ROBERT ELSTEIN FOR BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT
END MAYORAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS
DISBAND THE PANEL FOR EDUCATIONAL POLICY
EMPOWER COMMUNITIES TO BUILD LOCAL SCHOOL PANELS
BAN DIRTY REAL ESTATE
BAN CARBON NEGATIVE CONSTRUCTION
DEVELOP NEIGHBORHOOD BEAUTIFICATION NETWORK
CREATE NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING LAWS
REFORM UNIVERSAL LAND USE REVIEW PROCESS
RESTORE MENTAL HEALTH
CREATE CAMPAIGN FOR HUMANITY
DEVELOP ROBUST NYC CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN
WORK TOWARD A CRUELTY FREE NYC
ACTIVATE KINDNESS INITIATIVE
#5-- INTELLECTUAL & ARTS CAPITOL
STRENGTHEN BROOKLYN’S STATUS AS THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO CREATE ART
LET THE ARTS HEAL US
CREATE BOROUGH HALL MENTORSHIP CENTER
CREATE BOROUGH HALL IMMIGRANT EMPOWERMENT NETWORK
STRENGTHEN LIBRARIES, SCHOOLS & BROOKLYN’S YOUTH THROUGH ARTISTIC & INTELLECTUAL EXPRESSION
We are living in that time where the future is the least predictable it has ever been. We don’t know when life will settle into normalcy, we’ve experienced pain, loss, fear, shame, outrage and isolation and we don’t know when relief will be here.
I’m Robert Elstein 42-years-old. 16-year Public High School teacher. Public School dad of two. Fifth-generation Brooklynite. Artist. Poet. Director. Playwright. Community Organizer. I’m here to change things by bringing the people together, by creating Community Boards that reflect the community, by advocating for a Green New Deal for NYC, by developing the Reimagined Schools and Safety Commission and the Brooklyn Neighborhood Business Council,, by bringing art to every block and helping to make Brooklyn the greatest community in the world to live and work.
We need to cancel homeless shelters and provide adequate housing for all New Yorkers through HPD takeovers of buildings, citywide purchasing of units for the more than 68,000 vacant units currently in New York City. We can solve the housing crisis and the rent crisis and the mortgage crisis all at once by renegotiating with the banks on behalf of the landlords. We need to expand food pantries and food deliveries to those facing food insecurity. We need to develop carbon free transportation initiatives.
I am privileged to be a fifth-generation Brooklynite who has attended and taught in some of our most diverse and wonderful schools. I am an outgoing, empathetic theater person who understands the melting pot of New York and in our diversity I see strength. I remember vividly my first day of Kindergarten, making new best friends Adrian and Michael, my first Puerto Rican and Black friends. I remember all of my days as a student at Edward R. Murrow High School, and I relive them as I have now committed myself to a career as a theater and English teacher there, the most diverse high school in America.
America has always been a place of change and uncertainty and will continue to be so.
In a time of great mystery, right here at home, one thing is unequivocal: that there is a sea change upon us.
In our City Council 31 of 51 seats guaranteed inhabitants are new representatives. Of the only 20 incumbents running for reelection, likely at least a few of them will fall victim to the people’s recognition of the vast need for systematic change. In short, approximately two-thirds of our City Council will be Freshman legislators. Additionally our mayor and comptroller and four of five Borough Presidents are also term limited and will say farewell.
What isn’t guaranteed is that the incumbents’ replacements will be any better than they are! That’s because the establishment has a whole army of juniors, minions, and “mini-mes” ready to step in for these incumbents and hold down the fort for real estate, for private equity, for Wall Street, not us!
Our elected officials failed us on 9/11, failed us in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, failed to protect us adequately through the pandemic. Failed to address economic and systematic and environmental injustice. The time for bold change is now!
I know that we can solve these problems working together. I am the founder of Beautify Brooklyn, an organization that unites Brooklynites of all generations and backgrounds in the common interest of cleaning up our streets and strengthening the bonds between neighbors in the process. Our events occur all over Brooklyn and we encourage our volunteers to explore new neighborhoods, interact with new people and hopefully make new friends. Lots of kids get involved, too!
We are doing this because our politicians have somehow failed to realize that the trash is piling up in the gutters, on the corners, in discarded shopping carts, in front of vacant storefronts and construction sites and overflowing from uncovered city trash cans. But my volunteers and I have it under control. On March 20 we cleaned up all of Brooklyn & since then we have had similar events on Cortelyou Road, Clarendon Road, Underhill Avenue & Coney Island!
There are so many other ways our politicians have failed us. As a teacher, I have seen it firsthand. In 19 years of mayoral control of schools our students have only fallen farther behind their counterparts in other districts. In fact, our student’s progression was second worst of all major cities (except Cleveland) in that time despite a new generation of data obsessed Principals and administrators who have had no problem tearing apart wonderful school communities and programs in the interest in slight gains in test scores.
Furthermore, Mayoral control has set up a system ripe for corruption with many prior checks and balances being squandered in the name of wresting control away from the community resulting in multiple multi-million dollar kick back schemes.
In Brooklyn we have many schools that are severely overcrowded, (classrooms in closets) and have been for a long time and many others with no overcrowding problem whatsoever. This is due to the gerrymandering of school districts long ago and the fact that addresses are linked to a single “zone” school. So much of our educational problems are due to housing segregation in our neighborhoods. Our school district lines must be redrawn with the explicit goal of desegregation of our schools and diminishing overcrowding as much as possible.
Additionally, we must disband the ineffective Panels for Educational Policy and empower communities to build Local Educational Panels. We must learn from past efforts to empower communities in school based decisions and involve parents, school staff members, students and other community members in making decisions about school leadership and curriculum development.
