2021 Elections: Who’s running for City Council District 49?

The candidates for City Council District 49

Staten Island’s 49th City Council District spans the northern shore of the borough, encompassing the neighborhoods of Arlington, Clifton, Clove Lakes, Concord, Elm Park, Graniteville, Livingston, Mariners Harbor, New Brighton, Port Richmond, Randall Manor, Rosebank, St. George, Snug Harbor, Silver Lake, Stapleton, Sunnyside, West Brighton and Tompkinsville.

The district is currently represented by Democratic Councilmember Deborah Rose. Rose, a second-generation Staten Island native and the first African American from Staten Island to have been elected to any public office, is term-limited, and cannot run for re-election.

More than a dozen candidates are currently registered to run for the seat, according to the most recent Campaign Finance Board filings. Of the 16 candidates, just five responded to PoliticsNY’s questionnaire about their positions.

Here are those responses, which have been edited for length and clarity, ordered alphabetically by last name. 

Kamillah Hanks

Kamillah Hanks (photo courtesy of campaign)

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

Kamillah Hanks: I believe it’s time to have a North Shore that is determined by us and for us. We have had enough of countless studies and broken promises. I have been working in the community for almost two decades, creating bold and innovative solutions to difficult problems. We need to finally realize a Renaissance for our North Shore community, and I will bring the experience and political will to the City Council to get it done. I love the North Shore, and I want to lead it to its fullest potential.

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

KH: I was born and raised on the North Shore, and I raised my children here. For the past 20 years, I have worked through many non-profit organizations to better our community.  I am the founder of YouthBuild Staten Island, Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership, and the Minority Women in Business Association of Staten Island. I am a proud resident of Stapleton, where I own my home.

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

KH: First, job creation: We need to bring apprenticeship and job training programs to the North Shore, support our small businesses, and ensure new development provides quality jobs to our residents.

Second is transportation: We need to finally realize the Bus Rapid Transit and increase express and local bus service to reverse one of the longest commutes in the country.  The funding is there if we reallocate the budget to meet the needs of the people.

And on education: A prosperous future for the North Shore begins with fully investing in education. We need more school seats, increased funding for after-school programs, and pathways to job training.

PNY: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

KH: I will engage the community on a much larger scale to ensure that development in every neighborhood on the North Shore meets the needs of its residents in terms of jobs, infrastructure, and neighborhood integrity. Residents must have the power to weigh in on what their future will look like.  I will have an open-door policy and will represent the needs of constituents throughout all of the district, no matter where they live.

PNY: What’s your political experience?

KH: I have served on the New York City Council Redistricting Commission and ran for the North Shore City Council seat in 2017 where I earned thousands of votes against an incumbent.  As a non-profit leader, I have worked with elected officials in all levels of government to secure funding for much needed community programs. My political experience involves crucial relationship building that I will be able to leverage to bring resources to the North Shore as a Council Member.

PNY: What endorsements do you have?

KH: Uniformed Firefighters Association and State Senator Diane Savino.

John McBeth

John McBeth (photo courtesy of campaign)

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

John McBeth: I love my community, and I want what is best for everyone here. I’m a third-generation Staten Islander, and have lived, worked, and worshipped on the North Shore my entire life. I’m a Navy Veteran, an activist, a husband, and a father. I understand the issues facing the North  Shore; I’ve lived many of them. I’ve stood on street corners to abate violence, mentored youth to better life choices, marched for justice, accountability, and peace, and gave of my time, talent, and treasure to help make our community a better place for all of us. If elected, I plan to continue to make the North Shore a better place.

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

JM: I’m currently a senior instructor for a large northeast electric utility. I teach courses in safety and emergency response. My secular work permits me to dedicate my free time to the community I love. I was born in West Brighton, raised in Port Richmond where I worship and where I also started a small business. I now reside in Mariners Harbor.

