Pakistani Immigrant Seeks To Break Park Slope Progressive Machine

Park Slope’s progressive political machine, whose mantra is inclusiveness, political empowerment and immigrant rights, is getting pushback from the working-class immigrant side of its assembly district.

That after Pakistani-American immigrant Kashif Hussain, 41, and co-founder of the Pakistani American Youth Society (PAYS), announced he is running for the open Democratic District Leadership seat in the 44th District.

Kashif Hussain

The district includes the predominately wealthy, liberal and white Park Slope and Windsor Terrace on the north end, and the largely immigrant working-class Pakistani, Bengali and Orthodox Jewish side in Kensington, Ditmas Park and Borough Park on the southern end.

“I came here as a child immigrant in my early teens right after the first Gulf War, and just like any other immigrant community it was very tough for us at the beginning,” recalled Hussain, 41, sitting in the PAYS office on Newkirk Avenue in the middle of the bustling Pakistani-American neighborhood. 

“My family had to spend everything we had to get here and start over. My parents dream was to put their kids [Hussain and his two sisters] through school. My dad was a highly educated architect back home, but when he came here his college degree didn’t transfer over so he became a gas attendant and store clerk. For two months we were homeless, living with extended family and from shelter to shelter,” recalled Hussain.

“To help my family, I decided to study and also go to work so I joined my father where he was working at a store on Kings Highway. Every day, I’d go to school, come back home to do my homework and then do 12 hour shifts. We were a very tight-knit family and I matured very early. I had to by circumstance.”

Eventually Hussain graduated from James Madison High School, whose alumni include U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer as well as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

After high school, Hussain worked his way through the CUNY school system where he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

But at the same time, Hussain never left the neighborhood, where he still lives with his wife and two children. He also always felt the need to give back and become involved in his adopted country that he has grown to love. It is for this reason he co-founded PAYS as a community center developing all programs and events for youth by the youth.

He is also became involved in a number civic endeavors. Among these are being a core team member for the city’s Office of Emergency Management’s Community Emergency Response Team (NYCEM-CERT) and as a NYPD Auxiliary Sergeant in the 66th precinct.  

He is also an emergency medical volunteer with the Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corp; an active member of NYPD’s Muslim Officers Society, a founding member and the vice president of Muslim Civilian Observation Patrol & Services (MCOPS); and one of the founding members of Muslims Giving Back (MGB), a world recognized organization that has been consistently feeding hot meals, providing blankets, and hygiene kits to hundreds of thousands of homeless individuals in the city.

Hussain said as a district leader he sees himself as a bridge builder, who will go to all corners of the district to unite the various neighborhoods.

But while Hussain’s resume and work in the community would seemingly make him a poster child candidate for Park Slope’s progressive political machine, he also realizes the district leader race won’t be easy as he faces progressive politically connected Park Slope Attorney Doug Schneider.

Schneider’s wife served as Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s campaign treasurer and currently works in the mayor’s office as a key operative. Additionally, Schneider is associated with Brownstone Brooklyn’s powerful political clubhouses, and has already garnered key support from the progressive political machine.

This includes City Council Member Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park, Kensington) and Assembly Members Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park, Kensington, Borough Park) and Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park).

That said, Hussain has a growing base of Muslim support from the district’s Pakistani and Bengali community, as well as from the district’s Orthodox Jewish community. This includes Bridge Multicultural Advocacy Project Founder and Director Mark Meyer Appel – a major figure in the Orthodox Jewish community.

“It is truly a time for a person from the underrepresented community to hold office. I have done my due diligence for 20 years and have the experience with people to break the cycle of the political machine,” said Hussain.

“Our questions to the progressives are very simple. When will you allow to run an immigrant candidate? When will you sign our permission slip? We have to break the cycle of the political machine. These positions have become appointed rather than elected positions, and I belive in elective positions. It’s not about hijacking or interjecting who we are, but about representing what people really feel.”

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