2021 Elections: Old Bushwick Versus New Bushwick in City Council Race

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The 37th Council District covers the neighborhoods of Bushwick, East New York, Cypress Hills, Ocean Hill, and Brownsville. Incumbent Councilmember Darma Diaz was elected to the seat in 2020 after her predecessor Rafael Espinal abruptly resigned in January.

The contentious Democratic primary was dominated by legal battles between party-backed Diaz and her upstart competitors over petitioning requirements to get on the ballot amid the pandemic, which resulted in state court judges booting all of Diaz’s opponents off the Democratic ticket ahead of the vote.

According to the latest Campaign Finance Board filings, seven people are registered to run for the seat this time around, many of them returning candidates from last year’s primaries. Four candidates completed Brooklyn Paper’s questionnaire. Candidates Chris Durosinmi and Randolph Ferdinand did not respond for comment and no contact information or campaign website could be found for candidate Heriberto Mateo.

Here are the candidates who responded, ordered alphabetically by their last names:


City Council candidate for the 37th District Misba Abdin.Courtesy of campaign

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Misba Abdin: The political structure in Brooklyn and this community have changed drastically. No more do we have deal with the Towns and the Dilan dynasties. I bring a fresh spirit to this campaign, I am not beholden to any party or any ultra-progressive groups. I service this community, trying to provide the residents of the 37th District with much-needed community leadership, now I am blessed to be given this opportunity to provide the same type of service but when elected on a larger scale. I am also a businessman and understand the growing centricities [sic] of this district and I bring managerial skills which would be most important now during this COVID-19 pandemic.

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district.

MA: I have lived in Cypress Hills for a long time now. I run a successful not-for-profit agency that now has become the lifeblood to many in our district.

MA: Some of the biggest problems we face in the district are public safety, housing, job security, and I can go on and on about the diminished services of our local leader’s as they pontificate about services during the pandemic.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

MA: One of the first things I will set out to do is place my office in a community that desperately needs social service programs and an official entity to guide them in resolving their needs. I will also provide satellite offices in other sections of the district. We would maintain our offices to be open daily and provide set staff in those offices. This has never been done on the scale we wish to accomplish.

BP: What’s your political experience?

MA: I am a political novice, and most of my service provided to assists residents of the 37th Council District is as a community leader and businessman. What better way to elect someone who is providing services already.

BP: Any official endorsements?

MA: To this date I have no grandiose endorsements from established unions or political parties. I will have the support of the residents and fellow community leaders that will help my campaign in becoming one of the first Bangladeshi City Councilmember representing a Brooklyn district.


Darma Diaz.Jonathan Ortiz

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Darma Diaz: I am running to further the community service work I’ve done for several decades. I am running to be a voice for the underserved, for a community suffering from poverty, homelessness, inadequate healthcare, overcrowded classrooms, pervasive crime, garbage dumping, and a lack of youth programs.

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district.

DD: I live in Cypress Hills. Before the Council, I was housing director at a local family shelter, responsible for placing families into permanent housing and ensuring they were supported with follow-up services. Over the past few decades, I spent a lot of my free time volunteering as an education advocate, directly resulting in the creation of four public schools in the district.

I worked to pair probation officers with local service providers in an effort to reduce recidivism, while also serving on the 75th Precinct Community Council and the Zone 2 Advisory Board as part of their executive leadership. As a housing advocate, I spent hundreds of hours on the East New York rezoning project, where my work resulted in meaningful, measurable changes to the city’s original plan. I helped with many community clean-up events and with the preservation of Highland Park; I am also a founding member of BACDY’s (Bangladesh American Community Development Youth Services) and I served on the board at BMS Family Health & Wellness Centers.

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

DD: Housing continues to be the single greatest issue. We are still dealing with gentrification and soon we will see how the East New York rezoning plan helps or hurts the area. This includes homelessness, homeownership development and preservation, and support for renters that have lost their jobs.

So many of our mom-and-pop businesses are gone. The remaining ones are struggling, and there is a dire need to preserve and create more local businesses. Quality of life issues, starting with public safety and crime, but extending into cleaner streets, support for Highland Park, opportunities for youth, and support for seniors.

BP: How do you distinguish yourself from your challengers in the race?

DD: They simply aren’t out there supporting the full needs of the district. I have a responsibility to the entire district.

I also won’t exclude any industry simply “because.” That is a lazy answer to a bigger issue. Real estate has to have a seat at the community’s table. That industry is needed to build! That doesn’t mean that they will be allowed to do anything they want, but neither will any other industry or group. My policy remains: you are welcome at the planning table provided you support the community and its needs, and can prove it.

