Cornegy Snags Transit Workers Union Endorsement in Brooklyn Borough President Race

Cornegy Snags Transit Workers Union Endorsement in Brooklyn Borough President Race
Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr.

Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. has picked up an endorsement from the city’s major transit union in his campaign to become Brooklyn Borough President.

The Transport Workers Union of America’s Local 100 branch is so supportive of Cornegy that, according to a press release provided by Cornegy’s campaign, the union’s leadership chose to skip their normal candidate screening process and endorse him unanimously. The union represents about 41,000 subway and bus system employees in the city, along with some private transportation workers.

“Robert Cornegy is a hero for the working people who will be a powerful force for New York City’s recovery,” Tony Utano, President, TWU Local 100’s president, said in a statement.

“Rob knows how to utilize innovative thinking to grow jobs and opportunity; strengthen safety while building trust; and organize resources to crush COVID and bring our city back. He will ensure our transit systems continue to improve to serve the public, and he will treat the workforce with the dignity and respect it deserves.”

Cornegy’s website does not list transit or labor issues amongst the campaign’s major initiatives, and advocates told Bklyner he has not made transportation issues a hallmark of his political career. The union’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Bklyner requesting more information on its decision-making process.

But TWU Local 100 has previously backed Cornegy in his race for his current role representing Brooklyn’s 36th Council District, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights, and Cornegy has appeared with the union at public events. He also received two donations totaling $1,175 from the union’s comptroller, Dalia Lamming-Tilly. And Cornegy is close with Henry Butler, a former transit worker and union activist who replaced him as a Democratic Party district leader last year.

“Our transportation systems are the arteries of New York City, and dedicated transit workers are the lifeblood,”  Cornegy said. “These hard-working public servants always keep our residents and our city moving, even in our toughest times. When New York City went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, essential transit workers continued to serve on the front lines, in service of others.”

Cornegy’s campaign pointed to his opposition to an MTA proposal to eliminate the B25 bus route several years ago and his support for Citi Bike stations in Bed-Stuy as examples of his transportation pedigree, along with his support for a 2015 bill that would have exempted bus drivers involved in traffic incidents from prosecution under the city’s Right of Way law. The proposed exemption was supported by the transit union and the MTA but drew the ire of some street safety activists.

The campaign also said Cornegy would push for a comprehensive borough transportation plan involving dedicated busways and protected bike lanes. On other transportation issues, Cornegy has been supportive of e-scooter pilots and congestion pricing but previously opposed the installation of a bike lane on Classon Avenue.

Cornegy’s campaign also said the candidate was a strong supporter of organized labor and planned to use the Borough President’s office as a “mediator and a connector” with schools, job training programs, employers and unions to create job opportunities.

Recent focus areas for the union itself include successfully pushing the MTA to restore service on the C and F subway lines after pandemic-related cuts, and calling on the city to place more cops on platforms and rolling stock to protect workers from crime.

Over a dozen candidates are competing for the borough president’s seat, but fundraising disclosures and endorsement lists indicate the race is largely between four frontrunners: Cornegy, Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, and former Brookdale Hospital executive Khari Edwards.

Cornegy, who has taken relatively moderate positions on issues like education and policing along with an extended focus on small business issues, has picked up endorsements from many of the borough’s more centrist and establishment politicians, as well as the city’s firefighters unions and Teamsters Local 237.

The largest union to endorse in the race thus far is DC37, which represents about 150,000 public employees and is backing Edwards. Reynoso has support from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, United Auto Workers Region 9A and Teamsters Joint Council 16.

Elsewhere, TWU Local 100 has endorsed Arthur Schwartz, who serves as the union’s attorney, for a City Council seat in lower Manhattan. Adams and Andrew Yang are said to be the top contenders for the union’s backing in the mayoral race.