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

JM: It should surprise no one that the biggest issue facing the city and our district will be Covid recovery. Resources will be diminished, and every city service will be stretched to its limits. There are two primary priorities for me during this recovery period: to ensure the North Shore receives an equitable share of services and resources, and to do more with less without taxing the people overtly or covertly.

PNY: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

JM: I am personally proud of all our councilwoman has been able to accomplish. I have plans to move the constituent services side of the office into the 21st century in regards to responsiveness and transparency. I hope to make the office a central hub for city and state-wide information sharing, with greater access to opportunities for the community. 

PNY: What’s your political experience?

JM: I am a long-time member of the Democratic County Committee, an elected Judicial Delegate, and a political activist. I’ve worked on campaigns at every level of government, local and national. I introduced our former congressman to my community.

PNY: What endorsements do you have?

JM: As of this writing, I’m still awaiting confirmation from various organizations that are considering endorsements.

Troy McGhie

Troy McGhie (photo courtesy of campaign)

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

Troy McGhie: I am running to represent and unite all North Shore neighborhoods. For far too long, residents of our district have felt division amongst themselves.  I want to give one voice and one vision to our North Shore, as a District divided against itself cannot prosper.  As our district continues to grow and develop, I will make sure that every resident of the North Shore is able to move forward, together, to a more equitable and just future. 

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

TM: I am a lifelong resident of the North Shore, a father to two sons who make me proud every day, and a husband to an amazing administrator at Staten Island University Hospital/Northwell Health. For the past 20 years, I have been an educator with the New York City Department of Education and a high school basketball coach. My wife and I have owned our New Brighton home for 27 years.

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

TM: Schools in every neighborhood must be educating students to be critical thinkers equipped for careers of tomorrow. Our students must have access not only to the latest technology, but to arts, culture, sports and recreation. As a lifelong educator and coach, I know these issues first hand and will make equity and excellence in education my priority. I will also fight to build a more robust health care and transportation infrastructure, both of which have been severely underfunded for generations.   

PNY: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

TM: Our current councilmember has moved the North Shore forward with new parks, schools and waterfront access. I will work to ensure that these changes and subsequent ones benefit all North Shore neighborhoods. I will also fight to secure a ferry connection to Brooklyn, strengthen police-community relations, develop educational partnerships with employers, establish proactive constituent services and expand recreational opportunities for our youth.  

PNY: What’s your political experience?

TM: Since 2014, I have served as a Community Liaison for the City Council District, working to connect our communities to our City councilmember’s office. In that role, I have attended hundreds of Community Board and civic association meetings and was able to see first-hand the needs and concerns of people from all neighborhoods. 

PNY: What endorsements do you have?

TM: TBD.

Kelvin Richards

Kelvin Richards (photo courtesy of campaign)

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

Kelvin Richards: Our communities here on the North Shore have been underserved and overlooked for too long. I am running for City Council to fight for an equitable recovery from this pandemic and to ensure that all North Shore residents have equal access to affordable housing, high quality healthcare, a world-class education, and good-paying jobs. As an asylum-seeker from Liberia who was able to build a life here and succeed, I want to fight for all kids to have the opportunities I had and build a stronger future here for my children. 

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

KR: As a child, my family fled the Liberian Civil War and I lived in a refugee camp in Ghana for five years. The horrors of civil war that I witnessed and the passionate work of the UN volunteers inspired me to dedicate my life to helping others. I came to this country as an asylum-seeker and moved to Staten Island after high school. I worked hard, got my law degree, and now work as a public defender fighting for those without a voice. I’m raising my children with my wife in West Brighton. 

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

KR: We need strong, experienced leadership as we face the effects of this pandemic, and I’m ready to fight for our working families, seniors, and small businesses. 

When I came to the United States, I lived in public housing and I know how important it is to have access to affordable, reliable housing. I will fight to lower the AMI to reflect what is actually affordable for our working families and fully fund NYCHA. I will fight for an equitable education system, support our teachers, and address the digital divide.

