Frontus faces establishment-backed district leader in fierce Coney Island Assembly contest

Mathlyde Frontus in 2018 at a rally in front of her campaign headquarters on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island.
Photo by Tsubasa Berg/file photo

In a heated Assembly race to represent a district that stretches from the boardwalks of Brighton Beach and Coney Island to the foot of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Bay Ridge, progressive incumbent Mathylde Frontus is defending her seat from centrist Dionne Brown-Jordan.

Brown-Jordan, the female district leader for Assembly District 46 and assistant treasurer for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, has received a lot of establishment support including from current and former Council Members for the area Ari Kagan and Mark Treyger, State Senator Diane Savino (D – Brooklyn, Staten Island) and former area Congress Member Max Rose. 

Then perhaps the biggest endorsement Brown-Jordan received was from Congress Member Hakeem Jeffries (D – Brooklyn), earlier this week. Jeffries is the fifth most powerful House Democrat and someone who wields a great deal of influence in Brooklyn Democratic politics.

Frontus, however, told PoliticsNY she isn’t worried by Jeffries’ endorsement of her opponent because she sees him as part of the “Coney Island machine” – a group she says she’s been at odds with since she first ran for Assembly in 2018.

“I don’t care about it, it doesn’t mean anything to me at all. It’s to be expected. I’ve been trying to get people to pay attention to what goes on in Coney Island, and no one ever pays attention until it’s election time,” Frontus said.

“There’s a Coney Island machine. They’ve been fighting me since I first ran for office in 2018. These words don’t mean anything, these endorsements. It’s just part of the game. It’s just a game for them. Like they’re just kind of like a clique,” she added.

According to a news report, in his endorsement of Brown-Jordan, Jeffries described her as an “outstanding example of community leadership.” But Frontus, who says she’s been living in Coney Island for 40 years and recognized for her community work for the past 15, contends that Brown-Jordan hasn’t been working on behalf of the community. 

“I’ve been attending community meetings for over 20 years in this neighborhood and I’ve never seen her in my life.,” Frontus said. “As far as I can see, she’s never organized any meeting. She’s never had a rally for anything.”

Additionally, Frontus said, the fact that Brown-Jordan doesn’t have a campaign office or a website means she isn’t providing a way for voters to learn about her either online or in person.

When PoliticsNY reached out to Brown-Jordan by phone for comment, she directed a reporter to email questions to her campaign manager Michael Morris, who then didn’t respond to an email containing questions.

Kagan sees things quite differently. The council member, who’s been in office just seven months but has served as Assembly District 45 district leader for the past decade, said it’s Frontus who’s been missing in action and not Brown-Jordan.

“I need a partner in Albany, who will work with me, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and the future senator [Savino is not running for re-election] from this area to deliver for 46th Assembly District,” Kagan said. “So, unfortunately, in the last three, four years, we had an assembly member who did not deliver for the district.”

Kagan listed several problems in the area that he says have gone unaddressed during Frontus’ tenure. Those include passing a law pushing for more accountability from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), fixing broken sections of the Coney Island and Brighton Beach boardwalk and working to improve public transportation options in the area.

Kagan also pushed back on the idea that Brown-Jordan hasn’t been active in the community.

“She lives in Coney Island, she was born in Coney Island,” he said. “She’s a social worker, she helped so many people over 30 years. [As district leader] in less than three years she hosted so many events. Health fairs, food distributions. I worked with her visiting apartments of residents who need help, resolving so many issues. I don’t know what Assembly Member Frontus is talking about.”

Frontus has also dinged Brown-Jordan for reporting from the news website The City and the New York Daily News that she added several people’s names to the ballot for county committee positions without their knowledge in both 2020 and 2022, including a woman named Alfreida Davis who had died a month before her appointment.

“There are a number of unwitting people on their petitions as county committee candidates, about 20 or so,” Frontus said. “She puts names of people without asking them, without getting their consent.”

Kagan characterized the reporting as “baseless accusations” and “technical issues” and said most voters are more concerned about “bread and butter issues” like rising crime, the state of NYCHA and mental health. He also said Davis’ family strongly supports Brown-Jordan.

“A lot of baseless accusations, a lot of technical situations, a lot of technical issues,” Kagan said. “Like most of the people are concerned about their bread and butter issues, their quality of life issues. Only political insiders and political junkies know specifics of county committee applications, etc.”

Whoever comes out of the primary contest a winner will likely face a competitive general election race against the former assembly member from the district – Democrat turned Republican Alec Brook-Krasny.