PROSPECT HEIGHTS – Alejandra Caraballo, 29, announced yesterday her run for City Council in District 35 — Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, & Bedford Stuyvesant–in the next year’s elections. The seat will be vacant after Council Member Laurie Cumbo finishes her term.
Caraballo, originally from Florida, moved to NYC about seven years ago to attend Brooklyn Law School. Once she graduated and came out as a transgender woman, she felt NYC was the best place to stay and didn’t want to leave. This city gave her an opportunity to be herself and live openly without fear, something she felt wasn’t possible where she grew up. And now to her, Brooklyn is home.
“At the end of the day, I don’t want to focus on just being the trans candidate. I want to focus on uplifting the entire community and really focus on the issues that matter,” she told Bklyner. “Being trans is part of my identity and who I am and it’s inseparable, but at the end of the day, I do think that it’s not just about me. It’s about uplifting the entire community.”
Caraballo is an immigration attorney. She studied immigration law at the Brooklyn Law School and felt that it’s a meaningful use of her skills and knowledge to make a difference and help fight the good fight. A few months after she graduated and started working at the New York Legal Assistance Group, Donald Trump was elected president. For her as a human and an attorney, she explained that it was a terrifying time. She didn’t know what was going to happen and what policies were going to change. Working for three years in immigration law under the Trump Administration was some of the hardest work she’s done, she said. But it was worth it. And then last year, she decided she wanted to do more. She was going to run for office.
“For the longest time, I realized that my capacity as an attorney in the law is limited. Our ability to affect change is limited,” she said. Caraballo explained that she had often thought about running for office, but never really knew what it would entail and what she’d even run for. And then COVID-19 hit.
“I would hear 20, maybe 30 ambulances driving by every 15 to 20 minutes during the height of the pandemic,” she said. “It was even more difficult because I lost a friend and a mentor, Lorena Borjas, a trans-Latinx icon, to the coronavirus. She was a one-woman machine who advocated for her community in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else. She had taught m to show up every single day. And for me, it all really spurred me at that moment.”
During the pandemic came the Black Lives Matter protests. Caraballo attended many of them with her partner. During one protest, her partner was pushed back by a police officer as they rushed with riot gear and hit her head on the pavement. A while later, Caraballo herself was nearly run over by a police car. That’s when she realized she had to do something.
“I’m an attorney and I’ve heard countless stories of police abuse and I’m expected to buy into this system of law where there is accountability and justice. But what I’ve found is that there is no accountability and there is no justice when it came to the police,” she said. “I could be nearly run over and my law degree and my status as an attorney and privilege of knowing the law and my rights, it didn’t protect me.”
One of the biggest issues she wants to work on is housing, something she has lots of experience in. She was appointed as the first openly transgender board member in all of Brooklyn in Community Board 9. She was then appointed housing committee chair and selected as chair of the district manager search committee. And more recently, she was selected as the secretary of the community board. With housing, she wants to focus on the eviction moratorium (she believes it should be extended indefinitely until after the pandemic), the right to counsel (she supports accelerating the implementation of the Right to Counsel law to go into effect immediately), and public housing.
“Instead of selling off NYCHA land to developers, we need to have the city build new housing directly,” she wrote on her website. “The costs to refurbish and replace the current housing stock far exceed building new housing that is up to code and is free from asbestos, lead, and other harmful chemicals and materials.”
Criminal justice reform is another issue she feels so passionately about. She believes the NYPD should be defended by a minimum of $2 billion. She believes in hiring more social workers, health care workers, and providing legal services instead of hiring more cops. She believes in investing in the community and not more jails. And she believes that section 8-131 of the Human Rights Law should be appealed. 8-131 states, “The provisions of this chapter which make acts of discriminatory harassment or violence as set forth in chapter 6 of this title subject to the jurisdiction of the commission shall not apply to acts committed by members of the police department in the course of performing their official duties as police officers whether the police officer is on or off duty.”
“The current human rights law does not apply to the NYPD. That is a stunning admission of our priorities as a city. The NYPD should be subject to the Human Rights Law just as any other city agency is,” Caraballo wrote. “This would allow for misconduct arising from discrimination by an NYPD officer on the basis of a protected class such as race, gender, ethnicity, or religion to be investigated and held accountable.”
CUNY should also be free, Caraballo explained. And she will fight to make it happen.
“CUNY is the backbone of the NYC public education system, and as someone who’s still paying off their student loans and probably will be for quite a while, I think it incredibly important that college is accessible and affordable for everybody,” she said. ” It speaks a lot about our priorities. We need to make it so that anybody can go to CUNY and be able to get a degree and learn. It’s incredibly vital that we don’t saddle our next generation with further student loan debt.”
“We don’t charge for a public high school or elementary school,” she continued. “We should view college in the same way. It’s a public service provided by the government so that citizens can better themselves and be able to be more productive and better their lives and gain an education.”
As of right now, Caraballo is excited about her run and about what is to come. She said the pandemic has taught her many things. It has taught her just how resilient her community is.
“My community faced some of the largest losses of life in the entire country by COVID. What I’ve seen through everybody forming mutual aid groups, donating their time, donating their efforts, their money to these aid groups, and really coming together as one community to get through this together, has been completely inspiring. When I walk out, everybody is wearing a mask. There seems to be a sense of solidarity that isn’t usually visible on the surface. And that is one good thing that came out of this pandemic.”
To learn more about Caraballo’s platform, check out her website.