Jeffries’ “Congress On The Corner” Brings Government Accountability To Constituents

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries at one of his “Congress on Your Corner” events, which took place in Brighton Beach this week. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

From loyalty and championing the party from which he belongs, to getting bipartisan legislation written and passed, to building and maintaining strong political alliances in the rough-and-tumble world of Brooklyn politics, Democratic U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is the full package.

But as or more important that all the aforementioned things, it is Jeffries’ continuing commitment to the constituents he serves that puts him at the head of the political class, and for which all elected officials should aspire to become.

A case in point was last weekend, when Jeffries brought his “Congress on the Corner” series to the corner of Coney Island and Brighton Beach Avenues, where constituents lined up to voice their concerns and complaints to Jeffries and his staff.

“The idea for Congress on the corner started when I was in the state assembly and we did something called summer in the subway, where we brought our office to subway stations throughout the district,” said Jeffries. “I thought it was important to inform and to engage with constituents when I was back home after the assembly legislative session concluded. As a member of Congress I was determined to do the same exact thing as it relates to bringing our office and the federal government to light for the people who I’m  privileged to represent.”

In observing Jeffries and his staff in action last weekend, a few things deserve being noted. Firstly, that Jeffries, though highly intelligent, and who came into public service after a tenure as a highly paid white shoe attorney, is an extremely good listener. And there is no air of being condescending – that Jeffries’ knows how the system works while his constituents do not. Jeffries lends his ear to get a total understanding of the constituent’s concerns and how they may be addressed.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries at a "Congress on Your Corner" event
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries speaks with a constituent in Bright Beach. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

The second thing is that addition to listening, Jeffries has member of his staff take notes of the conversation. This allows for a thorough understanding of the issue being raised and how the concerns can be followed up on  a governmental level.

Among the concerns raised on this day were from a man in a wheelchair speaking about more accessibility to mass transit for the disabled. Other concerns brought up were about limited green space and parks in the Brighton Beach neighborhood, immigration concerns in connection to the travel ban and the Washington  DC political climate.

During Congress’ summer recess, Jeffries will bring his Congress on your Corner session to every neighborhood in his 8th Congressional district. He already brought it to Coney Island and this weekend will bring it to East New York.

The district includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Mill Basin and Coney Island in Brooklyn, and South Ozone Park and Howard Beach in Queens.

“There are people who might never come to our district office, but who choose to show up when I bring the office to them in the neighborhood that they live in,” said Jeffries.

“Congress on your corner is an integral part of making sure I vigorously serve the people I’m privileged to represent down in Washington, and to  hear their concerns directly, work on solving their problems and having a level of accountability that’s important in our democracy,” he added. Photographs by Tsubasa Berg