The race for a seat at the borough's Democratic State Committee is not one that usually draws a lot of attention. In fact, most voters would be hard-pressed to name their district leaders, or to give an accurate job description for the position.
But as the continuing behind-the-scenes wrangling for shows, district leaders—some elected, others appointed—play an important role in a party that claims a larger share of the electorate in Kings County than almost any other in the U.S.
Which brings us to the race for 57th Female Assembly District Leader, representing Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and part of Bed-Stuy.
Thursday's Democratic primary pits Renee Collymore, who unsuccessfully ran against the current officeholder, , against Faryce "Faye" Moore, an Alabi ally. Also in the mix is Wendy Washington, a New Orleans native who now lives in Brooklyn.
Here is a Q&A with Collymore and Moore (Washington did not immediately respond to a request for an interview). As the result of a coin toss, Collymore is up first:
Patch: Why are you running for 57th Assembly District Leader?
Renee Collymore, candidate: I'm running because we need someone in office who can create initiatives to assist the community in ways that it has not been assisted before. I had created a civics course for children teaching them how to participate in government, what the importance of volunteerism means, teaching them how to lobby and taking them up to Albany to lobby their legislators. ... I was also instrumental in standing up for small businesses owners against the powers-that-be at the Fulton Street BID—we have to save our small businesses. Our former district leader had not stood up for our small businesses. She hasn't stood up for our seniors. So I decided we need a change, to stand up for what's right in our community.
Faryce "Faye" Moore, candidate: Most of experience comes out of the labor movement and I think I have something to offer the community in terms of organizing and activism. There are a lot of changes going on all over the district and a lot of unresolved problems and new problems—and I think I bring a new way to handle things, another way to get people together and find ways for them to be more participatory when it comes to solving problems in the district.
Patch: Do you have any differences in policies from the current female district leader, Olanike Alabi?
Collymore: The difference is that I have created initiatives for our community. Ola [Alabi] sends out emails... and that's basically it. I've been proving myself since before the last race [Collymore's failed bid against Alabi for District Leader in 2010].
Moore: Because I come out of the social service community I tend to focus on those issues more [than Alabi]. I also think that because I come out of the public sector workforce, I'm more attuned to how government impacts people in the community. I just think I have a different outlook—not an opposing one—but a different one.
Patch: What is your position on Atlantic Yards development?
Collymore: The Atlantic Yards development created concerns for our neighborhood in terms of traffic. And I believe that promises were broken in terms of jobs and affordable housing. But as district leaders, we don't have a say in that. But we do have a say in selecting [state] supreme and civil court judges, commissioners and other people for higher office. So I would have make sure that we have a close relationship with our Assembly member and our Council member so I can have influence in the process. And my position would be the position of the people. Whatever they want, I'll push for.
Moore: I've been against the project since its inception. I live about four blocks from Barclays Center. I saw that it was a bad idea when it was a plan, and I think it's a bad idea now. I don't think that the people presenting or approving the project really thought out every possible outcome. We don't really have a model for that in New York City—Yankee Stadium is near residential but there's also a lot of business there, so that's not a good comparison. And neither is Shea Stadium ... So I don't think we're properly prepared for what the impact is going to be. The way [Barclays] is being described right now, I don't know if it's going to be an or a bunch of clubs with an arena attached to it.
Patch: Besides Atlantic Yards, what is the most critical issue in the district?
Collymore: In our district, it's gentrification. People are being forced to move from the area. Everywhere I go, people who have been here for years and years say they can no long afford to stay here. It's a grave issue because so many of the homeowners here can't afford to hold on to their homes because of the taxes. My taxes on my building on Putnam, where I'm the landlord for the , is $15,000. And that was even when our businesses were closed. It's outrageous.
Moore: To honest about it: crime prevention. There seems to be an increase in property crime. We have to address that. I know that people want to believe that crime is down and that a lot of the 57th falls into what most people would call a nice neighborhood. But if we don't address the issue of property crime than the neighborhood will become unsafe because no one is paying attention. I also think the biggest problem is that we have a lot of people in the 57th living in public housing. These folks have . NYCHA used to provide social services and that has shrunk ... These people are taxpayers and there are some treating them like second- or third-class citizens. It's not fair.
Who would you choose to be the next Brooklyn Democratic Leader?
Collymore: It's kind of premature to say so because we have not had a relationship with any of the candidates who would be up for that position. So to make an informed decision, I would need to have a better relationship with [a former South Brooklyn Assemblyman said to be the favorite for the position] and these guys because we have never had a chance to work together.
Moore: There has been discussion about an African-American chair. I'm open to that. There are a lot of African-Americans in our borough. But there's also never been a woman chair. So I'm open to that as well. I'm a feminist.