Candidates, elected officials attend inaugural Unity Brunch in Flatbush

James Conolly (right) and lawyer Alan M. Rocoff, organizers of the Unity Brunch.
Photo by Nelson A. King

As the June 22 Democratic Primary in New York draws near, several candidates and elected officials used the opportunity on Sunday to tout their candidacies at the inaugural Unity Brunch at Spoons Restaurant on Avenue J in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

The event — organized by former City Council candidate, James Conolly and lawyer Alan M. Rocoff — primarily attracted City Council candidates, as well as State Assemblyman David I. Weprin, who is running for city comptroller.

“It’s important for us to reconnect because COVID has been devastating our community,” said Council Member Farah N. Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who is seeking re-election in the 45th Council District.

“This year is a very important year in our city; so, we need to pick the right people to be elected in our community,” added Louis, whose district comprises parts of Flatbush and East Flatbush, as well as the neighborhoods of Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands and Kensington in Brooklyn.

“It’s an opportunity to represents our community,” continued Louis, who was endorsed last week by veteran New York State Assemblyman Jamaican N. Nick Perry, currently the assistant speaker pro tempore of the New York Assembly; chairman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; and regional chairman, (Region 2, NY & PA) National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL).

“It was not easy to represent the community during the pandemic, and I’m the best person to represent you in our community,” said Louis, who chairs the Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions Committee in the City Council. “My platform has always been a unified community.”

In just under two years in office, Louis said she has accomplished “a great deal on behalf of District 45 and New Yorkers across New York City.”

Council Member Farah N. Louis addresses reception.  Photo by Nelson A. King

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the city, she said she “immediately sprang into action” to support the community by distributing meals and PPEs, securing iPads for students participating in remote learning, and by fighting for the first COVID-19 testing site in Flatbush.

As rates of the virus declined and the city continued to reopen, Louis said she was not interested in a recovery that called for a return to “normal.”

She said she will continue to advocate for support and resources for frontline and essential workers, and work closely with the community to bolster the 45th District’s small businesses, especially those hit hardest by the crisis.

Louis said addressing gun violence and ensuring that residents feel safe in their community was her top priority.

She said that the pandemic has led to an increase in shooting incidents, “as New Yorkers continue to struggle with the emotional and economic impacts of the crisis.”

Louis said she was “committed to helping residents take back our streets,” and will work with non-profit partners, elected officials and the community “to secure even more resources for the district to interrupt violence before it happens and to create productive alternatives to crime.”

Haitian-born Josue Pierre — who is contesting the adjacent 40th Council District, currently represented by his compatriot, the term-limited Dr. Mathieu Eugene, who is running for Brooklyn Borough President — told the Unity Brunch that, he has “the struggles of the population who are here” after migrating from Haiti, when he was only 5 years old.

“As a proud product of New York City public schools, an immigrant and decades long community leader, I understand the challenges that face the people of the 40th District,” Pierre said. “We want affordable housing, equity in education, well paid jobs, community friendly zoning, more resources for small businesses, safer streets and more.

“We want a better Brooklyn and New York City for us all,” he added. “Together, we will make that happen.”

Retired New York Police Department (NYPD) detective, Barbadian Dr. Judith Newton, expressed confidence in victory, as she contests the crowded 46th District seat in Brooklyn.

The 46th District encompasses the neighborhoods of Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island and Sheepshead Bay.

“I’m running on a family-first ticket,” Dr. Newton told the reception, stating that her platform addresses “bread and butter issues.”

“And what I’ll be responsible for is bringing the necessary resources,” Dr. Newton said. “I ask for your support.”

Earlier, she had told Caribbean Life that her goals and aspirations were “simple: To represent the people of the 46th District, especially working families.

“I’m running on a platform of rebuilding, preserving, and restoring the community and district by putting families first,” she said. “I believe that the damage done to families in the district by the twin pandemics of poverty and COVID-19 are also aggravated by high unemployment, joblessness.”

Dr. Newton said “the unintended consequences and fall-out occasioned by these issues need someone who can roll up their sleeves and get to work, putting our families interests first.

“My immediate priority will be to address bread-and-butter, kitchen table and pocket book issues facing families in the district,” she stressed. “If I was not confident of winning, I would not be running. I could not sit idly by and watch my community struggle in pain and go to hell in a basket.

“The difference between my opponents and me is that they do not fully understand the serious issues and challenges facing families in the district today. I do,” added Newton, who is seeking elective office for the very first time. “Just knowing the challenges or issues is not understanding them and their impact on the community.

She said her campaign recognizes the need to address important issues, such as access to quality, affordable healthcare and education, among others, which impact families in the district.

“These are macro issues,” she said. “However, if we do not address local, retail issues of hunger, poverty, rent relief, foreclosures, evictions and other daily struggles, then getting to the macro issues will be moot. As the late Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neal once said: ‘All politics is .’”

Weprin, who is also an attorney by training, told the brunch that, after 20 years in elected office, “I’m uniquely qualified for comptroller.”

Cayman Islands-born Conolly described the inaugural event as “fantastic.”

“Many cultures and nationalities came together,” he told Caribbean Life. “In the current climate, with gun violence and racial tension, the event provided a great way to collaborate with elected officials and be solution-oriented. It was an opportunity to see how we can make a positive impact.

“Like-minded individuals were brought together — from Pakistan, African Americans, the Caribbean and Jewish community,” Conolly added. “It was successful, and will become an annual meet and greet brunch.”

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