Brooklyn Professional Soccer Team’s First Exhibition Match Electrifies Fans in 3-3 Draw Against Top Flight Ecuadorian Team

By Nicholas Gordon

Cuenca Fans at BKFC. Michael Mansfield

The vibrant atmosphere and packed stadium for the Brooklyn Football Club’s first official exhibition match on Saturday, July 13, at Maimonides Park in Coney Island made one thing abundantly clear: the borough of Brooklyn is hungry for professional soccer.

The exhibition match featured the Brooklyn FC Men’s Under-20 team versus the Ecuadorian Serie A Club C.D. Cuenca. As a prelude to the Brooklyn FC Women’s home opener in August in the inaugural USL Super League season and the Brooklyn Men’s FC launch in March of 2025, the end-to-end exhibition match offered the kind of excitement fans can anticipate with Brooklyn’s new professional soccer teams.

“I think this match goes to show how much talent lives in Brooklyn,” Brooklyn Football Club CEO Maximilian Mansfield said. “We were able to draw against a big-time professional team. It was quality soccer and it was fun to watch.”

Leaving a career in finance a few years back with a dream of creating his own football club, Mansfield has brought his vision to fruition with his two Brooklyn FC teams, grounding them in a European sensibility of “what a small town team can do for a community” that he learned while playing soccer in Germany in his youth.

“In Europe, the local teams are for the community, for the people, and with a lot of talent from that community. And I feel like we’ve accomplished that here too with the Brooklyn Football Clubs,” Mansfield said.

BKFC Players Celebrate Goal. Michael Mansfield

If watching soccer in a baseball stadium has slight angular challenges to viewership, the ebullient fans at the exhibition match at Maimonides Park were not phased by it. A constant chorus of cheering and chanting was accompanied by the visiting squad’s brass band that played the entire 90 minutes of the match as the teams on the pitch engaged in a dramatic back-and-forth battle, trading goals and leads throughout the second half.

While both teams created several goal-scoring chances in the first half, it was C.D. Cuenca who struck first with a goal on a powerful shot into the bottom left corner of the back of the net just before halftime. Brooklyn FC retaliated quickly with a goal on a similar strike just minutes into the second half. After that, the goals poured forth from both sides in an attacking seesaw match that C.D. Cuenca equalized on a penalty kick just before the final whistle sounded.

Calum Benjamin, Head of Strategy for Brooklyn FC, noted that the great match intensity on display at the exhibition will only ratchet up when the Brooklyn FC Women’s team soon takes the field for the start of the USL Super League. 

“The fans coming out in droves, especially the Cuenca fans, added a lot of flavor here tonight,” Benjamin said. “It was a sneak preview of the football community and different fan bases that already exist in Brooklyn. And it shows what’s special about this borough and this city.”

BKFC Match Action II. Michael Mansfield

Just as the Brooklyn FC Men’s Under-20 team features players originally from more than ten different nations, including Algeria, Colombia, Congo, Greece, Guatemala, Poland, Nigeria, and Senegal, the Women’s Brooklyn FC team will have international and Brooklyn-based players with a range of different ethnicities.  

For Benjamin and Mansfield who played soccer together in New York while growing up, Brooklyn FC reunites them as adults in a passion project that celebrates the diversity of their New York communities, as well as the growth of women’s sports. 

“We’re excited to be part of the USL Super League that supports the growth of women’s soccer,” Mansfield said. “And we’re excited to be able to carry the torch for Brooklyn with the first ever women’s pro team in Brooklyn.” 

More information on BKFC scheduling and tickets can be found at brooklynfootballclub.com and on social media @brooklynfootballclub.

12 Hours of Testimony at City of Yes Hearing

Courtesy of @NYCPlanning

By Jean Brannum and Celia Bernhardt | news@queensledger.com

The City of Yes for Housing Opportunity got a marathon of a public hearing on July 10, with residents and representatives testifying to the City Planning Commission for over 12 hours.  

The third section of the Adams administration’s three-part City of Yes plan (with other proposals addressing climate and commercial businesses), City of Yes for Housing Opportunity includes a broad set of zoning and policy changes that would allow “a little more housing in every neighborhood.” 

Last week’s meeting was part of a larger public review phase for the housing proposal, where borough presidents and community boards can weigh in and suggest alterations. The next step after public review concludes is a binding vote from the City Planning Commission; following that, the City Council can vote to either approve, modify, or deny the plan. That final vote is expected to take place before the end of 2024. 

Many residents of Queens and Brooklyn expressed concerns about suburban neighborhoods losing their quiet environment. Some residents are worried that the population increase will exacerbate existing issues in the neighborhood. 

