2021 Elections: City Council Showdown in Coney Island

Meet the four Democrats running for City Council in the 47th District.

Candidates are already facing off for the soon-to-be-vacated City Council seat in the 47th district representing Coney Island, Sea Gate, Gravesend, and Bensonhurst. The winner of the Democratic primary in June will likely go on to sweep the general election in November and take office in January 2022, replacing term-limited Mark Treyger, who has held the seat since 2013.

The race comes as Coney Island’s economy reels from the season-long closure of the amusement park, dealing a tough blow to the neighborhood’s thoroughfares, which were already struggling with vacancies. Storm recovery and residential development are two other issues in the district, which is seeing a boom of large apartment towers rising across the peninsula.

Four candidates, all Democrats, have officially jumped into the race, with a fifth undecided, according to the latest Campaign Finance Board filings. All four confirmed candidates responded to Brooklyn Paper’s questionnaire.

Here are their responses, ordered alphabetically by last name:

ALEC BROOK-KRASNY

alec brook krasny
Alec Brook-Krasny.Courtesy of campaign

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Alec Brook-Krasny: I am running for NYC Council because I intend to bring my experience and expertise, which is essential, in order to represent the entire community and every one of my neighbors on the path to the real change — that we and our children deserve.

I had served as a member of the New York State Assembly for close to nine years, as well as a community board member and a treasurer. I founded a major non-profit community organization that currently serves thousands in providing funding and education. Like many others, I encountered drug addiction within my own family and have insight on how to combat this issue, engage resources and provide help.

I have experience fighting completely false, devastating accusations. I understand what it means to overcome obstacles in extreme situations and persevere.

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

AB: I have four degrees, expertise and experience in many different fields: serving community for over 20 years, politics, small business operations, non-profit organizations.

Currently I am working as an HR and Staffing Manager for Competent Care Early Intervention Agency. We provide resources and services to children 0-3 helping them reach their full potential at no cost to parents. I [have lived] in the 47th Council District — in Sea Gate — for 28 years.

BP: What’s your political experience?

AB: In 2000, I ran for state Assembly, and collected 4,500 signatures in support. [I was] removed from the ballot by a very questionable judge’s decision and received 1,800 write-in votes in general elections. In 2001, I ran for City Council, endorsed by the New York Times and lost to Domenic M. Recchia Jr. In 2006, I ran for state Assembly and won. I was re-elected to represent the 46th Assembly district from 2007 through 2015.

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

AB: Education, heavy traffic and the relationship between different groups, community and police.

  • Education. Solution: Open performing arts school (middle school) for gifted and talented kids zoned to Coney Island residents. Open trade school in the area in conjunction with unions apprenticeships.
  • Heavy traffic. Solution: Open a transportation branch between Seagate and Coney in the form of a bridge (environmental study needed). Cut down on development (homeless shelters included). Move bike lanes from Neptune Avenue to Surf Avenue.
  • Relationship between different groups, community, and police. Solution: Need for non-profit multicultural community center, support for the ability of the police officers who live in the community to provide safety to their own neighbors.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

AB: My work will be based on the achievements of my predecessors. However, I believe, I am totally equipped to work very closely with every elected official in the area and beyond. I think politics should be based on people’s needs rather than on a Council member’s political preferences.

BP: What endorsements do you have?

AB: None listed.

ARI KAGAN

Ari Kagan.File photo by Stefano Giovannini

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Ari Kagan: Our communities are hurting. We are in the middle of a serious crisis. The next Council Member must focus on helping every resident to recover and find stability in a post-pandemic world. I am committed to strong investment in our public institutions like hospitals and schools, as well as senior programs and libraries.

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

AK: I came to the United States with my family in 1993 from Belarus and have lived in southern Brooklyn ever since. I live in Gravesend with my wife and daughter, who is attending Murrow High School. I am the Democratic District Leader of the 45th Assembly District which includes several neighborhoods of the 47th Council District. I am currently the Director of District Operations for the Office of Councilmember Mark Treyger. I served people in this district after Superstorm Sandy and during COVID-19 pandemic.

BP: What’s your political experience?

AK: I was elected as the Democratic District Leader for the 45th Assembly District nine years ago and continue to proudly serve. I am the president of Bay Democrats, a diverse political club that aims to educate and engage. I have worked as a community liaison for comptrollers John Liu and Scott Stringer. Since January of last year, I have been working in the 47th District helping people during the pandemic with food and mask distributions, unemployment benefits, and mobile testing centers.

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

AK: Our district cannot be left behind in the city’s post-pandemic recovery. I will fight to ensure recovery includes grants to small businesses, help to small homeowners, vocational/trade courses, overcoming the digital divide. I am going to work with local leaders to address the lack of an accessible multipurpose community center in Coney Island.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

AK: The city is in a very different crisis today than when Councilman Treyger came to office after Hurricane Sandy. This pandemic has shaped the priorities that I will have as councilman. My priorities in office will be funding our public hospitals, relief for small businesses, and better conditions for our workers.

BP: What endorsements do you have?

