Including our incumbent Mathieu Eugene, there are now four Democratic candidates running for City Council in the 40th District. You’ve met Saundra Thomas and Sylvia Kinard (granted, when she was running against Yvette Clarke last year). Today, we introduce you to John Grant, who we spoke to recently by phone. We’re currently in the process of scheduling an interview with our above-mentioned incumbent, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime…here’s John!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Basically, my background, as far as what I do, I work with the New York Transit Authority as a Road Car Inspector. My job is to make sure the trains are safe to be in operation before they’re moved. Also, by trade, I’m an electrical engineer. Originally, I’m from West Africa, Sierra Leone, and I grew up in Brooklyn. I came to Brooklyn when I was six years old and I’ve been in Brooklyn ever since in District 40, where I reside today.
Your Facebook page has your campaign headquarters in the eastern part of the district. Do you live in that part of the district as well?
Yes, my campaign headquarters is my place of residence. I’m using one portion of my building as an office.
How long have you been with the MTA?
For about 8 years now.
Why are you running for public office, and why specifically for City Council?
Well, I’ve seen a lot of things that were not the way it was when I grew up as far as the children are concerned. I see there are a lot of problems there, no role model figures for the kids, and my thing is I would like to do something on a City Council level as far as trying to create some type of a different way of rehabilitating the kids instead of this popping in and out of correction facilities. That just makes them career criminals. You go to jail, you come back out, and no one wants to hire you. The cycle repeats itself. I think that cycle has to end. I believe that we can turn them around. Build some type of educational facility and call it Second Chance.
Are there specific things you’d want to do as City Councilman to help with that problem, in terms of policies or resources you would introduce?
To start with, I think more education. Maybe a one-to-one type of thing or a smaller group. Also with the parents and the law enforcement officers. Sometimes, you have to give those kids a chance. Sometimes it’s something simple, and they go into the system. That gives them a bad record. Not every small thing becomes a big crime. I’ve seen it. In my district, I’ve seen it every day. My thing is to work together with all the groups, with law enforcement, parents, and also the children.
Going back to your work for the MTA, transportation is certainly a big issue with people in the district – which stations get attention, etc. – do you think your job, having that inside perspective, would help you?
First of all, I think I’d start with my district first. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the number 12 bus. My opinion, I think the service is very lousy. I think I would start there – those types of services. So people can get to work on time – and the handicapped! Because you’ve got hospitals, you’ve got Kings County, Downstate, and sometimes the handicapped are waiting hours and hours for the bus to come. You’ve got six buses on one side and you have nothing on the other side for 20 minutes or a half hour. I always wonder why that happens. So that is something I would like to look at.
Did your decision have to do with your opinion of the way Mathieu Eugene is doing the job?
Yes, that’s true. I don’t really like to talk about anybody. You know, say something bad about anybody usually. But I really do not see what this particular individual is doing at City Council. I have not seen anything. I personally went to Mathieu Eugene in, I believe it was 2008, and I asked Mathieu Eugene for help because I had a mortgage problem. And all he did was toss me around all over and my problem wasn’t resolved through him. Fortunately, I was able to resolve my problem, but without his help. Also, a lot of business owners that I know have the same exact saying about Mathieu Eugene — he does nothing. I’m not speaking for everybody, but my experience with him was like…zero. I know at the time he came in, his residency was in question. I don’t know if that was resolved properly or if it was just brushed underneath the rug. I think if you’re going to be the City Councilman, be that type of representative, come out clean.
I think you’ve run for office before, is that right?
In 2009. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far. The campaign was sabotaged. This time I have a little more experience. This time I’m going out there to get people to help me.
That was also for City Council?
That was City Council. But, like I said, I didn’t get to the ballot because the signatures got sabotaged.
Oh, the signatures got thrown out?
No. Somebody took the signatures.
Okay. So, is there anything you took away from that campaign that you think will make you a better candidate this time around?
Yes. Now, I’m more on top of things as opposed to being very trusting and having somebody else do it. If I designate something for someone to do, I’m also behind…like a micromanager. Behind them to make sure that it’s done. Because this stuff…I intend to get to the ballot this time. And the people in my community, they will do the rest. If they think that I’m the right person for the job, then I’m counting on their votes. But without being on the ballot, I would never know. Like last time. I’m actually walking up and down, hours and hours into this, so that way I don’t have the same problem that I had in 2009.
The 40th is a pretty diverse district – culturally, economically – how would you bridge those communities, work for the interest of the whole district?
I’ve been in District 40 since I was six years old. I actually saw it going that way. I can remember there were a lot of Italians in the neighborhood, very few Jewish, and hardly any blacks – no West Indians, no nothing. Then, little by little, it started becoming diverse. And now it’s changing back again. I think I’d be the right person to deal with that because all my neighbors are different. I have Jewish neighbors, I have Caribbean neighbors, we have some white neighbors, and we all talk. Everyone has their own issue about what they would like to change or see different. Knowing that, it should be very easy for me to deal with that. I’d like to have regular meetings with my neighbors, or whenever it’s convenient, and we can discuss what’s needed in the community because I do not know everything.
I saw you reached out to some high profile names on Twitter, like Al Sharpton, Danny Glover, Nicki Minaj. Have you gotten any responses?
Uh, no. I’m trying every way I possibly can. But I haven’t had any response yet. Surely, they have their own busy lives and probably right now are not interested in anything I have to do. And also, I’ve sent several letters to different schools and colleges asking for volunteers. They have not responded to me yet. But, like I said, I’m not giving up. I’m still waiting.
What’s the best way for someone to reach you if they want to volunteer, give money to your campaign, etc.?
They can reach me by email or my phone number, 646-210-8787. We’ve tried to set up something on the computer where I could do credit cards, but I don’t know how to do it and I’m trying to find someone that fully knows how. But, right now, I can be reached by email or phone. Phone is really easy to reach me.
I saw on your Facebook page that you have a weekly event?
Yeah, actually doing a little fundraiser in my residence in the basement, and we’re trying to recruit people to come. That’s where we’re trying to raise money for the campaign. Every week on Saturdays. Usually on Saturdays. Rarely on Fridays, mostly on Saturdays.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you’d like people to know about you?
I have five children – four girls and one boy. So, I’m a family man. And I’m also married.
Photo of John Grant with David Patterson via John Grant on Facebook.