“Let us be clear about what this housing proposal does in fact represent: A little more Manhattan in every neighborhood,” said John Sheridan, a City Island resident who also said the changes would cause neighborhoods to lose their unique characteristics. 

On the flip side, many in the meeting argued that the changes are needed to create more affordable housing options. Vice President of Policy at TechNYC and former City Council member Marjorie Velasquez explained how the lack of affordable housing keeps potential talent out of the technology industries.

“Young professionals, even those with promising careers, are priced out of the market, forcing them to relocate or furlough living in New York City,” Velasquez said. “We want people building technology in New York City and build their families here.”

One of the most outspoken critics of the City of Yes was Councilmember Vicky Paladino, whose district includes College Point, Douglaston, and North Flushing. She said the city has pushed the proposed zoning changes “like a freight train” and said it would be better to have a pilot program for the changes. 

Paladino compared the process of the City of Yes to the legalization of cannabis, saying that the quick legalization process led to multiple smoke shops popping up around the city. 

Department of City Planning Director Daniel Garodnick argued with Paladino saying that 50% of the people in her district are rent-burdened, which means people pay more than 30% of their income towards housing. Paladino replied that her district is affordable due to Co-op apartments and condos. 

A map of community districts shows some neighborhoods in Paladino’s district built between 2,000 and 4,000 new buildings between 2010 and 2023. A section including the Douglaston area shows between zero and 2,000 new buildings. 

Carol Mccarthy from the Douglaston Civic Association said that only developers would benefit from the proposal and that no affordable housing would be built. Mccarthy also said that if the City of Yes passes, then Douglaston would consider seceding from New York City. 

“If passed we will be forced to consider the real possibility of secession from the city of New York,” Mccarthy said. “This can be done and it will be done if necessary. We have the means to do it”

Another disagreement ensued between Paul Graziano — an urban planner at the forefront of advocacy against the housing proposal — and the City Planning director. Graziano argued that increasing housing density would be “apocalyptic” due to the increase in number of people living in areas built for single-family homes. He also said that the population of New York City has not changed since 1960. According to city data and census data, the population of the city has increased since 1960 by about 1 million. 

Graziano’s other point was that the city already allows for more housing to be built, so there is no need to loosen restrictions more. Graziano claims the current zoning laws allow housing for up to 20 million people to be built now. 

“I am tired of listening to the propaganda from the City Planning Commission and Department of City Planning,” Graziano said. “You’ve heard the voices of the folks from outside of Manhattan, from the community boards, as well as the civic organizations. And if you persist in going forward with this, there will be consequences to this and we’ll find out what they are.”

Garodnick said that this has been brought up at other community board meetings and said it indicated a “fundamental misunderstanding of how zoning works.” 

According to Garodnick, land zones are rarely completely utilized due to existing buildings and finances among other reasons. He also said that the proposal would not eliminate single-family homes. Gardonkick used his response to also say that people should stick to the facts during the hearing. One person from the crowd told the committee to “stop lying” though it is not clear what they were referring to. 

The Department of City Planning will vote on the proposed changes in September. In the meantime, New Yorkers can make public statements at the next public hearing on July 24. 

Domestic Employers Honored at Care Heroes Awards

 

Julia Finegan hugs her nanny, Marguerita Aristide, who praised Finegan for going above and beyond as an employer.

By Jean Brannum | jbrannum@queensledger.com

Care Forward, among other organizations, honored outstanding employers of caregivers in Carroll Gardens on June 11. 

Nannies, in-home caregivers, and housekeepers could nominate their employers for a Care Hero award. The awards highlight employers who have gone above and beyond to honor the legal rights of domestic workers and create a good work environment. 

Care Forward is an organization that is part of the Carroll Gardens Association and includes other organizations such as Hand In Hand and We Rise. The organization unifies domestic workers and advocates for their fair treatment. The initiative was launched after the implementation of Intro 339, a law that gives domestic workers human rights protections. 

Intro 339 was implemented in March 2022 and protects domestic workers against harassment, inquiries into salary and credit history, and discrimination. Previously, worker protection laws excluded domestic workers. Zhara Baksh, the city’s organizer for Hand in Hand said that this was due to a history of domestic workers being predominantly black, and because many slaves fulfilled these duties before the civil war. 

Baksh’s points are echoed in a PBS interview with Kaitlyn Henderson from Oxfam, a global organization that fights poverty and injustice. Henderson pointed out that black people were excluded from labor protection laws under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. 

