BENSONHURST/CONEY ISLAND – Steven Patzer is an almost-23-year-old who is running to represent District 47 in City Council with a mission to bring folks together and get stuff done for the good of the community. Current Council Member Mark Treyger is facing term limits in 2021, and so far, two candidates have announced they are running including Patzer. District 47 encompasses Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, and Sea Gate.
Patzer, an enthusiastic young man with blonde hair, grew up in Georgetown, Brooklyn, not Georgetown, Pennsylvania like many assume, and now lives in the district next door to his childhood home.
“Georgetown is just 14 minutes away from Gravesend according to Google Maps,” Patzer told Bklyner of his childhood spent in Gravesend and Bensonhurst with his friends, though he says all the best pizza places are in Southern Brooklyn, strategically declining to pick his favorite. For a young man, he has a lot of ideas on how to bring about change in the community. And if he didn’t know something, he didn’t pretend he did. Rather, he humbly admitted, “I don’t know. But I will go back and research.”
Patzer attended Kingsborough Community College and then Baruch College, an experience he credits with inspiring both community service and a can-do attitude. His great CUNY experience allowed him to advocate and lobby for various programs such as the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) that gives low-income students access to MetroCards and other necessities to attend college. His love for education is also why he has marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to fight against tuition increases, and he plans on continuing to do that.
Patzer feels that the 47th District’s main problems are around transportation, housing, and unemployment. He wants to change all of that.
“It’s a transportation desert in the west end of Coney Island,” he said, remembering he’d watch the fireworks every Friday at the beach with his mother. The ferry cannot come soon enough to serve residents of Coney Island, and adding a municipal parking garage in Coney Island to increase the number of parking spaces could help many.
“I’m not banning street parking. I only proposed one multi-story parking garage in Coney Island to relieve congestion,” he said. “Just think about it. You put all these cars in a five-story parking garage for example, how much green space becomes available?”
Last week, a 49-year-old woman died from her injuries after being struck by a driver as she was crossing the street with her son in Bath Beach. Car-related deaths have increased dramatically in Southern Brooklyn.
“Unfortunately, what happens is that something has to happen first for us to find the problem. It shouldn’t be that way,” he said, insisting we should be more proactive in problem-solving. “There is no reason why the DOT in conjunction with locals can’t walk around the district and point out things.”
His campaign is also proposing distributing reflective stickers that kids and adults can put on their backpacks so they are visible during the nighttime, learning from the experience of Scandinavian cities.
Patzer believes Southern Brooklyn, including the very coastal areas, could benefit from basement-apartment programs to increase the supply of affordable housing. When it comes to flooding, the landlords would have to conform to certain codes and obtain flood insurance, something that is a concern for the city as currently many people in coastal areas are not covered by flood insurance or cannot afford it.
His top three solutions in fixing the housing crisis focus on legalizing basement apartments, fixing NYCHA, and making affordable housing truly affordable by revising the Area Median Income used to calculate eligibility to be based on surrounding community’s income rather than the entire metro region.
Education & Jobs
Patzer is a big fan of all that current councilmember Treyger has accomplished to further educational opportunities in the city, and is eager to build on the good work, with an emphasis on serving the kids in the district like holding job fairs to allow them to get full-time jobs.
“They aren’t making money. When the amusement area opens, they can’t go and spend money because they don’t have money,” he said. “There are no movie theaters nearby, no arcades. The only thing there is, is basketball. Yes, Coney Island has produced some NBA stars, but not everyone is cut out to be an NBA star.”
Education is also a huge concern for Patzer. “As a CUNY graduate and former member of the Kingsborough Board of Directors, I recognize and understand that students, staff, and faculty can’t be left behind,” he said. “The City can and should expand access to CUNY education and increase funding for programs that make that path easier.”
Patzer’s mission is to bring everyone together. Not everything is or needs to be political, he explained. And he preaches what he says. Patzer has organized community cleanups, like the one in September where he and many other members of the community cleaned-up the Coney Island Creek. He planned a job fair for the youth, where over 65 people attended and four were hired on the spot. Currently, he is going on a singing tour in senior centers across his district to get to know them better, and what better way to do that than to sing? And he isn’t done yet. He is planning on scuba diving and cleaning-up the Coney Island Creek after successfully scuba-diving Rockaway Beach. After all, it’s all about the mission, he said again.
But while the people in the district come together, they are also very divided. And Patzer completely acknowledges that.
“There are 1,500 gun owners in the district, that’s one part of the district. The other part of the district is being disproportionally affected by gun violence,” he said. “There are people who are really in support of specialized tests, while generations of people in Southern Brooklyn have been disproportionally affected by it.”
“What’s a candidate left to do? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he remarked.
So, Patzer decided to propose brand new options. He recalled a conversation he had with Assembly Member Charles Fall.
“He said to me once, ‘Steven, I’m oftentimes put into those situations to make a choice. Sometimes I don’t like either, so I do a lot of research and I put my own version forward,'” Patzer said, adding “there’s a lot of time until the primary and we’re not wasting any of it. We’re starting to do the research now.”
So why is Patzer running for City Council for 2021? According to the man himself, he just wants to make a greater impact:
“I was sitting next to mom in the hospital in January. She has acute pancreatitis… We were recalling some of our best memories. The Coney Island fireworks,” he said. “I can make a greater impact in public office. I know the landscape really well. I worked on nearly two dozen campaigns. I know the process. I know the community. I think this is just a greater way for me to make a greater impact.”