by Sara O’Connor and Lauralea Drummond
On Friday September 6th, AARP-NY hosted a candidates forum for the 35th City Council District at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. The current Councilwoman in this district, Letitia James, is currently seeking the city’s next Public Advocate.
Despite the small turnout, all five candidates, Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Frank Hurley, and Jelani Mashariki, were in attendance. The AARP cannot endorse a candidate, however they represent a powerful voting base and many of the issues that concern them concern the entire constituency of the district.
The issues of greatest focus were responsible development, care and support for seniors, job opportunities for seniors, accessible transportation, affordable housing, and the legacy of the outgoing Councilwoman, Ms. James. The candidates seemed to agree on most issues, politely referring to their colleagues answers when speaking and rallying around the point “if they build in Brooklyn, they must hire in Brooklyn”. While each of the aforementioned issues are of concern to the community, affordable housing is the critical issue in this election. As Ms. Fox pointed out, 30% of New Yorkers are putting more than 50% of their income toward their housing.
All of the candidates are Brooklyn-raised Democrats and their views on the need for increased regulation and support for home healthcare, tempering developers, getting seniors more involved in the community and creating more senior friendly streets and public transportation aligned. Their differences lie in their experience; Ms. Alabi and Ms. Fox have worked in the City Council, Ms. Cumbo runs a museum in the district, Mr. Hurley is an attorney and Mr. Mashiriki is the Director of a men’s shelter.
There were questions from Ms. Fox about why the political action committee (PAC) Jobs for New York has spent $500,000 on independent expenditures in support of Ms. Cumbo’s election and about Ms. Cumbo’s loyalty to the real estate developers who form the PAC over the people of Brooklyn. In her closing statement, Ms. Cumbo made it clear that she did not seek out the endorsement of Jobs for New York nor the spending they have done on her behalf.
Fox and Cumbo are the two leading candidates in this race, each with her fair share of endorsements and both leading the way in fundraising. While Ms. Cumbo has secured the lion’s share of union backing, Ms. Fox was recently endorsed by The New York Times, always a significant boon to any political candidacy in New York City.
As there is no Republican challenger in the 35th District, whichever candidate wins the district 35 primary will win the election and become the next council member. Primary day is Tuesday, September 10th.