New York was the first state to have a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which mandates sick leave and overtime pay among other rights. 

Donna Schneiderman hired a nanny and a house cleaner to help with her household needs. She quickly recognized that her home was a workplace and wanted to hold herself to the same standards as employers at other companies. However, she had no idea how to do that and realized that at the time domestic workers were not entitled to many employee rights. 

A timeline of the domestic worker’s rights movement.

“We benefit when there are standards in place,” Schneiderman said. 

Schneiderman got involved in the Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, which later joined Hand in Hand. She continues to advocate for better protections. 

Arianna Schindle, director of training and curriculum design at the Worker Institute of Cornell, started as a nanny for six children. She said she was sexually harassed while working for them and did not know her rights as a worker. Now she helps domestic workers by teaching them their rights as an employee, and advocates for employers to use contracts. A new goal of Care Forward is for the majority of domestic workers to have contracts. 

Another nanny trainer, Doris Tapia, who also works for the Worker Institute, teaches caregivers about negotiating their salaries and the wages they are entitled to. She said that some of her clients realized through her classes that they were not being paid enough.

Doris Tapia receives an award for her work in training domestic workers to understand their rights and to negotiate with their employers.

Domestic workers nominated employers who not only upheld the legal protections but provided more. 

Marguerita Aristide, a nanny, nominated her employer, Julia Finegan, for using a “strong contract” during her five-year employment and for being more than a boss. Aristide said that Finegan will provide ample time off if she is sick.  Aristide joked that Finegan can even tell when she is sick before she knows. 

“I don’t have to be afraid of asking for a day off,” Aristide said. She also said that it was important for her to know her rights as a caregiver. 

Finegan said that Aristide had instant chemistry with her family. Her child was three years old at the time and she was expecting her second. 

Another nanny named Claudette honored her employer, Caroline Prestone, for continuing to pay her and allow time off while her husband was in the hospital and after his death. 

Other non-employers also won awards, such as children’s entertainer Hopalong Andrew. 

New Jersey passed a similar domestic worker’s rights law on July 1. Other states have passed similar laws. An introduced Senate bill, if signed into law, will make the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights a federal law. 



Sonny Singh: Sikh Sage Warrior

Musician Sonny Singh. Credit: Shruti Parekh

By Olivia Graffeo | olivia@queensledger.com

Pioneering his own unique blend of South Asian fusion, Brooklyn-based musician and activist Sonny Singh is continuing a decades-long mission of bringing people together. 

Singh was raised in Sikhism, a religion originating in the Punjab region of India that preaches meditation and equality of all people. Born of two Indian immigrants in North Carolina, Singh embraced his Sikh background as a way to cope with rising racial and ethnic tension in America. 

“When times were tough, I found myself gravitating towards some of the [Sikh] devotional songs I learned as a kid,” Singh said. 

Noting that the demographics of Charlotte in the 1980s was mostly white and Black people, Singh and his brother were the only children in their school who wore turbans. He described this as causing a deep feeling of isolation and otherness. 

“Kids on the playground would ask me, ‘are you white or black?’ and I wouldn’t know how to answer,” he said. 

Despite being part of a small minority in the American South, Singh found a way to feel he was a part of something. Exploring his heritage, and specifically the music of his ancestors, provided Singh an outlet to feel connection and peace within his community. Though there were not any gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in their area growing up, Singh was able to find meaning through playing music at small events, usually at community members’ houses. 

After making his career in music, which he calls becoming “a musician with a capital ‘M,’” Singh found success in trying out many different genres. Participating in bands that played mixes of ska, reggae, punk rock, and other fused genres, he has only recently returned to his roots in Sikh-inspired compositions. After the release of his first solo album, Chardi Kala, in 2022, Singh fully embraced the style of music that comforted him in childhood while putting his own flair in every song. 

Sonny Singh performing music from his debut solo album “Chardi Kala” 

Singh’s second solo album, Sage Warrior, will be released on September 6th. While his recent work harkens back to the religious music of Sikhism, which he calls “sacred poetry,” Singh is not simply performing renditions of the spiritual hymns of his faith. His music combines different genres, languages and instruments to reflect the unique identity Singh has formed over decades of playing music. 

While classical renditions of Sikh music usually contain the Punjabi language and instruments such as the harmonium and tabla (a type of South Asian drum), Singh expands on this. He can be heard singing in Punjabi, Spanish, English and Hindi; in addition, Singh’s skill as a trumpet player is utilized often, creating a distinctive new sound. While Singh notes that some more traditional Sikhs may disagree with his interpretation of their religion’s music and teachings, he is sure that his work is having positive effects for their community.

