Just days after Rafael Espinal said “more details to follow” regarding his future, he dropped the news that he is resigning from the City Council.
Espinal, whose last term was set to end in 2021, will instead lead the 500,000-member Freelancers Union, which is based in Brooklyn. He begins his new job on March 2.
District 37, which spans Cypress Hills, Bushwick, East New York and parts of Ocean Hill and Brownsville, will now have a special election within 80 days. The winner of that race will serve in the City Council for the remainder of the term.
In the meantime, the City Council speaker’s office will help handle constituent duties as the race to replace Espinal begins.
Espinal dropped out of the Brooklyn borough president’s race abruptly this month, and now we know why.
The ex-lawmaker got a lot done in his six years in office, including passing legislation to repeal the city’s Cabaret Law, establish the city’s new Office of Nightlife, and support green roofs and urban farming.
He was a co-sponsor of the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act,” which extends protections against harassment and discrimination to independent workers. That bill was passed in 2019.
Espinal made news last week by saying term-limited council members are “lame ducks.” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson agreed, but noted that being a lame duck doesn’t mean being unproductive.
More than three dozen seats in the City Council will be up for grabs in 2021, making it an interesting election year. The mayor and comptroller positions will also see turnover.
Speaking of the mayor, de Blasio praised Espinal on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” on Monday night by calling him a “great legislator,” citing his work on the Cabaret Law and Nightlife Office. He said working for the Freelancers Union will mean having a national impact.
“I don’t think that’s a bad outcome,” the mayor said. “I think that means he’s applying his skills in a really good way, but in another venue.”
Could Espinal return to public service? It’s possible. He didn’t leave the door closed for future opportunities, according to reports.
North Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal has ended his campaign for Brooklyn borough president.
Espinal, who represents Cypress Hills, East New York and parts of Bushwick, announced his decision last week.
“Being elected to lead and serve our city’s greatest borough has always been a dream of mine,” he said in a statement.
The councilman touted his work to secure “historic” investments for his district, the Holocaust Survivors initiative, and pass legislation for green roofs and the Office of Nightlife.
“As a born and raised Brooklyn boy, I believe there is no greater honor than to serve as the Brooklyn Borough President,” Espinal continued, “but after months of consideration I have decided not to continue my campaign.”
He added that given his record and ability to work with Brooklynites, he believed he could have put together a “strong and winning campaign. But “right now is just not the time for me,” he said.
Espinal, who is term-limited in the City Council by 2021, previously ran for public advocate on his own “Livable City” party line. He placed seventh, collecting 12,929 votes, just north of 3 percent.
What’s next for Espinal? That remains to be seen. In his statement, he said he would have “more details to follow” in the days to come.
Notably, he raised $11,749 for his campaign, far behind other candidates. He could transfer those funds for a future run for higher office.
Espinal’s exit from the Brooklyn BP race could consolidate support for Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who, like Espinal, is a young, Latino and progressive lawmaker from north Brooklyn.
Bed-Stuy Councilman Robert Cornegy is also in the running. He has more than $150,000 in his campaign coffers, far outpacing Reynoso, who raised $84,000, according to the NYC Campaign Finance Board.
Of course, there have been rumors that First Lady Chirlane McCray may jump into the race. She and Mayor de Blasio are reportedly close to the Brooklyn Democratic Party, now run by Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, as well as current Brooklyn BP Eric Adams.
We will keep a close eye on the race as we head toward 2021.
Brooklyn Legal Services, which provides free civil legal services to low-income Brooklyn residents, has named Tanya E.M. Wong has its new project director.
Wong began her career at Legal Services NYC over 20 years ago, when she joined Harlem Legal Services, and later the Brooklyn branch of LSNYC, before becoming its director of government benefits.
She is an expert in the areas of government benefits, specializing in welfare rights and other anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs.
Wong was the lead attorney in Huerta v. Zucker, which established due process rights and procedures for women and children who receive nutrition and healthcare supplements through WIC.
She served as acting project director in Staten Island from October 2018 to December 2019. Wong is a graduate of Harvard University and Northeastern University School of Law.
“Brooklyn Legal Services has a long history of legal excellence and fighting for social justice and I am looking forward to building on that legacy in partnership with the communities we serve and our very talented and experienced staff,” she said.
“Not only will we continue to provide access to justice to those who cannot afford it, but we will leverage our resources to address structural inequities and biases impacting our clients.”
Amid a surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes and New York City, as well as the fatal stabbing of five people at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, the city is stepping up its efforts to combat hate.
On Sunday, Mayor de Blasio announced that the Brooklyn communities of Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park will launch new Neighborhood Safety Coalitions, overseen by the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes.
The coalitions are tasked with identifying and addressing issues that drive hate-based crimes. They will bring together community members, whose presence in schools, street corners and religious institutions will hopefully deter hateful actions.
Williamsburg is also one of the five Brooklyn neighborhoods that will receive increased NYPD resources and patrols.
There will be more NYPD presence at houses of worship and during local events. These neighborhoods will be getting new light towers and security cameras.
Finally, the Department of Education will implement new hate crime awareness programming next month for middle and high schools in Williamsburg.
New curriculum on hate crimes will also be launched in neighborhood schools beginning with the next school year.
“Fearing the next act of terror will not become the new normal for our Jewish neighbors,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “In New York City, diversity is our strength and we respect the traditions of all who call New York City home. Intolerance will never take hold here.”
Since 1899, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been changing lives and building communities while serving our neighbors in need with mercy and compassion.
We currently sponsor more than 160 programs and services for children and youth, adults and seniors, persons with developmental disabilities, those who are mentally ill, and the isolated. In addition, we are one of the largest faith-based providers of affordable housing in the country.
Countless members of our community in Brooklyn and Queens have turned to Catholic Charities for assistance. We address issues of poverty and promote justice in the communities we serve, thereby empowering families and individuals to achieve greater self-sufficiency.
Please give generously to Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens in the special holiday collection at your parish on Christmas Day. Help the hungry, vulnerable and those in need. Donate online at ccbq.org or send a check to Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens, 191 Joralemon St, 12th Fl, Brooklyn, 11201.