BROWNSVILLE — Two months into her first term as Council Member for Brooklyn’s 41st district, Alicka Ampry-Samuel has already co-sponsored eight bills with fellow council members and introduced one requiring information about sexual harassment be made available online for public access. Her predecessor, Darlene Mealy, didn’t introduce or sponsor a single bill until 2007, her second year in office.
“A lot of what is happening in the district is just so critical – so urgent,” she said. “There’s an expectation of me showing up, because my predecessor did not show up.”
Ampry-Samuel was elected to office in November 2017, garnering 95 per cent of the total vote. She represents the neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville/Ocean Hill, East Flatbush and Crown Heights in the city council. Born in the Brownsville projects, Ampry-Samuel has inherited a troubled district.
One out of six students in the district had been homeless over the last five years, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights had the highest total number of HIV diagnoses in the city in 2015 and the incarceration rate in Brownsville is the second-highest in the city.
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City & State ranked Mealy as the worst New York City council member last year. Ampry-Samuel blames her for Brownsville not benefitting from the growth seen city-wide over the last few years.
“It was unfortunate,” she said. “That’s why the district was not able to benefit from a lot of the program opportunities…even though she represented the district and the community, she did not reflect who we are.”
Mealy went on to lose the democratic primary for New York state assembly member to Latrice Walker – Samuel’s trusted colleague and former boss.
Multiple attempts to contact Darlene Mealy for comment were unsuccessful.
Ampry-Samuel said she is tapping into the expansive network of people she met in her various roles before being voted in, to ensure the district’s issues are fixed. She worked as a child protective specialist with the New York City Department of Children Services before leaving to serve the U.S. Department of State in Accra, Ghana. She returned stateside to work as Chief of Staff to Assemblywoman Walker. Just before taking office, Ampry-Samuel served as senior advisor in the Community Engagement and Partnerships Division at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
Top of that list, she said, is public housing.
Just over a week ago, the Citywide Council of Presidents filed a lawsuit against NYCHA to get an independent monitor appointed to oversee the agency. Samuel, Chair of the Public Housing Committee, supports the residents and is renewing her call for the appointment of a chief resident officer.
“Sometimes it takes legal action to be heard. You could slip and fall and choose to just go to the hospital – or you can choose to sue the person that owned the place where you fell. You have a right,” she said. “Right now, NYCHA needs everyone at the table including the residents to figure out how they can fix their problems.”
Also of importance to Ampry-Samuel is education.
“We have never had a traditional high school in Brownsville – ever. A building with a high school inside? Brownsville has never had one,” she said.
She is committed to working towards building a high school by the end of her term. Ampry-Samuel was very vocal in supporting the call for Brownsville’s Brooklyn Collegiate to remain open. The school was one of 14 institutions the city planned to close citing poor performance. The city soon after, withdrew their proposal to close the school after intense pressure from parents and local politicians — Samuel included. Brooklyn Collegiate: A College Board School, is a New York City public school that serves students from grade six to 12.
Next, is development. Rutland Road is one street that Ampry-Samuel said has her attention.
“I’m working with Assemblyman Nick Perry to look for ways to revitalize Rutland Road – from East 98th Street to the end of my district. The potential is there,” she said. She is already in talks with organizations like the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to provide support mechanisms such as grants for local businesses.
Samuel said she believes in being “a true voice of the people,” even if it means disagreeing with speaker Corey Johnson.
“He may not know what the real issues are in my district,” she said. “If we disagree, and it has something to do with my constituency, I’m going to work hard to ensure he understands what I’m advocating for and what I’m championing.”
She does, however, support his intent for the council to maintain independence from the mayor’s office.
“That’s how you make sure that everyone has a voice at the table and decisions that are made are inclusive of the people,” she said.
Ampry-Samuel shot down a City & State article suggesting she was ‘eyeing’ the speakership at the end of her first term.
“I was not a fan of that article…I have never said anything about being speaker. My focus is on my district,” she said.
Ampry-Samuel said her focus is on bringing change to her district. In her opinion, four years is a long time but she is hopeful that the district will vote her back into office in 2021.
“It’s a new day,” she said.