The list of candidates running for Brooklyn Borough President in 2021 is growing. The seat is currently held by Eric Adams, who is term-limited and is running for NYC Mayor. On Wednesday, November 11, Brooklyn resident and organizer Pearlene Fields announced her run for the office. Fields is a native New Yorker who has spent over 20 years working in Business Administration at non-profit organizations like JDRF as a Grants Administrator, UNICEF where she was a Program Assistant, and the United Nations Secretariat Department of Peace Operations, Office of Military Affairs where she assisted the Chief of Staff in the front office. We spoke earlier this week and will be speaking to the others in the upcoming days. Some answers have been slightly edited.
Why did you decide to run now, especially during a pandemic?
I used to always complain when I saw something I didn’t like and would say stuff like ‘someone should do something about that’ but never thought that it should be me because I am not a politician. After sessions with organizations like Vote Run Lead, New American Leaders, and Emily’s List, I began to think differently. I stopped saying ‘why me’ and started to say ‘why not me,’ and if there was ever a time that the city needs people to step in and step up, it would be during the pandemic when they would be needed the most. That is why I’ve decided to launch this people-powered campaign. I will be working with the people, for the people, for the betterment of all of the people, and anyone who wants to join this movement.
How have you spent the pandemic? How has it been like for you?
Well, at first, I panicked and stayed inside as most people did per the Governor’s orders so that we could flatten the curve. But once I calmed my nerves, I started to look for ways I could try and help in the community; however, I could while still keeping safe. So first, I provided masks and cleaning supplies for the charity I support— Sierra House. Then I ran a small GoFundme campaign to help heroes and the homeless. With those funds, I provided lunch to heroes at SUNY Downstate Hospital ICU and Coney Island Hospital frontline workers. I was also able to provide much-needed supplies to a couple of locations of the Women In Need homeless shelter and Covenant house. I’ve also participated in food distribution boxes with People In Need. I know it isn’t enough, and I wish I could do more, but these were some of the first things to come to mind, so I just went out there and tried my best to be as effective as I could.
What have you seen? Have you seen a change in Brooklyn? What does Brooklyn need come coronavirus recovery?
At first, I saw a lot of people not taking the mask-wearing as seriously as I would have liked. Some would have the mask, but in their hands, not on their faces, which worried me a bit. Now they seem to be wearing them, which is good because the only way we will get through this pandemic is if we all work together and protect each other.
The changes I’ve seen in the Borough are all of these tall luxury buildings going up in neighborhoods where they stand out, ruining the aesthetics and which the local residents can’t afford to pay the exuberant rent in them. We need progress, but we also need to preserve the historic aesthetics of the community by limiting up-zoning.
I think Brooklyn needs more affordable housing, and one of the steps to doing this could be repealing the Faircloth amendment so the city can build more housing for everyone from the working class to the homeless so that we can clear the shelters and stop using hotels, which are costly.
We also need to do more for the small businesses in our community, which are the backbone of all of our neighborhoods. How many applied and were denied PPP loans? How many have closed and will never open back up due to the pandemic? They need more access to capital and other resources so that they not only just recover but thrive once we make it through to the other side of this pandemic.
What top three issues will you prioritize once elected, and why?
Affordable Housing: I believe that housing is a human right and that we need to do more for the residents in our community so that they have access to real affordable housing. That starts by redetermining what affordability really is by only using an AMI (Area Median Income) of the five boroughs and not including areas like Westchester. This way, more affordable housing for the homeless, veterans, and underemployed can be built instead of all the luxury condos that only the wealthy can afford. As someone who was once homeless herself, this issue is very important to me.
Public Safety: Demilitarize the police. We need to put a stop to the 1033 program, which allows local precincts to get surplus militarized equipment. Take away all of the gear that is meant to support our military. The citizens of our state are not enemy combatants and should not be treated that way. The money saved by demilitarizing the police can be used in other much-needed community programs.
Small Business/Entrepreneurship: I believe that small businesses are the backbone of the city, and there should be more support to ensure their success and survival, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of them to close down. I also believe there should be more programs and financial opportunities encouraging entrepreneurship and encourage more interaction with our silicon alley.
How will you compare to the previous leadership?
Eric Adams is OK and was out there, but I really wished he would have been able to do more for the homeless. At one point, I believe he was going to recreate the shower buses as they have in California. I believe he supposedly put up about $300,000 to create them. I saw the announcement but heard nothing else since then, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the busses anywhere around town. That would’ve been a good idea and is something I would like to actually follow through with and do if I am elected to office.
Housing, homelessness, education are big issues in the city. How will you address them?
Very carefully and with the input of the community, beginning with the community boards. It is important that the people are made more aware of what is going on in their communities so that they can have a say in what is to be done since they live there and will be most affected.
How will you address policing?
This is such a challenging area because I believe police reform must be done, and it should be done immediately. I am not anti-police; I am anti-police brutality and would like to see a force that is more about community support and not about abusing and disregarding the citizens they have been put in charge to protect and serve.
We all have to co-exist, so we need to figure this out, and we have a lot of work to do. It doesn’t help that the police union publicly endorsed Donald Trump, who has shown himself to be a selfish, racist, misogynistic person, but it does show us what they are mostly about now, so we can start from there and make a plan that will work for everyone.
How do your past experiences make you fit for this position?
I was born here, I was raised here, and believe I have a good understanding of many of our needs and wants. My experience working within the United Nations system prepared me for working with many different cultures, my experience serving on the Board of Directors of the Sierra House helped me with my leadership skills, my experience working with non-profits showed me the importance of connecting with stakeholders, and my experience serving on Community Board 17 helped me get a better understanding on serving the community.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that although I’ve fallen many times, from job losses to being homeless, and I never gave up.
What do you do in your free time?
Before the pandemic, aside from volunteering, I used to go to the movies and dinner with friends often, but since the pandemic, it’s been Netflix and the fridge.
What is your favorite part of Brooklyn?
I don’t like playing favorites, especially since I am running to support all of Brooklyn, but I have to be honest and admit that it is Flatbush, but only because that is where I was raised. You know you can move neighborhoods, leave the state, or leave the country, but there really is no place like home, and home is usually where you were raised.