“It’s a constant evolution… I’m making music that makes sense to me and my own heart,” he said.

A facet of Singh’s work that is especially important to him is its foundation in social justice and activism. Since becoming involved in social causes as a teenager, Singh has continually worked to help others not only through his music, but through activism work as well. A major tenant of Sikhism is the notion that all people are equal: providing justice to everyone is paramount. 

“This sacred poetry of our tradition, there is so much wisdom in it that’s applicable today… Sikh wisdom has always inspired me, has inspired my activism,” he said.

Through music and activism, Singh notes he was able to avoid falling into “despair and assimilation,” and keep his culture alive. During his live concerts, he gives context and history to the audience, most of whom are not Sikh themselves. 

Singh describes his current musical journey as “Coming back to my past, coming back to ancestral wisdom.” 

Sonny Singh’s new album Sage Warrior can be pre-ordered before release on September 6th at https://sonnysingh.com/

All Day, Every Day; Open Air Arts Exhibit in Brooklyn Brings Queer Stories to the Community

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

 

by Alexander Bernhardt Bloom | alex@queensledger.com

 

All Day, Every Day, the thematic name ascribed to the open air art exhibition on view in Park Slope since June 1st, a part of the programming for the month put on by the organization Brooklyn Pride, invites interpretation on several levels.

Most literally, the title can be understood as a reference to the expo’s public nature. Its some one-hundred included works are presented on banners on display outdoors until the end of August on the exterior fences of the Washington and Old Stone House Park. They don’t come down with the waning daylight. Neither rain nor the extreme summer heat New Yorkers have become accustomed to will restrict passersby from surveying the banners as they do. The show is constant.

But a closer look at the artworks on display reveals a meaning for the show’s title, also the overall theme for Brooklyn Pride celebrations this month, more conceptual than practical.

The prompt for the artists whose works were selected from the curators open call – what does ‘pride’ mean to you? – returned a great variety of responses. 

Some lionize heroic or historically significant figures, others honor monuments in locales important for the community or particular moments in their collective story. There were portraits and self-portraits of couples and individuals and whole families, some captured in buoyant, esteemed poses, others in quiet moments of intimacy.

There were images of recognizable local venues with dazzling rainbows superimposed upon them. There were images of the future with hopeful distinctions to show their difference from the past or the now we live in.

All of these subjects were depicted on uniform vinyl canvases, square with white backgrounds, hung from simple plastic ties affixed directly to the park fence. 

Few perused them purposefully on a weekday afternoon last week, but they were nevertheless noticed, and colored the mood of the park, which on a hot day in late June, was teeming with children in various states of play. Just beyond the hanging artwork they dangled from swingsets; kids with super soakers chased one another and toddlers pursued floating bubbles with their handlers in tow. There was a certain harmony in catching them in the same view.

“These are really weird,” said one member of a group of passing high schoolers, too cool for the playground as they strutted down 3rd street and observed the canvases, “but they’re also beautiful.”

Part of the strength of an open air exhibit is that it is continually on view right in the middle of the goings-on of the streets and neighborhood around it, explains Emily Chiavelli, Program Director at Gowanus Arts and one of the organizers of the expo at Old Stone Park this summer.

The open access and busy location of this particular show gives it a special prominence, she said, and Chiavelli estimates tens of thousands of people will see it before the summer is out.

That means a lot to the artists whose works were selected from an open call for the exhibit, which was a great success last year and inspired Brooklyn Pride to collaborate with the arts organization for a second time. Their included pieces are up for sale through Gowanus Arts, and Chiavelli expects also that many receive direct inquiries through their social media accounts because of their exposure in the show.

More importantly, the exhibition amplifies voices that have so often gone underrepresented, and in a broader way, which, for Chiavelli, ties into the goals of Pride celebrations as a whole: “bringing attention to the experience of Queer people living in society.” 

It is the complexity of that experience that can come through in the gathering of artists’ work this way, she added: the joy and the sorrow and otherwise; the mundane parts of the lives of members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as their triumphs, or the trials they have been made to live through. 

This attention has been historically withheld, that part of our broader community left unseen or hidden away, and so an insistent call in this case is only called for – all day, every day.

 

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

 

Huntley Loses to Zinerman: Notes from Election Night

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger.com

Huntley holds the Palestinian flag to cheers from staffers and volunteers while giving his concession speech. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

The air was tense in a local Bed-Stuy haunt where Eon Huntley’s team gathered on election night. Canvassers stood stiff around the bar, refreshing the election results repeatedly as ballot counts came in. It became clear fairly quickly that Huntley was not going to catch up to Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman’s lead. 