We must increase social services in our schools and hire a tremendous number of school psychologists and social workers to work with our children when schools fully reopen. We must assure that all students have access to low-cost after-school enrichment programs. We must reintroduce robust and rigorous computer programming and vocational training programs, preparing our children for the needs of the 21st Century workforce.
We need to find ways to increase collaboration amongst teachers in different subject areas and different schools and build a more interdisciplinary educational model. We must use public funds to create subsidies to bring more arts programs into schools and more teaching artists into subject classrooms so that music, theater, dance and visual arts may be incorporated into the Social Studies, Math, Science and Health classrooms.
We must utilize all of the outdoor physical space around schools and all city buildings to help assuage climate change and create a network of school garden committees to support one another in their efforts to educate students through environmental advocacy. We must assure that the New York State humane education mandate is fulfilled educating children about the importance of compassion for animals.
We need to develop a curriculum to teach students about life: how to balance a family budget, how to apply for a job, how to file our tax returns & where our tax money goes to, how to live a life that does not exacerbate the impact of climate climate, how to choose a career & educational path that is right for them.
We must advocate for New York State to restore billions owed in funding to our schools and we need to assure that it is put to use to directly impact a decrease in class size and the building of new schools with curriculum that reflect the needs and desires of the community, not the mayor.
There is so much more to discuss besides schools and I am seeking your collaboration to find solutions to all of our problems. We need a balm for generations of injustice layered upon us. Our affordable housing laws have not been revised in more than five decades. We need to empower tenants and landlords to renegotiate rents and mortgages to assure that families can stay in their homes and landlords don’t fall victim to vulture capitalists. We need to initiate a Universal Basic Income or UBI of $500 a month for children available to access at age 18 to help pay for their education or costs of living.
In regard to our community security, we need to diversify the NYPD, divert funding from militarization and toward community affairs. We need to stop rewarding officers for arresting people, investigate and prosecute hate crimes, animal cruelty and stop guns from materializing on our streets! We need to stop the iron pipeline of guns trafficked illegally into our state. We need to end the shameful practice known as "The Blue Wall of Silence". We must demand that officers with ties to White Supremacy or domestic terrorism groups be investigated. We need to focus the spotlight of law enforcement toward prosecuting white-collar, environmental and corporate criminals.
I am calling for the creation of a new citywide commission, the RSSC, or Reimagined Schools and Safety Commission, to find ways for educators, members of the community, and, yes, law enforcement officers, to work together on our common goals. I believe we need to work toward a city in which not all officers wear intimidating uniforms, not all officers carry weapons and instead play a role more like community teachers and supporters, leading outdoor workshops in athletics and arts in parks and playgrounds and on special street closures and block parties. Likewise, our schools need to address many of the underlying causes of violent crime through an increase of arts funding and services for mental health and emotional wellness.
As we resist the evils of gentrification we must support and empower young entrepreneurs and create a network of family and neighborhood businesses. We need to create laws to diminish food deserts so that developers can’t simply annihilate a neighborhood’s only source of food retail. We must support Community Supported Agriculture and farm shares as a means of alleviating the appearance of food deserts.
We need to rename the streets to reflect our values, not honor slavetraders of the past.
We need to strengthen our unions and require large employers like Amazon to hire union labor.
We need to develop the sanitation infrastructure to meet our trash needs.
We must install murals of Brooklyn’s pioneers such as Chisholm, Robinson, Bader Ginsburg, Guthrie, Whitman and many others so that our full diversity is celebrated and on display.
We must develop a neighborhood wellness and mindfulness network.
We must build a Cruelty Free City and we need to support animal shelters and animal adoption, we must immediately ban fur because animal cruelty leads to human cruelty. We need to promote veganism because meat consumption is one of the primary forces contributing to climate change. We need to set strict cruelty standards for slaughterhouses and we need to ban cockfighting and dogfighting and we need to cancel live animal markets.
We must develop a campaign for humanity to bring immigrants together, to serve the needs of Black and brown and LGBTQ youth, to serve the disenfranchised, the seek out and serve the invisible, the silent, the forgotten.
In light of the federal tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations we must initiate repeal the New York State tax cuts on yachts and private jets, initiate a New York State inheritance tax, work to repeal federal tax cuts for the wealthy, initiate a tax of .75% for all transactions on Wall Street and initiate heavy taxation on the top 5-percent of earners.
The Covid-19 pandemic has laid out the truth, plain and simple— our government systems have failed us. They have failed every person but they have failed Black and brown and immigrant communities disproportionately whilst each and every segment of our population needlessly suffers: the elderly, the students, the native born, the poor, the middle class, even the wealthy, the insured, the uninsured, the disenfranchised and the enfranchised, all let down.
Covid-19 has exposed the divisions and widened the gap between the struggling and the settled.
In the wealthiest nation in the world, an adherence to a rotten system has resulted in more American deaths in one year than all of WWII!
Is it not time we finally wake up?!
New ideas are what we need and we new initiatives to bring us together. We need new approaches to solving our problems. Not the same old partisan nonsense that resulted in a far right insurrection and failed coup d'etat on January 6. Not the same old partisan nonsense that has failed to create new affordable housing laws for more than 50 years! That has failed to create a world-class educational system. That has failed miserably in addressing the challenges and horrors of climate change.
Failure to contain the virus, failure to enfranchise the neediest and failure to assure that our civilization has a sustainable environment does not mean we must fail as a society. We need to turn the situation around, immediately. We need to get vaccinated, do what we can to help others get vaccinated, wear KN95 masks, double up on the masks, take every precaution and do whatever we can to safely assist in the needs of our society. The actions our elected officials have been neglectful of our needs for far too long and have proven they will continue to neglect.
Isn’t it time for something new?