AK: Marlboro Tenant Association President Betty James and Vice President Amarilys Herrera, Councilman Mark Treyger, District Leader Nancy Tong, Assemblyman Peter Abbate, Coney Island Community Leader Patricia Brown, Pakistani American Community Leader Pervez Siddiqui, Russian speaking Community Leader Sofiya Lobova, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), 32BJ SEIU, Communications Workers of America District 1 (CWA), District Council 37 (DC37), Hotel Trades Council (HTC), and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).

JOSEPH PACKER

Joseph Packer.Courtesy of campaign

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Joseph Packer: As a “Native Son,” I am running for City Council in the 47th District because I want to represent this iconic area that I love. I feel that my life experiences and the extensive background in community organizing along with massive community support that I possess will enable me to fast-track certain key initiatives in transportation, education, youth, employment and housing. I have been tested and have proven to be ready for the post-COVID-19 challenges that face our city.

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

JP: I am a devout Christian, husband, father and grandparent and sports enthusiast. I am the only candidate that has deep roots in this community. I work and live in the district that I look forward to representing. With that said, I am a lifelong resident of Coney Island from the Carey Gardens NYCHA developments and now presently a Sea Gate homeowner. Additionally, I worked on Wall Street, before returning home to work as a Mitchell Lama housing assistant manager for fifteen years.

BP: What’s your political experience?

JP: My political experience dates back to the David Dinkins administration. I assisted in getting him elected. As a result of helping Mayor Dinkins win, I was able to negotiate and secure a Heartshare Beacon Program that provided youth the use of school accommodations for educational and recreational services at no cost to the participants. The program is still operational today. The Dinkins experience allowed me to establish the South Brooklyn Independent Democratic Political Club that gave the community a political voice. I have gone on to become a member of the Coney Island Hospital and Local Community Board 13.

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

JP: Education, housing, employment and transportation share top billing in terms of issues that need to be immediately addressed. I plan to tackle that problem by advocating for multi-use housing with a homeownership component. There is a need for more express MTA service and the west end can definitely use a ferry service. Another major issue council district is facing is education. There is a need for a new zoned junior high school to be developed on the west end of the district, with an emphasis on expanding curriculum to include financial literacy and etiquette courses.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

JP: First off, I would like to commend the incumbent for his commitment and dedication he put into the district. Moving forward, I personally would continue to work hard in the field of education and provide for a citywide multi-use amateur sports facility for our youth which is an accomplishment the incumbent hasn’t achieved. To wrap up, I know that after the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s budget will be scarce, that is why we would need to bring a neighborhood financial institution to serve the community.

BP: What endorsements do you have?

JP: Presently, I have not received endorsements but I am awaiting responses.

STEVEN PATZER

steven patzer
Steven Patzer (right).Anna Watts

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Steven Patzer: Our district needs someone they can count on in and out of a crisis. Before the pandemic, we put on over forty nonpolitical events such as job fairs, career-related toy giveaways, and singing tours in nursing homes to honor my late grandma. During the pandemic, we’ve organized and given away over 250,000 pounds of food, COVID testing, COVID vigils, virtual job fairs, and thanked police officers and frontline workers on all shifts with meals and PPE supplies. We even helped someone adopt a dog when she was alone throughout the pandemic.

BP: Tell us about yourself, what you do for a living, your relationship to the district, and which neighborhood you live in.

SP: I rent a room in Gravesend while volunteering full-time doing community work. I saved up to do so since I was 14 by working construction jobs, creating websites, cleaning houses, and working for the Simon Wiesenthal Center educating individuals on hate crimes. My favorite childhood memories are of my single mom taking us to the Coney Island boardwalk for Friday night fireworks and pizza at Spumoni Gardens with my grandma.

BP: What’s your political experience?

SP: I’ve worked on campaigns and lobbied in Albany for higher education. However, my most important political experience was helping [Assemblymember] Mathylde Frontus deliver hot meals to seniors throughout the early months of the pandemic.

BP: What are the biggest challenges facing the district and how will you solve them?

SP: We’re headed for a crisis in housing when the rent moratorium ends and affordable housing will be more important than ever. I’ll fight for legislation that can increase access to affordable housing by legalizing basement apartments in areas that aren’t prone to flooding and redefining “affordable” by ZIP code instead of averages that include incomes for the wealthiest portions of Brooklyn. On transportation, I support improving parking access without ignoring our need for public transportation that is accessible, especially for our seniors and disabled.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

SP: When the city has a budget shortfall, we need a councilman skilled in creating public-private partnerships. We couldn’t have given out PPE, food, free SHSAT prep, or created most of our events if small businesses hadn’t come together to provide everything they could. These same small businesses also can guide us in training unemployed members of our community to fill jobs they create.

BP: What endorsements do you have?

SP: Our endorsement list includes tenant association presidents, teachers, small business owners, community advocates, and Brooklyn-native Sopranos and Blue Bloods star Steve Schirripa. A few of our favorite endorsements are people in the community such as Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio, who lost a child to a car accident several years ago and trusts us as an ally in her fight for safe streets for children. Ajamu Osborne is a single dad living in public housing and gave up his own heaters to a family whose heating system was broken.

Note: Some responses have been edited for brevity, clarity, and style consistency.
This story first appeared in our sister site, The Brooklyn Paper.

 

More from Around New York