Community activist and carpenter Sandy Nurse, 35, has dropped out of her campaign for Assembly District 54 and jumped into the race for the now-vacant city council seat in District 37 (Brownsville, Bushwick, Cypress Hills, East New York, City Line, Ocean Hill), following the sudden resignation of Rafael Espinal.
Her pivot to city council immediately gained endorsements from State Senator Julia Salazar, City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez.
Although her state assembly campaign had raised more than $42,000 through grassroots funding, she’s changed course because she thinks she can reach a greater impact at a more hyper-local level, she said.
“I joined this entire race — I’ve never been a political candidate before — because I was asked by people in my community, and because I saw there was a very clear need for very active leadership that’s going to take the initiative, and be working on the ground, accountable to the people who are suffering,” Nurse said.
The daughter of a navy officer, Nurse grew up on military bases before eventually moving to Bushwick in 2009. While fulfilling a graduate program at the New School in 2011, she interned at the United Nations and lived temporarily in Haiti, working for the UN’s World Food Program. Later on, she became involved in Occupy Wallstreet.
She chose to stay in Bushwick because she felt a strong connection to the neighborhood. “Bushwick, you know, it really transformed me,” said Nurse. “It’s the longest place I’ve ever lived in my life.”
She said she enjoys working with young people in particular. “Growing up, I had a very tumultuous, violent household, and so I really wanted to be someone that I didn’t have when I was growing up,” Nurse said.
One of her biggest issues is housing. “It’s the biggest need in New York City,” she said. “And from working with young people for the last eight years, I mean, the level of extreme housing instability that they are facing is unacceptable and inhumane.”
She plans to explore housing alternatives, including pulling properties off the private market, in order to ensure affordability and prevent displacement. To do this, she said she will meet with local housing organizers and tenant associations to figure out new strategies.
“There’s just so many ways in which the real estate industry and global capital that’s invested in real estate is literally pulling properties out from under people,” she said.
In addition to working on housing, she wants to expand enfranchisement to green card holders and fight for more public school funding. She was an active force in the local effort to pass the Commercial Waste Zones bill last November, and she plans to continue advocating for climate resilience and eco-minded waste reform.
“My neighborhood, Bushwick, Cypress Hill, parts of East New York, and Brownsville, still do not have a brown bin. We were never considered for the brown bin at first. I don’t know why they thought we should not be included, but you know, we also are capable of separating our organics,” she said.
Also running for the seat is Democratic District Leader Darma Diaz. The special election is slated for April 28.