BP: What’s your political experience?

DD: In addition to me being the current councilmember, I am a former District Leader of many years. I’ve also worked on a number of local political campaigns. And I served for several years as staff to former Assemblymember Darryl Towns.

BP: Any official endorsements?

DD: I am still in the interview process seeking endorsements.


City Council candidate Rick Echevarría.Courtesy of campaign

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Rick Echevarría: I am running because I am a de Blasio administration whistleblower. NYC’s housing agencies— HPD, NYCHA, and the Department of Homeless Services—are plagued by deep levels of administrative housing corruption. It’s time the nearly three-decades-long era of administrative housing corruption is brought to an end.

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district.

RE: I was born north Brooklyn and raised in Bushwick’s Hope Gardens Public Housing development. My parents owned a bodega on Gates Avenue while I was growing up and I attended St. Brigid’s school.

I am a product of this community. It’s where I learned how to become a community organizer, it’s where I founded the Bushwick Housing Independence Project, and it’s still home. After working in senior management at HPD and becoming a whistleblower, I started a career as a freelance ESL teacher working remotely with students from all over the world.

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

RE: Housing is the number one problem facing the district, and it is a problem with many dimensions including supply, affordability, and quality. The issues stem from a longstanding failure to properly administer housing programs and policy on the part of our city’s three housing agencies.

The solution is to reorganize our city’s housing agencies, and to usher in an era of performance- and impact-based management and accountability. NYCHA is currently undergoing court-mandated reorganization, HPD and DHS should be forced to do the same.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

RE: I am the only candidate in this race that has led a nonprofit organization in the district and worked at a senior level in city government. I think I am best equipped to fight the problems of housing fraud and corruption because I have spent my career understanding it and combating it. I’m the housing expert in this race.

I am sure my opponents care about housing issues, but none of them have a résumé that compares to my actual track record of direct experience working to combat and solve the housing crisis in the district.

BP: What’s your political experience?

RE: I have been a staffer on several political campaigns during the past decade, all in efforts to elect pro-tenant candidates to city and state government. I was the campaign manager on Jumaane Williams’ 2009 general election race against then incumbent Kendall Stewart.

BP: Any official endorsements?

RE: I am pursuing very few endorsements and will be announcing some soon, but overall I am not running an endorsement-based campaign.


City Council candidate Sandy Nurse.Brandon Harrison

Brooklyn Paper: Why are you running for City Council?

Sandy Nurse: I am running to be a fighter for District 37 in City Hall. Our underserved and under resourced community is facing deep crises that have only been further exacerbated by COVID-19.

I am running to end homelessness and housing insecurity; for high quality equitable public education for every single person in this city; to ensure our youth are nurtured, protected and engaged; to fight for all people in New York to have access to safe, dignified work with living wages; and to guarantee that we have a livable future in the face of climate change.

BP: Tell us about yourself and your relationship to the district?

SN: I live in Bushwick and for the last decade I have been involved in opening community gardens, building out large urban farms, starting a youth job program, and opening a community space. I am the founder of BK ROT, and am the co-founder of Mayday Space.

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

SN: COVID-19 recovery is my top priority. For the last 11 months, our food distribution program has delivered to community members in need. Every week, through a partnership with Universe City and other community organizations, we support over 2,000 families with a supply of bags of food, but we know we are not reaching everyone.

As we enter the next phase of COVID vaccinations, we need to recognize that our city’s economic recovery will be long. The vaccine is not a magic wand.

BP: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

SN: Our platform is the most ambitious progressive platform that covers not only housing and local economic development, but a wide range of issues that impact this community and our city. I am not a single-issue candidate. I am a candidate that can speak to a full spectrum of issues that are deeply intertwined.

BP: What’s your political experience?

SN: I have worked within the grassroots for most of my adult life. I have stood on the frontlines with thousands demanding police reform, real action to fight back against climate change, rights for tenants, and enforcement to stop predatory developers.

I have created community spaces and projects that thousands of people in our District use every year. I also served on the Community Board 4.

BP: Any official endorsements?

SN: Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Sen. Julia Salazar, State Sen. Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Maritza Davila, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change, Make the Road Action, TREEage, Run For Something, Women of Color for Progress, Churches United for Fair Housing, Vocal New York Action Fund, New Kings Democrats, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Citizen Action, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.

Note: Some responses have been edited for brevity, clarity, and style consistency.