Jacques Leandre has a lot on his plate. He’s a lawyer, who just opened his own practice in Laurelton, and is very active in several community organizations. Now he’s running to replace City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) for the 31st District seat.
Sanders will be term-limited out next year and has already launched a challenge against state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica). He’s been grooming his chief of staff, Donovan Richards, to be his successor. Richards announced his bid for the seat in November.
This is not Leandre’s first time running for public office. He ran against Sanders in 2009, and lost. In the contested six-candidate race, Leandre came in second with 22 percent of the vote while Sanders garnered 39 percent.
This time around Leandre said his priorities will be improving education, promoting economic development, reducing crime and enriching the lives of seniors.
“Of course I will have to reassess my schedule and my commitments, he said. “However, I have always been a busy person. Since I was a teenager, I have been involved in various civic organizations.”
Leandre is the president of the Rosedale Jets Football Association, a member of the Springfield Gardens Lions Club and the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, and a board member of the Rosedale Civic Association.
“I look at the work I’m doing in the community now as great work, but I also think it’s work that should be expanded,” Leandre said. “For example I would like the Rosedale Jets to serve as a model for other youth organizations.”
The Rosedale Jets is not just a youth football program, it’s a youth development program that addresses, on a daily basis, conflict resolution, low self-esteem and bullying,” Leandre said.
“I’ve seen the results, because some of them have come back and said ‘Mr. Leandre, when you grabbed me by my collar and gave me some harsh words and told me that you loved me and that I was the best, it resonated with me years later,’ and those are the types of things we should be doing.”
Until recently, Leandre was a supervising attorney at a legal defense firm where he managed 25 attorneys and over 40 support staff including paralegals and secretaries, so a bid for elected office is nothing new in terms of work, responsibility and commitment, according to him.
If elected, Leandre said a priority would be to improve education. He said the schools in the district are not as coordinated as they could be and that some leaders need to take a different approach. He also slammed the mayor for being “totally anti-community involvement in the educational process,” calling it “a recipe that is not helpful.
“It’s an anomaly that we have one of the highest socioeconomic per capita earnings in the country, but yet our schools in districts 27 and 29 are among the bottom in New York City,” Leandre said. “You won’t find that anywhere else in the United States.”
Reducing crime is also a concern for Leandre, and he said the best way to address violence is through education, economic development and job opportunities. He is also a strong proponent of community policing, citing the good work of the Rosedale Civilian Observation Patrol, one of only two such groups in the borough, and said it should be expanded to Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway.
In order to raise awareness about violence in the community and stem black-on-black crime, Leandre has participated in numerous workshops with gang prevention specialists, teen leaders, anti-youth violence advocates. If elected he said he would have the capacity to expand that work.
Another important goal is to improve economic development. Leandre employs people from the community at his law office and said he would encourage area merchants to do the same. He said it is important to engage shopkeepers, chambers of commerce and business organizations in order to foster a relationship that is beneficial to all parties.
“There are needs in the community,” Leandre said. “And if there are needs in the community that also means that there are business opportunities in the community, so therefore we have to assess the needs and then create vehicles to spur commerce around those needs.”
Leandre believes seniors are an untapped resource in the community, stating that they offer “a wealth of wisdom and a bountiful spirit of giving,” and they need to be treated with dignity and respect and have opportunities to engage with young people.
“I think it’s much more than providing an air-conditioned space and a free lunch,” Leandre said. “We need to provide services to seniors, but at the same time, we need to let the seniors serve us by storytelling and by creating programs where seniors can express themselves in a way that they are appreciated.”
Seniors feel youthful when interacting with children and teens, Leandre said, while youth gain knowledge and perspective from older adults. He wants to work with senior service providers and examine their practices and delivery and bring the best ones to Southeast Queens.
Leandre, a married father of two, grew up in Rosedale and went to Springfield Gardens High School. Later he attended Morehouse College in Georgia and the CUNY Law School at Queens College.
“I was just fortunate to have very supportive parents, a strong supportive community, and a will to achieve,” Leandre said. “I think many of our young people, if given the proper support can easily achieve more than I’ve achieved.”