Twelve of Brooklyn’s 16 councilmembers are term-limited, and the number of individuals running for office is massive. One of those term-limited is Council Member Mathieu Eugene, who represents District 40— Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
A few months ago, NYPD Lieutenant and the subject of an Emmy-winning Hulu Documentary Crime + Punishment, Edwin Raymond, announced his run for the office. Raymond was born, raised, and until February resided in East Flatbush. He is a child of Haitian Immigrants, and his mother died when he was just a little boy. He joined the NYPD in 2008 to “remedy some of the injustices I faced as a young man” and became a Lieutenant in 2018.
In 2014, Raymond co-founded PLOT (Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow), which serves vulnerable youth by offering them mentors, resources, and support. In 2016, he became the lead plaintiff in an ongoing federal lawsuit with eleven other officers and “exposed and denounced discriminatory police practices that further intensified the suffering of Black and Latino communities.” Some answers have been slightly edited.
Why did you decide to run now?
I joined this race because it’s time for the City Council to put the needs of our communities first, not pad their pockets at our expense. It is time for transparency in public safety, food security, and education for our youth, making human rights a priority and promoting and sustaining economic opportunity for Brooklyn residents.
Brooklyn is where my heart is, I love the people here, and I take pride in our heritage. That is why I am running to represent us.
How have you spent the pandemic? What has it been like for you?
Due to my position as an essential worker, I had to respond to the homes of people who sadly didn’t survive COVID-19. In the early spring, many didn’t take proper precautions, so I educated people and provided PPE. Seeing so many lose people they love in such a short period of time hasn’t been easy and takes its toll on you, but as a public servant, I remain dedicated to the people. After a two-week quarantine myself, I was back out there serving as a first responder and also continuing to educate people on protecting themselves.
What have you seen? Have you seen a change in your district? What does your district need come coronavirus recovery?
I’ve watched as pantry lines throughout the district have become a reflection of an array of demographics and no longer mainly the elderly. Sadly violent crimes have also increased coinciding with the pandemic.
We need to address food insecurities and other resources that people are in need of. We need to provide resources to expand anti-violence programs that not only address individuals incidents but shifts cultural paradigms.
Transportation is a huge issue in the district. How will you make the streets safer?
I am calling for Increased public transit schedule transparency, contact-less payment options, combatting disproportionate ticketing processes, addressing issues concerning alternate side parking, increased attention to street conditions, and unlimited public transit for K-12 during school hours.
Do we need more bike lanes? Do we need Citi Bikes?
Yes. We need more Bike Lanes. As an avid cyclist, I have made this issue a principal part of my campaign. Citi Bikes are an essential mode of transportation and should be accessible to all, and there should be an increased presence in Citi Bike locations in District 40.
What’s the biggest issue facing your district? And how will you address it?
Access to affordable housing is a top priority facing this district. It is essential to have a plan that increases access to sustainable and affordable housing and the combats rising rate of homelessness.
What are your top three issues you will prioritize once elected, and why?
Transparency in public safety, because no one should be afraid of the people who are put in place to protect and serve. Because community policing is not just a talking point, it is a critical infrastructure plan for safety. We need to have public input into policing processes and eliminate barriers to advancement that lead to communities of color not being afforded opportunities.
Food security and education for our youth, because access to equitable education remains a determining factor for social and economic mobility. I am calling for increased funding to Title 1 schools, Academic Intervention Vouchers (AIV) for low-income families, Enrichment Program Vouchers (EPV) for low-income families, hiring more nurses and guidance counselors, tackling the digital divide, and securing funding to combat childhood hunger because no child should go hungry in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.
Promoting and sustaining economic opportunity, because small businesses in our communities were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are the lifeblood of what makes Brooklyn the best borough. We have to support our small businesses and create job and sustainability measures that capture our culture and preserve the community that shows up when you least expect it and need it the most. This means dedicating specific contracts, grants, and funding for small businesses in the district, emphasizing minority and female businesses.
