City Council District 33 Candidate Stuart C. Sherman is gunning for term-limited Councilmember Stephen T. Levin’s (D-Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg) seat, and hoping to beat out seven other candidates to do it.
Sherman is a free legal aid attorney and has run a clinic at Woodhull Hospital for the last two years. He said what’s unique about his candidacy is that, yes, he does have a full-time job already helping the community that isn’t political but reality.
“The idea behind what I do is that there is a strong connection between social conditions and healthcare. We try to provide legal assistance to people in an effort to improve their health. Failed policy ends with people in the hospital and emergency room,” said Sherman, who is also a Type-1 Diabetic diagnosed from childhood.
“I was lucky and privileged enough to have parents with jobs but even early on we had to fight occasionally for benefits. A lot of people didn’t have it as lucky as me, and just seeing that and experiencing that in the healthcare system really drove my desire to improve people’s lives,” said Sherman.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit the city earlier this year, there were overcrowded hospitals, stifled nursing homes, and massive deaths. Now on the cusp of a potential second wave with COVID hotspots cropping up in Brooklyn and Queens, and at the behest of Governor Andrew Cuomo, there’s been another round of targeted shut downs and restrictions hitting schools and houses of worship in some areas.
Sherman said that community engagement in terms of public health is lacking. “In order for people to adopt a policy, you can’t come in with a real top-down paternalism, where you’re saying you need to do this, you need to do that. You’re going to get a lot of pushback,” said Sherman, “Health policies work when there’s community buy in, so I think we’ve seen a lot of failure to get that buy in.”
He said the “heavy boot of the government” isn’t a great way to implement policy people believe in, particularly in Hasidic communities. “I think there’s been a failure to engage the Hasidic community. This goes back. City government had a chance to do this with the measles outbreak,” said Sherman.
Sherman said he is also a huge advocate for seniors, and unfortunately was unsurprised by the mass casualties seen in nursing homes this year since he works in the elder care system.
“No one should have to choose between their job and caring for their parents. Long term care for seniors needs to be a priority. The years of neglect of senior care made New York dry tinder for the fire that is COVID-19,” said Sherman.
“This is not only a healthcare issue but a matter of civil rights, because we owe it to our seniors to provide them the services they need to continue to live in the communities where they spent their lives and raised their families. And we owe it to working families to provide them with home health care for their elders that they care about,” said Sherman.
On the subject of housing, transportation, and development on the waterfront sections of the district, Sherman said that the average rent has skyrocketed and the number of ‘affordable’ housing units is insufficient to meet the needs of the community. He added that he is also against taking away waterfront park space on the promenade, which has been proposed in controversial restoration plans for The Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). Sherman did acknowledge that the BQE needed to be fixed, but there were community plans that offered good alternatives.
“I think at this point there’s been a lot of pushback, which I’m firmly behind, in having the city less car focused, more pedestrian, more alternative modes of transportation– and opening up green space. So the idea of taking out all this green space so they can fix a road is just a terrible concept. Especially now with all the open streets and a lot more use of public space,” said Sherman.
“People feel kind of abandoned, I think,” said Sherman moving onto the issue of small businesses struggling to survive during the health pandemic. He said he tries to provide any legal services he can or direct them to resources that will help.
Predictably the weather and possibility of more shutdowns has left many businesses without lifelines, said Sherman.
“It’s really an ominous, precarious time for the city, and I think it’s going to be up to the next city council and Mayor to really keep the city going and thriving again,” said Sherman.
Sherman commented that it’s still too early to confirm a Mayoral pick, and that much of what will be decided in the city, in terms of state and federal aid, will depend on the presidential election as well.