Stephen Wood, a volunteer with Huntley’s campaign, said he had already braced himself for such an outcome.  

“I mean, we always expect the establishment to pull out all the stops and throw the kitchen sink at us […] I don’t think in any DSA race in history people have gone into it thinking they’re gonna run away with it,” Wood said. “I think everyone probably comes into nights like this pretty much expecting… this, honestly. People have been around, anyway.”

Huntley, a political newcomer and upstart backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, campaigned hard for months in an attempt to unseat two-term incumbent Assemblymember Zinerman in Bed-Stuy’s Assembly District 56. The election was one of several hotly contested Assembly primaries in the city where Solidarity PAC, a pro-Israel group with significant real estate ties — as well as various Super PACs with charter school and real estate interests — spent heavily against DSA candidates. Huntley and his supporters were intensely critical of Zinerman’s funding. Zinerman, meanwhile, levied plenty of critiques about Huntley living technically just outside of the district’s boundaries and having a majority-white team of staffers. Power players in Black Brooklyn’s political establishment — Congressman Hakeen Jeffries, Attorney General Leitita James, and others — rallied strongly behind Zinerman, a moderate Democrat. 

The contentious battle for Central Brooklyn was ultimately decided by less than 8,200 ballots, with Zinerman winning approximately 500 more than Huntley.

Huntley arrived at the party to give a concession speech just before 11 p.m., entering the backyard of the bar to a wave of cheers from the crowd. In his speech, he took the opportunity to highlight the support his opponent had consolidated from Brooklyn’s political establishment. 

“Look how Hakeem Jeffries — a person I voted for before, to be clear — was shook! I never said nothing about this guy before, but he hates people that are to the left of him — us. People who are actually representing real working class politics,” Huntley said. 

Congressman Jeffries was deeply invested in preventing DSA victory within his district; the AD 56 race was often referred to as a “proxy battle” for Jeffries in media coverage, especially as DSA State Senator Jabari Brisport campaigned hard in support of Huntley. A mid-June article from Politico suggested that Congresswoman Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, who doled out multiple endorsements of DSA candidates in hot races around the city, withheld support for Huntley as a gesture of respect to Jeffries. 

Huntley spoke about Jeffries’ possible influence in no uncertain terms. 

“We had [Jeffries] against us, we had Tisch James,” Huntley continued. “He weighed in to line people up — to have AOC sit out. All these things and we still came this close.”

Brisport, a staunch ally of Huntley, was at the party. 

“We had a real opportunity to elect a people’s champion that is accountable to everyday people in the community, and not millionaires and billionaires,” he said. “I will always stand by candidates like that.”

In addition to opposition from Black Brooklyn power players, Huntley’s campaign may have suffered from the disproportionate whiteness of its staff — especially in an area like Bed-Stuy, where young white faces are synonymous with gentrification. That was a key criticism from Zinerman’s supporters as competition intensified. 

Huntley supporter Etophia Lane, who has lived in Bed-Stuy since 1987, said that Zinerman also had the advantage of more name recognition in the community. 

“Name recognition, and also friends — and she has a lot of family friends,” Lane said. “Alliances with churches.” 

Despite the defeat, Wood said he had plenty of hope for a different outcome in the future. 

“A lot of DSA successes and a lot of our bases of power are places where we didn’t get over 50% the first time,” Wood said. 

Towards the end of his speech, Huntley unfurled a Palestinian flag passed to him by a campaign staffer to chants and cheers from the crowd. 

Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who emphasized a progressive stance on Gaza in his race against George Latimer, had already suffered a bruising loss that night — undoubtedly a point of pain for the Huntley supporters in attendance. Huntley was adamant throughout his campaign that “Palestine is on the ballot,” and took plenty of opportunities to criticize Zinerman for accepting support from Solidarity PAC and remaining relatively quiet on the topic of Gaza. 

Asked whether politics remained in his future, Huntley answered in the affirmative.

“I truly believe in effecting change. I didn’t just run on a whim, so I’m not just gonna give up. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but it’s very much about thinking about what I’ve done and building off those relationships, and thinking about how I can also try again to deliver for our community as an elected official,” Huntley said. 

“There’s no grand plan that’s already lined up in the future,” he added. “I mean, I gotta go to work next week. I am a retail worker.” 

More Than Meze

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

 

by Alexander Bernhardt Bloom alex@queensledger.com

 

This year’s was the 46th edition of the Saints Constantine & Helen Downtown Brooklyn Greek Festival, a block party that occupies the whole of a little side street near Borough Hall for nearly the whole of a calendar week with each coming June.

