55th Assembly District hopefuls start campaigning in a downtrodden district
Throw out all the usual rules for campaigns when you talk about this fall’s race in Brooklyn’s 55th Assembly District.
There are four challengers to the seat, now home to incumbent William Boyland Jr., facing his second federal indictment rap inside of a year. The assemblyman’s trial on honest-services fraud charges is scheduled to begin in May, and if he is convicted, the race is anyone’s to take. If he pleads guilty in the near future, the Brooklyn County Democratic Committee could select a candidate to fill his seat in a special election.
Yet if Boyland is acquitted, he may very well be reelected—despite the fact he missed more than two-thirds of session days last year and sponsored no legislation, in a district where 46 percent of the residents live in poverty, more than half the residents are on Medicaid or uninsured, and the foreclosure rate is three times higher than the average for the rest of Brooklyn.
The district is so starved for what other New Yorkers take for granted that voters will turn out for promises of the most basic services, said one Brooklyn political operative.
“You tell them you’ll bring a supermarket, they’ll vote for you,” the operative said. “They need something to look forward to out there. They’re hurting.”
The four challengers who’ve opened campaign committees so far are schoolteacher Dion Turner, Anthony Basheer Jones, Nathan Bradley and a former nightlife promoter and community activist named Tony Herbert. Neither Bradley nor Turner could be reached for comment.
Bradley is employed as Sen. John Sampson’s deputy chief of staff, and is also the chairman of Community Board 5. Anthony Basheer Jones, who was once allies with slain former City Councilman James E. Davis, laid out the race for the 55th in terms of a divide between old and young.
“One of our biggest dilemmas in the 55th Assembly District, is to humbly request that the puppets move on and find a new home to undermine,” Jones wrote on Facebook. “We cant [sic] have this plantation mentally [sic] of the old against the young. Our seniors who have been on some of the council for decades fight against change. You mind [sic] as well get use to younger fold [sic] participating in the process because we aint [sic] going no where.”
Herbert, a former radio-show host and staffer for former Councilwoman Priscilla Wooten, is the candidate who seems to have the most advanced campaign so far. He’s been in politics for more than a decade, and served as a volunteer for Congressman Ed Towns before attempting a run against Davis, who was murdered by a rival at City Hall in 2003.
Herbert, who is running on a platform to create jobs for Brownsville and help quell gang violence, said the Boyland family’s grip on the district had not benefited the community.
“The consensus around the community is that it’s about the Boyland business and not the community’s business,” Herbert said. “If you wanted to get something done, you had to ante up for their family. That dynamic has to change.”
He said that the Legislature had changed enough in recent years to make him hopeful he could sponsor bills that would help the district.
“There are people who are forward thinkers who are in office right now. Those are the progressives I can go in there and work with: Hakeem Jeffries, Karim Camara, Eric Adams,” he said.
Brooklyn politicos said the key endorsements in the community will come from local faith leaders like Johnny Ray Youngblood, the pastor at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Christian Cultural Center’s Rev. A.R. Bernard, and Bethel Baptist’s Rev. H. DeVore Chapman.
Any one of the candidates might be a good assemblyman, but politicians acknowledge that doing good in impoverished neighborhoods like Brownsville and East New York is a heavy lift. “What that district needs is not another politician but a leader that is going to mobilize and organize around crime, foreclosures, jobs,” said City Councilman and congressional candidate Charles Barron.
The district’s crime rates, though down from their peaks in the 1980s, are still the highest of any district in New York, according to CompStat figures, and the prison admission rate is three times higher than the average for Brooklyn.
“That community is going to need a leader that can get their fair share from city, state and federal government,” Barron said. “Ninety percent of the people of Brownsville are good people, and they deserve a good leader. Brownsville is sorely in need of that kind of leadership.”
Read more of our coverage about Assemblyman William Boyland Jr.:
FBI Taped Boyland In Brooklyn While He Claimed Albany Expenses
Boyland’s Magic Trick
Tags: 55th Assembly District, 83rd precinct, A.R. Bernard, acorn, Anthony Jones, bertha-lewis, Bill Lynch Associates, brooklyn, brownsville, Charles Barron, Compstat, Dion Turner, East New York, Ed Towns, eric adams, Hakeem Jeffries, James Davis, Johnny Ray Youngblood, Karim Camara, Kings County Democratic Committee, Laura Nahmias, Letitia James, Nathan Bradley, Scott Levenson, Sen. John Sampson, The Advance Group, Tony Herbert, william boyland
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