I never would have become a politician in the Soviet Union. They talk about democracy but Russia is still a long way from democracy. In my heart I would not have been able to become a politician in another kind of government, because I believe in democracy totally. I have lived in Sea Gate for more than fourteen years. It is on the western tip of Coney Island, an incredible place to raise kids and live with your family. Even though I was not born there, I feel like a real Brooklynite.- Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny
The Journal of Jewish Communal Service’s Summer/Fall issue includes a personal account by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny of his momentous journey, at the age of 31, from Moscow to Brooklyn. It’s a success story that begins in the Soviet capital during communism and ends with Brook-Krasny being democratically elected to represent his neighbors in the New York State capital of Albany.
Brook-Krasny, who emigrated to the United States in 1989, speaking “only 20 words in English,” is now a respected leader in the Russian and Jewish communities of Southern Brooklyn who also represents a diverse constituency as State Assemblyman for Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Dyker Heights.
Brook-Krasny describes religious and political oppression in Russia during the Soviet era, as well as the changes to immigration policy by head of state Mikhail Gorbachev – prompted by pressure from President Reagan – which allowed him to obtain an Israeli passport and leave Moscow for Brooklyn, via Austria and Italy.
While living outside of Rome in the seaside village of Torvaianica, Brook-Krasny says he worked for his landlord as a fisherman, “pulling nets from 5 in the morning to one o’clock in the afternoon for $5 an hour.”
After arriving in Brooklyn and feeling somewhat letdown by the lack of skyscrapers in Brighton Beach, he took a job in Manhattan working in a Greenwich Village shoe store, rapidly learning English due to the lack of Russian speakers there and, upon mastering the language, becoming the shop’s manager.
The Assemblyman’s profound story also includes night school, as well as stints as a businessman, community activist and finally, an elected official representing his fellow Brooklynites in Albany.
Brook-Krasny’s biographical essay is so rich in detail, covering so many aspects of his life (including an explanation of his hyphenated last name), my biggest challenge has been trying, in the interest of space, to condense his story for this article.
Click here to read more of Assemblyman Brook-Krasney’s remarkable journey in his own words by downloading the full article (in Adobe format).
Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasney represents the 46th Assembly District, which includes parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and Brighton Beach.