Lamb sizzles on grills and baklava crunches in the mouths of passersby and local mainstays both. Children slurp ice cream and play tag and perform folkloric dance and their grown-up company clink glasses and recline beside half-eaten platters of souvlaki.

It is a celebration for both the internal and external communities associated with the church and its affiliated day school, A. Fantis, whose students run among the picnic tables set up in the street. Their seats were occupied with teachers and parents and relatives and working people from the nearby office buildings on lunch break, or the residents of newly constructed high rise buildings there to enjoy a glass of (Greek) wine with their neighbors by evening. Fantis graduates, home for summer break from university, supervise kebab grills and pour lemonade. Friends and relatives drive in from Long Island and New Jersey for an afternoon or a nighttime concert.

The Greek word parea means to be together in good spirits. “To sit, and hang out, and just enjoy each other’s company,” explains Evagoras Constantinides, the church reverend and day school dean, – (he goes by Father Ev) – “That’s the opportunity we want to offer.”

The whole of the New York City community, Greek or otherwise, could surely use a little more of that.

 

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom
Festival Co-Chair and A. Fantis Alum Chris Argyriou with Reverend Evagoras Constantinides – (call him Father Ev)

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Photo Credit: Alexander Bernhardt Bloom

Voters of Bed-Stuy

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger.com

The Brooklyn Downtown Star visited an early voting site in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where a contentious race between Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman and DSA upstart Eon Huntley is playing out. We spoke with passersby about election season and the issues that matter to them.

One 58-year old voter, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she has lived in Bed-Stuy for two years. 

Which issues are most important to you when thinking about who to vote for? 

“Education and safety. I want to see [you] say what you mean and mean what you say. And unfortunately, I feel like you’ve been in office for four years and you have not said what you meant and meant what you said. So right now, we need a change, and I think Eon’s the change. […] I’ll be two years [in Bed-Stuy] in August, but I’m very active in my community, and I believe in community. And right now I feel like she’s been here for four years and she hasn’t done anything. And the thing is, if Eon doesn’t do his job, we’ll put [him] out and move the next person in! I mean, it’s all about community. Eon to me is a fresh face, and I think he’s what we need right now. Because we need someone who can navigate all people.” 

Sheryl Watkins, 76, has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years. 

Which issues are most important to you when thinking about who to vote for? 

“Safety is important. That is the primary thing.” 

What kind of policies do you look for on safety? 

“Police presence — fair police presence. And our politicians not to come out just when it’s election time, and then you don’t see them anymore for two years. That’s a big peeve of mine.”

Do you know who you’re voting for in the Assembly election? 

“Yes, I do, but I’m not going to say. I voted already — I voted last Sunday. It’s important that people vote.  A lot of people died in my generation and older for the ability to vote, and it’s important that we do. And I wish that a lot of young people would vote as well. You know, they don’t like the candidates, a lot of the candidates, but it’s best to vote for someone you like the most out of the two you like the least.”

Around the polling site. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Tess Johnson, 32, recently moved to the district. She has not yet updated her voting registration, so she’ll be visiting Astoria, where she used to live, to cast her vote. 

Which issues are most important to you when thinking about who to vote for? 

“Maintaining some resemblance of a democracy — not that we actually really have a complete democracy. Abortion rights and the economy, I guess. […] The education stuff that’s going on here, funding that more. But I haven’t kept up with local stuff.”

Is there any particular reason you haven’t?

“Well, I mean, I guess the biggest thing is just being burnt out from work and life and not putting the energy and effort into changing things. It’s like, keeping up with paying the bills, and I guess it comes down to the economy and inflation being so high. The day-to-day is difficult. But that is not an excuse — I am disappointed in myself right now for not keeping up with them, because these local elections matter the most. So I can’t be, in a way, like complaining about certain things when I’m not doing my due diligence right now.”

Gabi Farley. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Gabi Farley, 24, moved to the neighborhood one year ago. She is not registered to vote in the district, and so has not been keeping up with the election.

What would be important to you if you were choosing who to vote for in a State Assembly election? 

“Definitely education and housing. I’m a preschool teacher, so education is really important to me — I teach preschool in DUMBO. […] But in general, I think education is really important. Housing and healthcare are really important to me.” 

Are there any policy issues with education that are on your mind? 

“I think the arts and education. I think arts are really important, and I think that anybody trying to cut funding for the arts is not for me. Children need art, it’s a really good way for them to express themselves.”

