Catching Up With CM Brannan on the Present and the Future

City Councilmember Justin Brannan

For City Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst), like just about anybody, the COVID-19 pandemic with its associated deaths and social isolation, has been a time to reflect and look inward.

But at the same time, Brannan is an elected official and public servant, and thus he feels it is more important than ever to be there for his constituents.

City Councilman Justin Brannan

“This is the crux of what we all signed up for – to be there for people when things are bad. It’s easy to be there when things are good, harder to be a steady hand when you are also privately concerned for your own family and friends,” Brannan told KCP in conversation.

“I have no delusions – I’m not brave enough to be a cop or a firefighter or a paramedic so, thankfully, it’s not expected I run in when others run out. When I leave the house for work in the morning, chances are good I’ll return alive in the evening. These brave souls will never have that luxury. I’m also thankfully not smart enough to be a doctor, a nurse or a healthcare worker with no choice but to be on the front lines of this crazy pandemic. But, now as an elected official, I don’t wanna put myself or my family at risk but I also feel obligated to be out in this thing. I can’t just sit behind my desk or hide underneath it,” he added.

Brannan sees his role in the pandemic, first and foremost, is to make sure his constituents have the information they need to make informed decisions.

“The captain goes down with the ship” is an old, romantic maritime tradition that a sea captain holds ultimate responsibility for both their ship and everyone embarked on it, and that in an emergency, the captain will either save them or die trying. I guess right now that’s how many of us elected officials feel. This is what we signed up for. Even if things are beyond our control, it’s our obligation to be true to the people in good times and bad, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until term limits do us part,” he said.

Brannan said the pandemic has also laid bare a lot of issues such as healthcare and the digital divide that need to to be talking about much more seriously. 

“Racial and economic healthcare disparities can no longer be ignored. This isn’t academic. This is life and death,” said Brannan. “We are the only major country on the planet that does not guarantee healthcare for all in a cost-effective way. From Brunei to Latvia, every highly-developed country has some form of universal healthcare coverage except for the United States of America. Healthcare as a fundamental human right is not a radical idea and it never was.”

Brannan noted that there is a “new normal” and he is thinking ahead about the possibility that th summer in New York City is going to be different this year. 

“Things will likely be tentative at best. We need a contingency plan for our beaches, public pools, playground sprinklers, and cooling centers. We should be thinking about this now, not on June 29. We can’t hope for the best unless we are ready for the worst. There’s no such thing as being too prepared when there are lives on the line,” he said.

“We are still in the middle of this thing. Let’s plan and control what we can, now. I’m working with my committee on the path forward. We are going to dive a bit deeper into “resiliency” using the term more broadly as it relates to our city’s capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Right now, our city being resilient means being able to bounce back from more than just hurricanes and storms.”