Chi Ossé Brings Fresh Energy to Bed-Stuy Council Race

City Council Member Chi Ossé.

Activist and Candidate Chi Ossé is running for District 36’s City Council seat, currently held by Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights).

Ossé was born and raised in Crown Heights and is up against some very dyed in the wool politicians from the Bed-Stuy side of the district. He said being 22-years-old makes him feel underestimated in the race since he’s one of the youngest candidates, but he’s using that as a point of pride to call for much-needed change and diversity in his community. He said he never thought he’d run for office, but someone had to. 

“The same types of people are running for these positions and we’re seeing nothing change in our neighborhoods, in our district. What we need in politics isn’t more politicians but more people who have experienced the hardships of life,” said Ossé. “We need diversity not only in race, but representation not only in terms of gender, sexual orientation, but age as well.”

Ossé said he’s inspired by his father, legendary Haitian-American hip hop music attorney and podcaster Reginald Joseph “Reggie” Ossé aka Combat Jack who died at age 54 from cancer. 

City Council Candidate Chi Ossé. Contributed Photo.

His father’s legacy focused on the intersection between politics and culture, an energy Ossé said he has funneled into his activism. Ossé said there are pros and cons to the changes that have happened in the district in terms of gentrification and policing. On the one hand, more money has been brought to the district and it is much safer, but there is also a persistent gun violence issue and it’s unfortunate that many long-time residents have been pushed out, he said.

“We need a shift from our roots with the youth in order to fix the issues with gun violence,” said Ossé. He said he does not think more cops will solve issues with public safety in the district and is a big supporter of violence interrupters and community programs that target the youth. He said officers aren’t from the neighborhood either and that’s why their interaction with its kids is so fraught.    

He is a prominent figure in the wave of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Brooklyn, marching alongside the activist collective Warriors in the Garden that he’s been a part of since protests began early this year. Ossé said Warriors in the Garden, outside of being a part of the demonstrations, has worked to organize the community around small businesses and charity. 

“It’s good chaos. This summer really awakened something in my generation, and in a lot of people, and I’m so happy that it did,” said Ossé. “I think I took that final step to take action on those injustices this year and it galvanized an enormous amount of support amongst fellow individuals who want to make that change as well.”  

Ossé said because of his father’s death he is taking a hard look at how policies directly impact his community, starting with inequity in healthcare. His other main policies are reinvesting in housing and NYCHA, public safety, small businesses, and combating climate change.  

“There’s only one hospital in this entire district and that’s because of the lack of funding that’s dedicated to healthcare,” said Ossé.

Ossé said he wants to lead an action-driven campaign. He suggested adding amendments to bills on the docket, and using tax revenues and reallocated city agency budgets as a funding source for proposed changes. He said in terms of the deficit, he wants to implement a tax on the wealthy and higher-earning commuters, and move funds from the NYPD budget, to support the city’s schools, NYCHA buildings, and need for healthcare.

Ossé railed against the lack of support from the government for struggling small business owners like his mother who owns The BAKERY on Bergen in nearby Prospect Heights. He said it’s incredibly important to organize, shop at local eateries, and potentially lower the cost of tech delivery for business owners, especially with the recent close of indoor dining and inclement weather. He said he envisions the Black Lives Matter mural being an event and cultural space, and has been petitioning to keep that section closed for kids and the community to use in the future.

Climate change is a major sticking point in Ossé’s platform. 

He said in addition to retrofitting the Green New Deal for the city, he wants to apply practical changes that will affect the environment in a positive way. He has pledged to not take money from companies that utilize fossil fuels among other things. He said he supports building green housing throughout NYCHA to reduce the carbon footprint, increasing green spaces, and ending National Grid’s Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project in Brownsville.

“That should be stopped and the effort going toward that bill should go toward green jobs training in NYCHA and housing,” said Ossé. 

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