As someone who was wrongfully stopped and frisked over 30 times and now as a public defender, I’m committed to meaningful criminal justice reform and real investment in community programs. 

PNY: What will you do differently than the incumbent?

KR: The next councilmember for the 49th District needs to be focused on tackling the issues we’re facing in the aftermath of COVID-19 and winning real relief for our families, small businesses, seniors, immigrants, and the most vulnerable among us. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on longstanding inequities that must be addressed. I will fight for relief and support for our working families, frontline workers, and seniors in the short-term, and work toward a stronger future for all our communities long after this crisis is over. 

PNY: What’s your political experience?

KR: I have served as a public defender, fighting for those without a voice in our community, a community advocate, and a youth mentor for many years. I also served as the Staten Island Liberian Community’s (SILCA) youngest Vice President and led efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa. 

In college, I volunteered at Curtis High School, mentoring and teaching youths and tracking their academic progress. Today, I still visit the school and participate in their summer “Know Your Rights” program that teaches youths how to respond when they have an encounter with the police. 

PNY: What endorsements do you have?

KR: I have strong support from leaders in the community and I expect to roll out additional endorsements in the coming weeks. 

Michael Schnall

Michael Schnall (photo courtesy of campaign)

PoliticsNY: Why are you running for City Council?

Michael Schnall:  As a public servant with almost 20 years of government and non-profit experience, my work in underserved communities in Staten Island and across New York City makes me uniquely positioned to be able to help the north shore council district recover and thrive in a post-COVID world.

With all the work that lies ahead to protect and improve our quality of life, rebuild small businesses, reprioritize education and our schools, and rebuild and modernize our healthcare delivery system, this is not the time for on-the-job learning. I’ll show up at City Hall on day one ready to make an impact.

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

MS: I was furloughed in August, and laid off in January, from my position as Vice President of Government Relations and Community Investment at New York Road Runners. I live in the West Brighton/Sunset Hill section of the north shore and have lived on the north shore for over 20 years, raising two daughters who attend great public schools. I grew up in the Great Kills neighborhood of the south shore of Staten Island. My wife and I are deeply ingrained in the arts, education, running and non-profit communities. 

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

MS: The biggest challenges facing the north shore are:

Quality of life: I will fight to make sure the north shore gets the much-needed resources and attention from City Hall that we deserve.

Support for small businesses: In the wake of the pandemic, I will advocate for grants, and a moratorium on senseless and punitive fines.

COVID-19 and Healthcare: Demand the Health and Hospitals Corporation provide services on Staten Island, and ensure adequate testing and vaccines for all Staten Islanders.

Education: Fight for more resources for students and families, deliver and support better technology, and push for the reintroduction of Career & Technical Education (CTE) and trades programs.

PNY:  What will you do differently than the incumbent?

MS: Two of the ways I’ll be different from the current incumbent: When constituents come to visit my council office, my staff will be veterans of city government. We’ll listen to our constituents’ concerns, distill the issues we can address, make the right calls to people who can help, and always provide a response. [Second,] when distributing taxpayer funds to non-profits across the north shore district, I will require those organizations receiving funds to demonstrate impact.  Taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent in a meaningful, efficient and impactful way, improving the lives of their fellow Staten Islanders.

PNY: What’s your political experience?

MS: I began my political career in 2000 with the local Democratic party and served as President of the Young Democrats of Richmond County, served with the New York State Young Democrats, worked and volunteers on a number of campaigns, and have served in government and in government relations for almost 20 years.  

PNY: What endorsements do you have?

MS: I have been endorsed by the New York State Court Officers Association.

Additional candidates

An additional 11 candidates are vying for the seat — all of whom could either not be reached for comment, or do not have any publicly available contact information. Those candidates include: Philippe-Edner Apostol-Marius, Amoy Barnes, Abou Diakhate, Selina Grey, David Hernandez, Vincent Johnson, Jason Price, Aidan Rivera, Nicholas Robbins, Ranti Ogunleye, and Patricia Rondinelli.

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