Reyna, who represented Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood in the City Council from 2001 to 2013, is leaving her post in January. She will join the all-female startup firm Athena Consulting Group, which focuses on business development, government and public relations, and minority and women-owned enterprises (MWBEs).
Last Thursday, Borough President Eric Adams hosted a celebration in honor of Reyna, the first Dominican-American elected to office in New York state. Prior to the event, Reyna, who grew up in the southside of Williamsburg, reflected on her more than two decades in public service.
“I did it with such passion and integrity that I know there is a lot to point to,” she said. “I was honored to be able to serve my city.”
When asked about what she considers some of her greatest accomplishments, she pointed to projects that will have influence in the decades to come. She spoke about helping PS 84, based in her former council district, obtain a greenhouse to teach urban agriculture.
She also touted the work her office has done to preserve manufacturing and industrial spaces in Brooklyn, which she said are important because “they are part of our local economy.”
Manufacturing jobs are especially important to Reyna, whose parents worked in factories when they immigrated from the Dominican Republic.
“To be able to have that love of community came from them,” she said. “Walking the streets of a neighborhood that created space for them.”
Since she was in the City Council, Reyna has championed the BQGreen, a proposed park that would be built on a platform over the lowered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE).
Despite its cost, Reyna and other elected officials from Williamsburg say it will improve air quality, lower asthma rates, and serve thousands of community members.
The deputy borough president called it one of her “greatest visionary projects that I can’t let go of.” She pledged to continue working to realize the dream of the BQGreen.
“I think my whole life, growing up in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, was always about rising from the ashes,” she said.
Like the north Brooklyn neighborhoods she used to represent, Brooklyn has changed a lot since she became deputy borough president four years ago. Reyna said throughout the transformation, she and Adams have worked to “reach the farthest inches of this borough” to make investments in the “forgotten neighborhoods.”
During her tenure, they worked on addressing homelessness, including shining a spotlight on schools that have large concentrations of homeless students. In the last four years, Reyna said the borough president’s office has allocated $90 million to Brooklyn schools, which she called “unprecedented.”
They prioritized STEM and the importance of building a pipeline for careers. She highlighted the growing biotechnology sector in the borough, and the new BioBAT workspace at the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
“These jobs can be outsourced if we don’t produce the talent right in our hometowns,” Reyna said. “Science, technology, engineering and math is at the center of education right now for this administration.”
Borough Hall also pushed to use passive house design, a model that prioritizes energy efficiency to reduce a building’s ecological footprint. Reyna said Brooklyn was leading the nation in passive house design.
“That was the best kept secret,” she said.
After 22 years in government, starting next month Reyna will begin a new chapter in a new field. Her former chief of staff, Laura Imperiale, is CEO of Athena Consulting Group, where Reyna will be a senior partner.
The departing deputy borough president said not only will she advocate for the MWBE community, but she will belong to an all-female firm. After seeing the issue from the government side, she will have the opportunity to see it from the business side.
“The opportunity to take our wisdom and apply it from government to the private sector, we’re excited,” Reyna said. “This is a great opportunity. It’s the year of the woman.”
When asked if she would consider a run for borough president or another elected office in her future, Reyna said she “never closes a door.”
“No one should ever close a door,” she said. “What makes it possible for me to be able to consider another run for office is my youth and my experience. I stand by both.”