One 50-year-old campaign staffer handing out palm cards for Assemblymember Zinerman, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he has lived in the neighborhood his whole life. 

What made you get involved with the campaign? 

“I like that I get to get out and interact with other people and try to convince them to vote for the right candidate.”

Why is Zinerman the right candidate? 

“It’s a few things. I don’t know how weird this sounds, but I trust her. That’s kind of a hard thing to do — put your trust in people. I trust her to do the right thing.”

What makes you trust her?

“Well, normally, I get a bad vibe, and I haven’t gotten any bad vibes from here. And I gotta say, you know, it’s hope [that] somebody can do something and change the way things are around here.”

What needs to change? 

“Police harassing people for no reason — things like that. [I want to] be able to come outside and not worry about too much of anything happening wrong.”

Brooklyn Organization Helps Parents Keep Their Children With Housing and Emotional Support

By Jean Brannum | jbrannum@queensledger.com

Jenn Miles grew up in the foster care system. She aged out at the age of 21 after years of cycling in and out of the hospital and various foster homes since the age of two. Now, at 30, Miles holds her six-month-old son on her chest in her own apartment in Crown Heights. Her goal is to be a better mother than her own and raise her son to achieve anything.

“I’m in a better stage, a better mindset,” Miles said. “I’m a different and better person from where I was before.”

It hasn’t been easy for Miles. She’s had to learn how to work through anger management problems and depressive episodes. She is working to maintain her wellness, and her son, Lucas, motivates her to do so.

“Aging Out”

In the system, Miles explained that she felt like an item rather than a person. She said she was abused in one foster home, and the case manager did nothing to resolve the situation. Miles said case workers rarely believe children in abusive foster homes.

“When I see kids in the system, I see nothing but sadness and anger,” Miles said.

Miles carried some of the same sadness and learned to be independent at a young age, like many foster kids. She wanted to be a social worker but decided not to pursue the career knowing the realities of the system.

Miles met Sharon Sorrentino, vice president of Child, Family, and Young Adult Services at the Institute of Community Living, while staying at a hospital. She was put into another ICL house for young adults who aged out of the foster care system. The first crucial item Miles received was support.

The ICL is a network of housing that provides supportive care to New Yorkers with behavioral health challenges. The organization provides supportive housing, healthcare, and recovery services to those in need.

An Administration for Children’s Services report from 2022 says 17 percent of 3,020 children in foster care “age out,” meaning children reach the age of 21 without being adopted or reunited with their parents or guardians. Foster children can technically exit the system at 18, but Miles did not recommend doing that because she saw many people who aged out at 18 become homeless. For young adults who choose to remain in care until their 21st birthday, the ACS will help them find housing in NYCHA or Section Eight. 

Miles is able to take care of herself and her son through support of Emerson. Credit: Jean Brannum

Finding Support

 

Miles was excited to find out she was pregnant, but her behavioral challenges put her at risk of losing custody of her child. She also lost her supportive housing due to her pregnancy. She entered the Emerson house, another ICL establishment, to receive housing, behavioral, and case management support.

Emerson caters to single parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children or working to reunite with children in foster care due to behavioral health problems. Sorrentino explained that ICL works with courts and parents to avoid involvement from Child Protective Services by giving parents the necessary resources to care for their children. For parents working to reunify with their children, Emerson staff will help them by ensuring parents attend court sessions and maintain regular visits. Parents will then receive assistance with reestablishing a bond with their children after reunification.

For parents to reunite with their children, family courts require the parents to provide a stable place for them. Most single parents who are homeless will only be eligible for single adult homes, which include living with roommates and do not allow children. A child can also be barred from visitation since the parent lives with other strangers due to safety concerns. This creates a barrier to reunification for many families and can cause familial bonds to diminish.

“Sometimes families who are in the homeless shelter find themselves kind of between a rock and a hard place if they’ve been separated from their children, because they may not qualify for family housing, which then prevents them from being able to reunify with their children,” Sorrentino said.

The ACS report says 54% of foster children in 2022 were reunited with their families. The first goal of foster care is reunification, but as Sorrentino explained, the process can be long and tedious. Miles said she worked hard through her problems to make sure she never lost Lucas to foster care because it would be very difficult to regain full custody.

Emerson helps Miles by providing household and childcare support as well. Miles rattled off names of people who will help her with laundry and cleaning, and look after Lucas when she is due in court. Miles disclosed an incident at her previous job that she regrets. She said continues finding positive ways to express and manage her emotions.

Emerson also offers parenting support and community events. Miles is, by admission, an introvert, but she sometimes attends these events where single parents can bond and receive peer support.

