Over the last two months, The Haitian Times held a series of candidate forums to learn about the people hoping to represent the neighborhoods with the most Haitian-Americans. We would like to thank every candidate who participated in the forums and wish them all the best in serving our communities, whether as elected officials or concerned private citizens.
Ahead of early voting starting Saturday, June 12, and primary day taking place Tuesday, June 22, we will release one endorsement representing how The Haitian Times editorial staff would fill the ranked-choice ballot for each district.
Our endorsement in each race is based on those conversations and the candidates’ platforms.
District 40 endorsement
First choice: Rita Joseph
Second choice: Josue Pierre
Third choice: Kenya Handy-Hilliard
Fourth choice: Edwin Raymond
Fifth choice: None
With term-limited Mathieu Eugene set to vacate the 40th Council District seat next year, 11 candidates are running to replace the position he has occupied since 2007. Picking the first two choices, to be candid, was tough.
District 40 encompasses the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. It is home to one of the highest concentrations of Haitians in the city with more than 13,000, although Census figures are likely an undercount.
It is among the neediest for services, from affordable housing to COVID-19 relief for mom-and-pops and individual residents. At the height of the pandemic, its zip codes routinely made the list of the highest rates of infections and deaths. All the while, a showdown has emerged between the state and essential healthcare workers, many of them Haitian and residents of the district, over impending hospital job losses — with no word from the current council member even though the facilities are mere blocks away from the elected official’s office.
In short, District 40 needs a tremendous amount of support at the block-by-block level and legislatively. It is overdue to receive resources and a modicum of representation from its City Council official. It’s gone too long without it in the 14 years Eugene has been warming the seat.
We believe Rita Joseph is the most motivated to provide the type of support the district needs at this point in time. During our mid-April debate featuring four candidates — Joseph, Kenya Handy-Hilliard, Josue Pierre and Edwin Raymond— Joseph stood out in terms of her dedication to the neediest people in the district.
Joseph has been an active member of her community for decades and more recently has helped residents to apply for housing at different apartment complexes, like the Bishop Philius and Helene Nicolas Senior Apartments. She outlined ways to improve outreach and communication among district residents, including monthly meetings both in-person and over video conference. Joseph also has served on the citywide Participatory Budgeting Committee. Participatory budgeting could help offset the lack of discretionary funding organizations inside District 40 have gone without during Eugene’s tenure.
Joseph’s longer track record of on-the-ground support for the community narrowly edged out Josue Pierre for first choice given his political resume. After all, Pierre has the political credentials that speak to his ambition, given his budgetary experience in the City Comptroller’s office and him being an elected Democratic Party district leader. His backing by the Brooklyn Democratic machine, including State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, and knowledge of city government could very well make him an effective choice.
In addition, Pierre’s emphasis on affordable housing within the community would be beneficial for district residents. He should also maintain his Creole radio appearances to educate the community, win or lose. Nonetheless, we believe that the community needs the most at this moment is a candidate who will prioritize community engagement and communication.
For third- and fourth-choice, we select Kenya Handy-Hilliard and Edwin Raymond. Handy-Hilliard has legislative experience working for Congressmember Yvette Clarke that could serve her well as a council member. She’s also attuned to Haitian-American needs and our concerns about issues with cross-national implications such as TPS.
Raymond is our fourth choice. We like his stance on police reform and ambition to push New York City toward a model of policing that should be safer for Black and brown people. This matter is critical for our communities, a matter of life and death for us and now is the moment to push for social justice in all realms. We hope the lieutenant will continue his activism and expand his platform and policy knowledge around additional issues.