Vows to engage developers to ensure that impoverished side of Fort Greene/Clinton Hill district is also lifted up
By Stephen Witt
Political newcomer Laurie Cumbo bested four other candidates and was a relatively easy winner in the 35th District City Council Democratic Primary election.
The district includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.
Cumbo received 6,836 votes or 35 percent of the electorate compared to 5,011 vote or 26 percent for her next closest challenger Ede Fox. Olanike Alabi received 25 percent of the vote followed by Jelani Mashariki with 6.5 percent of the vote and Frank Hurley with 6.2 percent of the vote.
“The first thing I want to do is express gratitude and thank all of the people that have contributed to this campaign on so many different levels,” said Cumbo the founder and former president of the Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Art (MOCADA), which is in the BAM Cultural District.
Cumbo said she would be interested in serving on the Education, Arts and Culture, and Finance Committees and said her priorities would be tackling the increase in crime in the community.
“I want to put in work on those circumstances that are creating those core conditions. It has everything to do with job creation and I want to create programming that will enable our young people to feel that their lives can move forward,” said Cumbo.
Cumbo noted that while James was an excellent city councilwoman and fighter for the community, the district has changed and she plans on putting a different style into leadership for the community.
“The district is very different district from when (current City Councilwoman) Tish James came here and it will require a different kind of leadership style. The fight to preserve our community has been the right one, but at the same time that the arena came, thousands in the community of color were displaced and dozens of African-American businesses were closed while large scale developers continued to build luxury condominiums even during that (Atlantic Yards) fight,” said Cumbo.
Cumbo said it would be considered non-proactive to be a councilmember and have no relationship with developers coming into the community and there needs to be a change in the mechanisms in how to engage developers.
“The same way we have to change the mechanism of what we do with the shooting of a young person in our community. Someone gets shot and killed we do a candlelight vigil and scream this is the last one until next week,” she said.
Cumbo said she agrees with Rev. Mark Taylor from the Church of the Open Door, who commented when two young men were shot and killed this summer in Fort Greene Park that these crimes often happen when you develop one side of the district and not the other side.
“When you create an environment where people see luxury and development and don’t see they are part of it they begin to lean on and attack one another,” said Cumbo. “And so it’s very important to create a dynamic so development happens organically and throughout the entire district.”