For Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Fort Greene, 2012 looks to be a busy year.
Weeks after making for the 10th Congressional seat held by longtime Rep. Edolphus "Ed" Towns, Jeffries outlined an ambitious agenda for the remainder of his third term in Albany in a passionate State of the District address at 's Higgins Hall on Thursday night.
"I've had the chance to represent one of the most diverse communities anywhere in the State in New York," he said in front of a packed house filled with constituents, community leaders and elected officials. "We're diverse racially, diverse economically, we're diverse culturally and artistically. And that diversity is perhaps our greatest strength."
Though Jeffries pointed to positive developments in the district, which includes Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, he said "all is not as it seems."
Highlighting his record on affordable housing, he called to attention the plight of low-income residents in increasingly affluent parts of the neighborhood.
"Some of the people who have been responsible for the turnaround are at risk of being put out," Jeffries said. "Many have already been cast aside. Working families, middle class folks, senior citizens, young people, artists... have become victims of their own success."
To combat the problem of housing, Jeffries proposed funneling $300 million in proceeds from a state mortgage recording tax into a fund for the development of affordable units.
He also unveiled a "One Child, One Laptop" initiative aimed at breaching the so-called "digital divide," in which low-income mostly black and Latino students are at a disadvantage in an increasingly digitized global economy.
While looking forward, Jeffries also ticked off a list of legislative successes in his speech, including a winning effort last summer to secure for Brooklyn tenants.
But it was regarding still-pending legislation regarding the change in classification for possession of small amounts of marijuana that Jeffries hit perhaps his most passionate note of the evening.
According to Jeffries, police continue to bust Central Brooklyn black and Latino youth on charges of marijuana possession at rates not seen in other parts of the city, such as the Upper West Side of Manhattan or nearby Williamsburg.
"Marijuana can't be criminal behavior for one group of people, and be socially acceptable for another," he said.
Together with upstate Republican state Sen. Mark Grisanti, he called for such arrests to be treated as violations—a legal status akin to a speeding ticket.
In attendance at Thursday's address, Juanita Edwards, lead community organizer for , said she was "proud" of Jeffries' stance on issues such as affordable housing.
"He's a native New Yorker who actually cares about his community and their needs," Edwards said before considering the prospect of Jeffries' leaving the district for Towns' seat in Washington, D.C. "He's not a person that's going to forget about us."