City Council District 40: Blake Morris Makes his Case

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Blake Morris

Local attorney Blake Morris is looking to take the political machine by the horns again in this year’s city council race for District 40’s seat, currently held by term-limited Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens)

Morris had made a run for State Senate in the 17th District, which has some overlap with the council district, back in 2018. He ran against State Sen. Simcha Felder as a staunch progressive Democrat and had especially taken issue with the fact that Felder, also a registered Democrat, caucused with the Republican majority in the New York Senate.

“A lot of our issues in the 40th have never been addressed,” said Morris on why he’s running for city council. “We have an overdevelopment issue with market-rate housing, we have an underdevelopment issue for affordable housing, shortage of open spaces for public recreation, all kinds of overcrowding in schools, a transit desert, it’s a laundry list for almost 20 years now. That’s why I needed to run even before the pandemic.”

Blake Morris

His father was a traveling salesman for most of his life and Morris didn’t move to Brooklyn until 1984. Though he’s not originally from Brooklyn, said Morris, his family line was from Eastern-Europe and migrated to what would be Crown Heights in the 1870s. 

He attended Brooklyn Law School and used to have an attorney law office on Cortelyou Road before the pandemic hit.

To aid in housing issues, he proposed a moratorium on ULURP applications and on construction projects. He said he supports upzoning of commercial streets and downzoning of residential streets in the community board districts 12, 17, and 9 because they are “outdated” and haven’t been reviewed since the 1960s. 

“They never did the rezoning and they still have the original zoning from the 1961 zoning resolution,” said Morris. “And the 1961 zoning code was based on values of the 1940s and 50s which was a totally different world.”

He said that the reason the community hasn’t rezoned is because there’s no “leadership” from the current councilmember.

On the topic of education, he said that most of the overcrowding issues are because of holdover segregation problems in the district. Morris suggested removing certain restrictions and catchment areas for middle and elementary schools like they do high schools. 

“High schools are city wide, so any student can attend and is not restricted by geography which is a good thing,” said Morris, whose wife works in education.

When asked about the gifted and talented program’s controversial Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), he said it was biased and should’ve been eliminated a long time ago. “It in no way could measure the dynamic of a child’s growth. It was a static measure of a human being in the very part of their age when they experience the most changes,” said Morris.

Morris also proposed making the district’s transportation more efficient by adding traffic circles, pedestrian traffic signals,

“What we can do to minimize the traffic and alleviate the transit deserts that we have in the 40th is by having streetcar service and a bicycle path on the Bay Ridge Freightline,” said Morris. 

He said the city could renovate one of the original freight-only rail lines in Bay Ridge, that runs from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, to shuttle people all the way to the Brighton line at Avenue H and I. The line would have an added bicycle expressway for several miles, and is close to many subway lines for transfers. 

The race in this district is highly competitive with several candidates already having raised a considerable amount of money. Some of these candidates have received and most likely will get the city’s $8-to-$1 public funding match on small campaign contributions.

According to the city’s Campaign Finance Board website, Morris has raised $68,602 thus far and has received $54,697 in public matching funds. 

Also receiving public matching funds in the race are Rita Joseph, who raised $58,099 and received $145,958 in matching funds; and Josue (Josh) Pierre, who has raised $46,391 and received $115,003 in matching funds.

The candidates who have raised in excess of $10,000 and have not as of yet received public matching funds include Edwin Raymond ($90,910), Kenya Handy-Hillard ($57,463), Brain Cunningham (($24,803) and John Williams ($21,808).