One of the things that I love about Brooklyn is how we have room here for everyone. It is not always an easy coexistence, but we make it work, change being the only constant in our big, wonderful city. Bklyner is also going to keep changing. And while I’d love to say we are back for good, we’ll be taking it one step at a time. For now, Bklyner is back to bring you weekly reporting on the upcoming elections leading up to the June 28 primaries. There will be other stuff too, because there is so much more to living here. Subscribers, you can expect a newsletter on Thursdays in your inbox!
I realized three main things when I stepped back from the site in September - I missed knowing what was going on in Brooklyn, we were trying to do more than we could, but we were also meeting a real need.
A daily email was likely too much for all of us, especially considering how much else we all are being bombarded with daily. But there is no good place to check to answer “What’s going on in Brooklyn?”. While I could cobble together something resembling a local news feed between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it was incredibly time-consuming and frustrating trying to keep up and inevitably left me with more questions than answers.
There is real value in having a reliable local news source you can trust to keep an eye on things, and I also do believe there are enough of us that care about knowing what is going on in our city to pay for local, independent news. So it’s time to get back to reporting and bring you news you can use, stories that empower and inspire you, in a more focused way that allows Bklyner to grow sustainably. I hope you will keep supporting this work.
I’m bringing back Bklyner now in no small part because of what just happened in Assembly District 43, which was until recently represented by Assemblywoman Diana Richardson. When she left to work for Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso in January, a special election was called for March 22 in the newly redrawn AD43. Almost no one showed up.
The turnout for this special election was:
That’s right. Just 3,001 voters showed up, according to the Board of Elections. More PLG/Crown Heights residents read this newsletter than showed up to vote!
Now, the new Assembly District 43 is home to some 141,000 residents across Prospect Lefferts Gardens / Crown Heights, of whom just over 94,000 are registered voters.
In special elections, candidates are chosen by the parties, not in primaries. Brian Cunningham, the preferred candidate of the establishment Democrats, was thus elected to represent AD43 by just 1,869 votes. Jelanie DeShong got 1,036 votes. Mesidor Azor, who ran as both Republican and Conservative, got just 88 votes.
And while historically turnout is much lower in special elections than in primaries, which are generally also abysmal, this 3.2% sets a new kind of record. Lower than the 3.8% turnout in the special election in AD60 (East NY, Starrett City, Canarsie, Brownsville), where Nikki Lucas was elected with 2,074 out of 2,646 votes cast on February 15. That special election was called after Assemblyman Charles Barron was elected to represent the area in City Council last November. Special elections in other boroughs last year saw turnouts of 8%.
Ms. Richardson herself was elected in a special election back in May of 2015 after Assemblyman Karim Camara left to work for Governor Andrew Cuomo. Richardson got 4,284 votes running on the Working Families Party line out of 8,643 votes cast. About 12% of voters of the district as it was then showed up – massive, compared to this election.
Why does it matter?
We have a lot of seats up for elections come June 28, 2022 - from Senate and Congress to Governor to Assembly to Civil Court judges. Those who get elected will be shaping the world we live in for years to come, but where few participate in the elections, the outcomes get to be decided by the establishment - those in power now.
In Brooklyn, where 1.7 million - 30% of NYC’s 5.6 million registered voters live, elections are generally decided in the primaries, which since 2020 have been taking place in June, rather than in September. In November, folks who show up tend to have little say in who gets elected in this heavily Democrat voting place. In the absence of strong independent candidates, they vote down the party line or don’t show up to vote at all.
Last year we had a record low turnout at the general election. Just 21% of voters showed up, at least in part because the outcome of the Mayoral election was effectively decided in the June primary. Mayor Eric Adams won in the Democratic primary by receiving 404,513 votes or 43% of the 942,031 votes cast. Those 25% of registered Democrats who showed up to vote in the primaries decided the November election for all of us. So if you want to have your voice matter, whether you are a Democrat or Republican (in the few districts where it makes a difference), you need to vote in the primaries.
What’s Interesting This Year?
This year, Midwood neighbor Jumaane Williams, our current Public Advocate, is running for Governor to the left of Gov. Kathy Hochul. Ms. Alison Esposito, who retired from the NYPD after serving in Brooklyn and was the first woman to become the commanding officer for the 70th Precinct (Flatbush/Ditmas Park/Midwood), is Lee Zeldin’s running mate for Governor on the Republican ticket. Democratic Socialists are trying to get two more Senate seats and another Assembly seat in Brooklyn. People can run for state offices outside their districts during redistricting years, and some eyebrows are already being raised in Bay Ridge. Petitioning is in high gear now to get on the June ballots, and we’ll know who to discuss after the April 7 filing date.
Who will represent the newly drawn Senate District 27 in Sunset Park and Bensonhurst? Just how far left was redrawn Congressional District 11, which now includes both Republican Staten Island and Democrat Park Slope? Will Senator Simcha Felder still run across the line as Republican and Democrat? What have the incumbents been up to, and which ones are facing serious challengers? Senator Parker has started mass mailers already. Who are the people running for judges? How have pandemic and redistricting reshaped Brooklyn, and how is that reflected in who is running for office?
These are some of the questions I’d like to take a crack at and/or bring you the best reporting of others over the next three or so months leading up to the primaries so that none of us walk into the voting booths clueless as to who we want to vote for.
But fear not, it will not be all politics. There is more to life and local news, it is spring, and this is Brooklyn!
I hope you continue reading and subscribing, and as always - tips, suggestions, and ideas for improving the coverage, constructive criticism, and notes of appreciation are most welcome. (Those of you who had paused annual subscriptions will continue to have access until the remaining term of the original subscription runs out; for everyone else, there are monthly subscriptions.)
🚙🍽 Thrillist’s 50 Best Brooklyn restaurants published this week will please you if you are looking for places to try in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Prospect Heights.
⛺️ Mayor Adams’ latest homeless sweeps have dismantled hundreds of homeless encampments, mainly in Manhattan but also under the BQE this week, yet only five people have accepted offers of a spot in a city shelter, Gothamist reports.
🚦 DOT wants feedback on the Willoughby Avenue Open Street by 04/15 (survey here). Neighbors are organizing under Flatbush Streets for People demanding action from our politicians to create safe, complete streets that work for everyone, by design, and you can join them. I’ll write about our streets in one of the coming weeks, but for now, read Streetsblog for more street-related news across the city.
Lastly, 👀 I’m not quite sure what to make of The Jewish Voice publishing this ad in their 3/29 newsletter 👀👀👀: