Anthony Beckford, a longtime resident, community activist and candidate in the upcoming 45th District Special City Council Election, is looking to put the people before politics.
Beckford is one of ten candidates in the special election to fill the now-vacant City Council seat left open by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. The district includes East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Midwood.
This is a second run for this seat for Beckford, who in 2017 challenged Williams, as a political newcomer. Beckford ended up losing that election but the campaign left a lasting impression on him, as he realized the need to represent his fellow neighbors.
“The last race I ran was more of an accountability thing because a lot of elected [officials] run unopposed, though many of them start off with good intentions. They start out as an activist, make a lot of noise, want to make a difference but then party dynamics started influencing them,” said Beckford.
The Brooklyn native has once again committed himself to represent the needs of his community, especially it’s minority communities at the local government level.
“Some people are just in it for accolades, people are just in it for resume building, and we don’t need that, especially in our district. We do not need that at all. What we need is actual leadership that is not willing to be a tyrant, that is willing to meet with the people and work with them to make the differences that we need. I’ve been doing that for years, taking community ideas and presenting to elected officials,” added Beckford.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Beckford was born and raised in the community and has grown close to his fellow residents over the years. The Flatbush native, started as an activist at the tender age of 12 while still a student at Winthrop Junior High School.
“I’m the most grassroots candidate. I’m beholden to no elected official. There’s a lot of elected officials that I’ve worked with regarding policy and issues facing the community. In general, I’m not controlled or affiliated with any political clubs that they [political officials] put up to hold onto their political power. I only answer to the people,” said Beckford.
Beckford, as a campaign rule, has refused to accept large money donations from PACs, real estate or corporations.
“It is a definite rule of mine. Whoever gives you the donations, is who you have to answer to. I’d rather get $5, $10 or $20 donations from the people because that is who I answer to. Money is not going to win this race, it’s the people,” said Beckford.
As a local resident, Beckford has been able to experience the needs of the district first hand. He believes that the top issue facing the area is affordable housing and the increasing development in the area that has many residents worried over displacement.
“Housing is number one. I can solve anything else for you but if I can’t keep you in your home. Housing is a major issue for this district and for that reason if I were to get elected, within the first 30 days I would introduce the Housing Justice Bill,” said Beckford.
Beckford went on to note that the bill will include rent rollbacks, exclusion of preferential rent from apartment leases, abolish rent increases from Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and Individual Apartment Improvements (IAI’s) and homeowner protections.
Another top issue Beckford wants to address in the district is immigration. The majority of the district identifies as Afro-Caribbean or African-American, with many being Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients.
There is a large Haitian and Haitian-American community in East Flatbush, which last year was honored with a ‘Little Haiti’ designation.
“I want to work not only with city officials but with state officials to pass, what I like to call, Permanent Protected Status (PPS). So no longer will there be a timeline where people will have to worry about, ‘Will I be snatched away from my family?’ Will the community I’ve grown to be a part of still be my community? Will I have to live in fear?’,” declared Beckford.
Beckford believes that current immigrants should already get an opportunity to receive U.S. citizenship. He supports the upcoming federal reintroduction of the Dream Act with new language providing protections for TPS and DED recipients.
“On the local level we say New York City is a sanctuary city, but we’ve seen that it really is not. We’ve seen ICE snatch people from the courts. I actually look forward to taking over as Chair of the Immigration Committee, if the Speaker sees it, and if I get elected, to make sure these things like immigration protection bills get passed,” said Beckford.
Some other issues the Brooklynite wants to address are healthcare and criminal justice reform. Beckford is a Brooklyn Sector of Copwatch Patrol Unit leader and the President and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn.
“Our community is really facing four or five issues including healthcare and criminal justice reform. We need to end cash bail, I’m a huge advocate of that change. We need to make sure that there is comprehensive justice. We need to make sure there is no disparity when it comes to justice. We need to make sure that there is full police accountability and transparency,” said Beckford.
Beckford is also not in full support of the recently passed Congestion Pricing legislation that will hike tolls at all seven city bridges in a bid to reduce congestion into Manhattan. Earlier this week, the plan was passed as part of the $175 billion fiscal 2020 state budget, that will aim to raise the $15 billion to fix the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) subway, train, bus, bridge and tunnel system.
“That’s like a two-headed snake. The thing about congestion pricing it can help fund improvement to the MTA. The thing about though is that we need to make sure that this fare increase is not affecting people in low-income communities, who have to get from point A to point B. We need to sit down and work it out so it’s not going to be so high in cost that it adds more hardship onto people already crossing into Manhattan,” said Beckford.
Beckford is so committed to improving his home, that he is passing along his work as an activist to his 7-year-old daughter, Harmonee Beckford.
“I’m a single father and you know a lot of the issues I advocate and fight for she is there along with me too. My daughter comes along with me so she can learn and be engaged too. I’m passing along the work because she is the future of our community,” remarked Beckford.
The special election is set for Tuesday, May 14. The winner will serve until the end of this year. However, there is a primary for the seat on June 25 and a general election in November. The winner of those races will serve starting Jan.1, 2020 and serve out the remainder of Williams term.