Selvena Brooks, a resident of Far Rockaway, has chosen to run for the 31st District City Council seat to replace James Sanders Jr. because of a calling to public service that has been a part of her life since she was a teenager.
“The community needs a strong new voice,” Brooks said in an interview with the Chronicle on Friday. “I hope to be that voice. We definitely could use more female representation in public office. I want to work with everyone to move our community forward.”
Sanders officially won a bid for state Senate in November, after beating incumbent Shirley Huntley in September’s primary. In a March special election to replace him, Brooks — so far — faces opponents Jacques Leandre, a lawyer and founder of the Rosedale Jets Football Association; Earnest Flowers, who runs a communications and marketing firm; Mike Duncan, a community activist; and Donovan Richards, Sanders’ chief of staff.
Brooks said she wants to help the community meet its needs because as a resident she shares those same needs. Among her top priorities are job creation and economic development, education, senior services, access to quality healthcare, curbing crime and providing better education and vocational training to youth.
Brooks already has experience in several of those areas.
She has worked as both an external affairs senior associate and patient advocate at Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway, ensuring patient safety and satisfaction.
Most recently, Brooks joined SEIU International as a communications director building strategic partnerships and bringing public attention to a number of issues including raising the minimum wage, fair tax laws, job creation and women’s rights.
A great passion for Brooks is helping to promote economic growth and job creation for underserved communities, which she did as a delegate to the 2009 Trade Mission to China.
Having watched the district, particularly the Rockaways, suffer through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and struggle to recover, better storm preparation is also on Brooks’ agenda. And she said it is important that the district get its fair share of federal financial assistance.
“For a lot of homeowners in the Rockaways, the electricity just came back on,” Brooks said. “There is plenty of devastation there. We need to fight to make sure the necessary steps are taken so that the community can better handle climate change both in policy and resources.”
Brooks is no stranger to community service. She worked as a volunteer for then-Public Advocate Mark Green for four years. By age 20 she was an intern with state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) holding several positions over time — director of constituent affairs, deputy district director, press secretary and deputy chief of staff.
“I have significant, relevant experience,” Brooks said. “I respect everyone that’s running in this race. I will make my plea to the voters and they will ultimately decide.”
Brooks is a member of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP and also served as an advisor to the organization. She was chairwoman of a number of committees within the Queens chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, helping raise $144,000 for scholarships and community programs. Brooks works as a mentor and coach with New York Needs You and has recently accepted an appointment as a board member to a newly formed disease awareness organization — the Lupus Connection.
Brooks grew up in St. Albans, but is now a homeowner and resident of Far Rockaway. She is a member of the Greater Allen Cathedral, where she serves as part of the liturgical dance ministry. She attended Wilberforce University in Ohio, where she majored in sociology, before obtaining a master’s degree in international law from New York University.