Looking Ahead

 

Lucas will soon start daycare, and Miles is working to maintain her wellness. She continues to go to therapy and is working on producing music. She wants to teach her son about managing emotions and encourage him to be successful in academics.

“I want him to be successful in life and know that he can do anything he wants to.”

Being a single mom can be difficult, but Miles said that her solution to some of the chaos is kids’ TV show personality, Ms. Rachel.

“I can actually take my shower, I can actually clean or cook,” Miles said. “Most of the time, he wants to be in my arms but once I (turn on Ms. Rachel), I’m invisible, so I work with that.”

Currently, Miles plans to stay at Emerson until she is ready to be independent and move into her own place outside of ICL.

The Emerson program is, unfortunately, one-of-a-kind in the US. There are no similar programs in New York or any other state. The ICL continues to advocate for greater flexibility in the shelter system that will allow single parents to receive housing vouchers in appropriate apartments for their children, including children that parents hope to reunite with.

Huntley Challenges Zinerman For Assembly in District 56

By Jean Brannum | jbrannum@queensledger.com

Contributed Reporting by Celia Bernhardt

Eon Huntley and incumbent Stefani Zinerman are the contenders for Assembly District 56, which covers the Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy neighborhoods. Housing, public schools, and gun violence are the hot-button issues for this election between candidates endorsed by different powerful political action committees. 

Challenger Huntley

Eon Huntley, who grew up in East New York, started his “political” career as a PTA president in the public school system. His wife is a public school teacher as well. Huntley’s love to public education is a major part of his campaign platform. In an Interview with the Queens Ledger, Huntley clarified that he does not support charter schools like his opponent seems to. Huntley said that charter schools get more resources due to private backing, but still receive public funding despite their ability to turn away students. He pointed out that his opponent receives support from charter school advocates. 

“I understand that parents are going to make a choice, but we shouldn’t have a system that’s making them make that choice”, Huntley said. “We should be offering we should be doing, offering more robust funding for public education.”

Huntley also said he hopes to make higher education more affordable. 

Huntley is also a strong supporter of federal and state funding for NYCHA. As a former NYCHA resident, Huntley believes that publicly funded housing would greatly improve the quality of life for NYCHA residents. 

As for gun-related laws, Huntley supports the Not On Our Dime bill, which would prevent nonprofits from supporting Israeli settlement activity. The Assembly bill is sponsored by District 36 Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani. 

Huntley currently works in retail and is an active union member. 

Zinerman’s named accomplishments and support

Zinerman has held the assembly member position for three years. The Democrat is a staunch supporter of providing resources to nonprofits and small businesses in the district. Her biggest accomplishments, her website says, include securing more funding the public schools, supporting the legalization of cannabis, and helping fund gun violence prevention programs.  

Zinerman is also a partner with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the NAACP Nextgen program to help African Americans afford homes. She also supports rental assistance programs and homeless housing assistance programs. 

Another platform for Zinerman is police accountability and mental health aid to prevent police intervention. She helped lead the National Night Out, an annual event to promote police-community partnership. 

Currently, she is sponsoring a bill to remove lifetime bans that keep convicted felons from serving on jury duty. 

In previous primaries, Zinerman won by about 56 percent. 

Brooklyn Downtown Star reached out to Zinerman for an interview and did not receive a response. 

Endorsements and Finance Breakdown

Zinerman has been under criticism due to her endorsement from the Solidairy Political Action Committee, which is a pro-Israel organization. She has also received donations from other organizations such as 1199 SEIU, a hospital workers union, and the Great Public Schools PAC, which was created by Eva Moskowitz who founded the Success Academy Charter School network. 

Huntley criticized Zinerman’s support from Solidarity PAC and real estate industry connections. He claims Zinerman is more connected to businesses that would not have district residents in mind. 

“There’s someone who takes money from the real estate industry, it takes money from charter schools, who siphon students,” Huntley said.  

Zinerman has received over $28,000 from political action committees in 2024, which is about 14% of the over $203,000 in 2024 funds overall. One of her top individual contributors is Rev. Alfred Cockfield II, who supported Mayor Eric Adams and founded a PAC to endorse moderate candidates. 

The Democratic Socialists of America PAC endorsed Huntley and is the only PAC donation to his campaign, according to the Board of Elections. His biggest contribution from an individual was Michael McKee, who donated $3,000 to his campaign and is associated with the Tenants PAC, which advocated for tenants’ rights. Huntley has about $117,000 in campaign funds. 

Election day for the primaries is June 25 but early voting will be open until June 23. The winner will proceed to the general election in November. 

 

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