Crowded field seeks primary nod in Southeast Queens’ 27th District 1

The 11 potential Democratic candidates for the City Council District 27 seat are Marie Adam-Ovide, left, Kerryanne Burke, James Myles Clark, Leroy Gadsden, Rene Hill, James Johnson, Al-Hassan Kanu, Harold Miller, Anthony Rivers, Jermaine Sean Smith and Nantasha Williams.

With Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St.Albans) among more than a score of city officials term-limited out of office this year, 11 candidates have announced their intention to seek the Queens Democratic Party’s nomination to take his place.

The first task, securing enough signatures to get on the ballot for the June 22 primary, began this week, with the winner of the Democratic nomination virtually assured of taking office in January.

The district represents all or portions of Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village and Springfield Gardens. Information has been obtained from campaign websites. Photos where available were provided by the campaigns or are file photos.

Marie Adam-Ovide (D)

Adam-Ovide has been the district manager of Community Board 8 for 13 years. The native of Haiti came to the United States as a teenager. She moved to Queens in 1995 and has a degree in political science from City College of New York.

Adam-Ovide is married with three children. Prior to Community Board 8 she worked for two councilmembers. She has been a foster parent, community organizer and PTA student advocate.

On public safety, Adam-Ovide wants to require city residency for all police officers. She also wants them better trained in de-escalation techniques. As to land use and housing, her platform says the possibility of a Covid-19 eviction crisis requires quick and decisive action.

“I propose we reposition a budget set for expensive temporary housing into low income subsidies or housing vouchers to allow for secure permanent and comfortable living,” she states.

She said education budgeting and funding can be “repositioned” to allow for full security and have classes such as art, music, shop and technology classes, though the website does not offer specifics.

Adam-Ovide says she will pursue small business policies that include lease renewal protection and protection for arbitrary rent increase and evictions. Updated records from the city’s Campaign Finance Board stated on Monday that she had $125,642 in the bank for the most recent reporting period.

Kerryanne Burke (D)

Burke, a Queens Village resident, is an attorney and founder of a nonprofit organization. She has worked in the state Legislature, the Mayor’s Office and a number of housing agencies.

Her education platform calls for expanding funding on science, technology, math and engineering curricula, and additional vocational training, but does not say whether the money would be reallocated within the Department of Education or taken from elsewhere.

Her public safety priorities include increased funding for the reduction of gun violence and gang prevention; and for more recreational programs plus advanced skills training.

With no hospitals within the district Burke’s platform states that “[I]ncreased funding and better access to community hospitals and clinics is necessary for District 27.”

She also states that she will pursue more access to government contracts for minority- and women-owned business enterprises; advocate for better community banking options in Southeast Queens, and pursue a strong environmental safety policy.

Burke reported $16,789 cash on hand.

James Myles Clark (D)

Clark is an assistant attorney general in the New York State Attorney General’s Harlem Regional Office. He prosecutes violators of New York State’s labor, consumer and civil rights laws. He also serves as president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.

His priorities on education include subsidized internet for low-income students using remote learning; returning to free tuition for local students at the City University of New York system; and investing in technical education and training to help students meet the future demand to fill jobs that carry good pay and benefits. He did not specify a funding source.

Economic priorities include passing stronger restrictions on so-called payday loans and other predatory practices.

He also wants to foster the development of community-owned credit unions in Southeast Queens.

On public safety Clark wants a new NYPD police precinct and increased funding for nonviolence programs. He also wants to limit the scope of qualified immunity for police officers in civil suits, and give final authority for police discipline to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, rather than the Commissioner.

Transportation proposals include reducing alternate side of the street parking regulations and transitioning to a fleet of electric city buses to reduce pollution.

He has reported $172,066 in the bank

Leroy Gadsden (D)

Gadsden is a criminal justice professor in the CUNY system, and served as president of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP for 10 years before losing re-election in 2018. He also is a deacon at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

Much of his platform is related to his efforts toward police reform. It also mentions his effort to block the location of an hourly rate hotel in the community, as well as fighting against the placing of a liquor store near a high school.

“My decades of experience working with clergy and community leaders, elected officials and governmental administrators to improve our community lends credibility to my qualifications to serve ...” he says in his published platform.

While he has fought the placement of homeless shelters in Southeast Queens, Gadsden also said there must be a citywide and humane approach to end homelessness.

Gadsden also is calling for increased investment in technical and vocational training for those who would prefer those careers to college. He also wants to expand second language education programs.

He had $1,025 in his most recent financial report.

Rene Hill (D)

A lifelong Jamaica resident, Hill is a public accountant and financial advisor by trade. She is married and the mother of four.

Hill served as chairwoman of Community Board 12 from 2017 until this year; and is a past president of the Addisleigh Park Civic Association.

Hill, on her campaign website, cites a long history of community service, including fighting to prevent a federal lease and land grab at the site of the St. Albans VA home and medical center; the fight to bring new sewer infrastructure and flooding relief to Southeast Queens; and improvements to the Long Island Rail Road’s St. Albans station.

Hill states that quality-of-life issues include bringing more city resources into the district, especially for infrastructure. She said it also includes continuing to improve relations between the community and the NYPD.

Formerly a member of the Queens New York Presbyterian Hospital Community Advisory Board, Hill wants to bring a hospital to the 27th District, though she did not specify who would build and run it.

She also promises to support Council efforts to assist those facing foreclosure through such things as loan modifications.

