When Monique Chandler-Waterman founded the non-profit organization East Flatbush Village (EFV) in 2008 she could not have imagined it would lead her to seek the 45th Councilmatic seat recently vacated when her mentor and former boss City Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood, Canarsie) was elected as public advocate.
Before working for then-Council member Williams, the local activist took a dim view of politicians who she says legislated based on their own feelings, rather than making votes a reflection of the voice of the community. But after working side-by-side with Williams, it was he who asked Chandler-Waterman to run for his council seat.
Today, Chandler-Waterman takes a different view of elected office. The life-long Flatbush resident says, in order to make systemic changes that support the district she has to have a seat at the table where legislative and policy decisions are made.
“Working with [Council Member Williams] showed me what can be done,” said Chandler-Waterman, who also believes there are limitations on what the non-profit she runs can do, “I’m a part of the solution, and I’m going to make sure the dots are connected between the community, and the legislature.”
The 38 year-old, mother of four says both the day care center and non-profit organization she founded made her keenly aware of the issues that face her community. When her first child was born, a lack of day care services for parents who worked days and nights led her to open a 24-hour daycare that included a curriculum to prepare children for pre-k which included classes in sign language, Spanish and Swahili. When her daycare closed, Chandler-Waterman and her husband Eric founded EFV using their own money.
The EFV was created to close the gap in activities for youth, first starting with athletic programming like football and cheerleading. Today, EFV which now receives public funds, and includes a larger youth and community development program that includes training in financial literacy, mental health education, first aid (Stop The Bleed) and civics. The organization operates six days per week, and serves approximately 1,000 children annually including special events that draws young people from beyond District 45. Chandler-Waterman says it was important to include parents as well because they are the backbones of their homes.
If elected to the city council, Chandler-Waterman said her priorities include the creation and maintenance of affordable housing and addressing the up zoning of the residential community, curbing gun violence in a district that includes some of the highest rates in the city and borough. She also will push for better mental health services because not only are people suffering in silence, but police should not be first responders when people are in crisis.
Policing must be addressed in a community that is over policed, she said.
The candidate says she understands the workings of city hall and government because of her experience working for Williams and her ongoing ties to elected officials.
Chandler- Waterman says what sets her apart from other candidates is she was born, raised and attended schools in East Flatbush. As a first generation immigrant born to a Jamaican father and Bajan mother she attended PS 135, as her mother did – two of her four children would follow. She then went on to Meyer Levin Middle School, Boys and Girls High School then obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Berkley College, and an MBA from Metropolitan College. She says she was drawn to business degrees because she felt she needed the business acumen to be a better advocate.
Her Achilles heel as a candidate? “My strengths and weaknesses are the same. I go hard,” she said with a smile. “People feel like I do too much sometimes. My drive and passion can be a lot for some people.”
Chandler-Waterman says her work from her community and youth development work to the anti-violence interventions and rallies she has organized like Occupy the Corner have helped bolster her credibility. “I have first hand knowledge of my community and I want to give back,” said Chandler-Waterman.