond that, Cornegy has also learned well from Vann, long a political powerhouse in Central Brooklyn’s rough world of Black politics, to speak softly but carry a big stick, and to make powerful friends across cultural and racial lines – among them being both Crowley and Seddio.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have formed many great relationships with people from all walks of life in this city and I believe those relationships have made me better able to serve my constituents as a member of the City Council. Having the capacity to ably serve the constituents I represent is of the utmost importance to me, and I highly value the positive impact these relationships have had,” said Cornegy.