How will you compare to the previous leadership?
I’m dedicated to unwavering integrity at all costs. I spoke out against corrupt practices and department-mandated quotas that led to communities of color having disproportionate negative interactions with the NYPD. Serving the public is something that I find honorable therefore I will remain reachable and work hard to address their needs accordingly.
How do you differ from your opponents?
The race is contested; it varies by the opponent are influenced by local political machines some having existing experience through the system, the establishment, in the way that it currently is. How our system currently works doesn’t work for our community. I am a political outsider, someone who was raised in the district, someone who believes in the value of integrity and is not beholden to the ties of the establishment.
Housing, homelessness, education are big issues in the city/district. How will you address them?
Housing: I believe in the value of mixed-income neighborhoods and will strive to ensure that we have affordable housing throughout every community. For public land, I will consistently demand that housing rates are set by local Area Median Income (AMI) at a lower market rate. I commit to rejecting any proposals that do not allocate at least 50% of the units designated for the lowest AMI in the area. I am also committed to partnering with other organizations that support policies that impact the economic advancement of District 40 residents.
Homelessness: A city-wide solution can not be the bandaid for resolving this issue. The issue of homelessness has different implications in Brownsville versus those in Park Slope or SoHo. The causes of the homeless need to be addressed – former incarceration, gentrification, lack of employment, financial literacy, and/or domestic abuse.
In a city and state with this level of wealth, it is a moral failure that anyone is displaced. This has not only impacted me in my district but has caused a laundry list of ripple effects that have impacted entire communities. In a recent Canadian economic study, several displaced people received a stipend of approximately $7,500 to establish housing security. A year later, a majority of participants retained a significant portion of the original investment. Participants spent less time-displaced and were more stable than the control group.
A strategy based on this study is significantly more cost-effective than providing substandard services for this population. I plan to pilot this method of funding distribution in my district by providing job and financial literacy training and increasing access to mental health services. To support participants of this initiative. No New Yorker should be homeless. We have to ensure every New Yorker has a place they can live with dignity and respect.
Education: I am calling for increased funding to Title 1 schools, Academic Intervention Vouchers (AIV) for low-income families, Enrichment Program Vouchers (EPV) for low-income families, hiring more nurses and guidance counselors, tackling the digital divide, and securing funding to combat childhood hunger because no child should go hungry in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.
How will you address policing?
We need to have public input into policing processes and eliminate barriers to advancement that lead to communities of color not being afforded opportunities. We need to create more transparency in areas that impact our communities the most. We also need to create more transparency in the process of Police complaints, both by civilians and by officers who submit complaints about harassment, racism, and corruption within the NYPD. Having front row seats for the last dozen years, there are a plethora of nuances that I understand and will take into consideration whenever advocating for policies, sponsoring, or drafting legislation.
How do your past experiences make you fit for this position?
In 2008, I joined the New York Police Department (NYPD). Since then, I rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant and proudly served in Brooklyn. While there, I have been able to understand the inner workings of the NYPD, and I have watched how City Council members miss crucial opportunities to moving things in the right direction.
Many in the halls of power continue to perform their functions and not be held accountable for improper actions and inactions. As someone who understands the detriments of the system by being on the receiving end and being employed by it, this is the essential ingredient that’s been missing from City Hall.
What are you most proud of?
I spoke out against corrupt practices and unlawful department-mandated quotas that led to communities of color having disproportionate negative interactions with NYPD. This has forced the department to suppress some of those practices as I continue to take action via a federal lawsuit to get the rest of the job done. I’m proud of being able to persevere through the retaliation that I experienced for having the courage to be outspoken.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to workout, give out books to children in the community, and eat mostly plant-based foods.
What is your favorite part of your district?
I truly love Prospect Park. On a summer day, there’s no telling what activities may be going on and the unlimited amount of great people you will inevitably encounter.