Hill has a reported $78,994 cash on hand.

James Johnson (D)

Johnson is a Cambria Heights native and has served as community liaison for Miller as well as Southeast Queens liaison for the City Comptroller’s Office. He also has worked as a youth service provider and a football coach at Campus Magnet High School. He also has been active in engaging millennial residents to participate in civic discourse and activity.

With education, Johnson says on his website that the Covid-19 pandemic exposed serious disparities in funding and technology among have and have-not school districts in terms of city, state and federal funding.

Johnson said recent years have seen black home ownership falling to historic lows.

“I know that an increase in foreclosures is not just a market indicator, it is family displacement.”

He also wants to increase the ration of affordable housing units in all new developments, particularly those that will allow young residents to remain in the community to begin and raise their families.

A key to this, he adds, is the long-talked-about but not-acted-upon property tax reform agenda.

Johnson supports a commercial property vacancy tax. On police reform, Johnson wants the city to expand the powers of the CCRB and to have a more transparent police disciplinary process

Johnson has reported $212,564 in his campaign war chest.

Al-Hassan Kanu (D)

Kanu is a native of Sierra Leone, where his father served as vice president. His family came to the United States in the late 1990s to escape a civil war.

He began in government as an intern in the City Council office of Leroy Comrie and worked his way up to director of community Affairs. When Comrie’s term ended he became district director for Miller.

Kanu’s housing initiatives include development on the major corridors in Jamaica that provide affordable housing while keeping the character of neighborhoods intact.

He said the district’s disparities in health-care were exposed by the pandemic. He, too, is calling for a new hospital, saying it will require city, state and federal assistance.

Two planks of his education platform include ensuring all students have access to technology in school and at home; and installing surveillance cameras in classrooms and hallways to combat violence in schools.

Kanu said he will strive to better train police to work in the communities they serve; and “work with the NYPD to try and dismiss the fears that many young men and women have of police encounters.”

He also supports a city takeover of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and placing it under the control of the mayor. He did not specify how.

Kanu has reported $21,072 in his most recent campaign finance report.

Harold Miller (D)

Harold Miller is a St. Albans resident and a deputy commissioner of public affairs in the de Blasio administration.

In the latter role, according to his campaign website, he built coalitions and secured resources to reduce gun violence; and created programs that helped houses of worship build affordable housing in their communities.

Miller’s education initiatives include adding middle school classrooms in the district and expanding apprenticeship programs for students. He said the latter could be greatly expanded through the city’s land use approvals, and would give students exposure to the construction, engineering, finance and architecture trades.

He wants to “remove” the NYPD from mental health calls, and utilize community organizations and leaders to respond to non-emergency calls and to work to settle conflicts before shootings occur.

He also wants to enact a permanent $5 LIRR fare for all Southeast Queens stations, and a two-year post-pandemic moratorium on foreclosures and tax liens.

He has $19,340 in the bank in his latest filing.

Anthony Rivers (D)

Rivers, a St. Albans resident, is seeking office for the second time. He is the founder of the community group People for the Neighborhood.

He first came to prominence back in 2015 as residents fought in vain to keep the city from granting a contract for a homeless men’s shelter in what had been a long-vacant apartment complex running from 202-04 to 202-24 Hollis Ave.

He was particularly critical of Miller, whom he now seeks to replace.

“We continuously struggle for the betterment of South East Queens, whether to reduce supportive housing, or campaigning for better air quality for our residents,” he said in a letter to community residents announcing his campaign on Feb. 26 last month. “I have been encouraged to run for City Council for a second time to Bring Accountability Back to South East Queens.”

His campaign has not yet filed a financial report.

Jermaine Sean Smith (D)

Smith, Jamaica native, is married with a daughter. He works in the city’s foster care system and, according to his website, has secured millions in funding for programs to benefit foster children, “funding that provides housing, access to college, job skills training and access to healthcare.”

Smith said the city’s current troubles of educational inequality, food scarcity and safe and affordable housing are the very issues he has confronted in his career.

Smith wants social workers assigned to every police precinct, working with beat officers. He also wants officers to have more training in de-escalation.

On healthcare he said the city needs to expand primary care and community-based preventive medical services.

Smith also wants to greatly increase and strengthen city partnerships with community nonprofit organizations for a variety of community and resident services.

He reported $7,063 on hand in his latest financial statement.

Nantasha Williams (D)

Williams, on her website, describes herself as a community leader, social justice advocate and political organizer.

In 2014 she was appointed executive director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

She also is a member of Community Board 13, where she serves as chairwoman of the Special Initiatives Committee.

Williams believes a more diversified economy in Downtown Jamaica will speed revitalization, specifically restaurants, bars and museums that hire locally and keep patrons’ dollars in the community.

Under public safety and criminal justice, Williams favors increasing funding for the Crisis Management System, which intervenes and assists with the needs of youths and the community. She said the system is responsible for a 40 percent drop in shootings in the 17 most violent NYPD precincts. Williams also wants the NYPD to be required to notify parents when their children are in its gang database.

Her educational initiatives include more vocational training and college-level classes in high schools. She also wants to increase the number of guidance counselors and social workers at all schools.

She wants to create more programs in middle and high schools geared toward entrepreneurship, athletics, academic enrichment, arts and other programs.

Williams’ campaign had $193,255 in the bank in its latest financial statement.

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