Candidate Wilfredo Florentino is running to replace legendary City Councilmember Inez Barron (D-East New York, New Lots, Spring Creek/ Starrett City) in the 42nd District.
Florentino, who grew up just across the tracks from East New York in North Brooklyn, was born and raised and educated in the borough before going on to serve in the army and rising through the ranks to become a Lieutenant.
“It gives a really unique perspective. I served during the ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ era which was extremely challenging to live in one’s truth. And being a secondary citizen just wanting to serve was really challenging. But service has been in my family’s blood, going back generations we have military folk,” said Florentino.
Florentino said that his experiences as a Latino, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and a vet have definitely informed his policies. He said he was also proud of the recent wave of representation in the city council and thinks electing a more diverse crowd that actually reflects the city is critical.
He added that veterans also don’t get the support they need in order to survive in the city, especially elderly or Black and Brown veterans.
“I am also absolutely clear about policing in our communities, and how unnecessary it is for us to have weapons of war on our streets. I know for a fact that our police officers don’t need weapons of war and that the overcriminalization of our people is racially biased,” said Florentino about his law and order views.
Florentino said unfortunately gun violence is pervasive in the community.
“I think one of the many ways we can address these types of issues is working with the school systems. Our schools are segregated and underfunded. As it relates to criminal justice in particular the council has a lot of room to strengthen legislation to reduce short jail sentences with community-based programs,” said Florentino.
Florentino went on to address the increasing worry over real estate and gentrification in the neighborhood, most readily evident with the battle over Amazon leasing several properties in East New York over the past few months. The company has created thousands of small delivery hubs out of warehouses in neighborhoods and suburbs in order to stick to its ever-shrinking turn around time for shipping.
“I have a front seat on the community board to how the community is always forced into the back seat as it relates to policies and programs that benefit us,” said Florentino.
He noted that East New York as a traditionally disenfranchised and marginalized community absolutely needs jobs, but the way in which Amazon operates isn’t transparent and the jobs created are not union jobs. “There’s no community input,” said Florentino.
Not wanting to ignore the elephant in the room, KCP asked Florentino if he was nervous to possibly go up against a power couple like the Barrons, or specifically Assemblymember Charles Barron (D-East New York) who allegedly will run to replace his wife as councilmember like they’ve done in the past. The legacy has become a stronghold to some and a controversy to others.
Florentino said in response that East New York needs to organize around where it’s missing and failing to succeed. “East New York must change policies that are imposed on us that are unacceptable. That means working in a coalition to get change,” said Florentino.
His last point focused on his adamant stance against the property tax lien sale and the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) housing program, which other candidates in other races have come out against as well. RAD allows for private money and contracts for the development and rehabilitation of public housing and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings.
“My community dictates very clearly where they stand on RAD,” said Florentino. “We ain’t having it.”
Florentino instead shifted to the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, which is a bill that U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Queens, Lower Manhattan) sponsored that allocates $70 billion for public housing capital repairs and upgrades nationally and $32 billion for NYCHA. He said the bill has his full support as an alternative to RAD.
“Returning the land to the people is absolutely critical,” said Florentino, who currently works for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a grant writer.