For most New Yorkers, the city's primary election on September 12th is already a faded memory; but for me, it was a truly remarkable day, and while the results were disappointing, the experience of running for political office is one that I will cherish forever. Running for a seat on the New York City Council was one of the most rewarding and challenging endeavors of my life. It is with all my heart that I thank each and every one of you for helping to make my run for office possible in 2017.
I believe that being a part of the race in Brooklyn's 40th City Council District accomplished some very important goals. My significant work experience as a housing advocate and tenant organizer ensured that the central focus of much of the campaign was on housing and the issues surrounding the severe rate at which our neighborhoods are becoming unaffordable for far too many of us. Talking about the fact that we have lost more than 30 percent of our district's affordable housing stock in the last decade, mostly due to the unjustified evictions of rent stabilized tenants that correlate with the illegal deregulation of thousands of apartments, sparked a lot of interest in our campaign. The other candidates in the race could not afford to reduce this critical issue to a sound bite and the voters came to expect thoughtful discourse on how to address our district's affordability crisis.
Of the 51 seats on the New York City Council, a mere 12 will be held by women come this January. The fact that women are so disproportionately represented on the governing body of our city is one of the reasons I decided to run in 2017. We need more women on the New York City Council and more women in elective office in this country. I feel strongly that more women need to take this chance, and I will continue to encourage more women to run. Out of the 113 Democrats running in contested NYC Council districts, only 38 were women. I am so proud to have been one of them. We must continue to make our voices heard; I believe in my lifetime, that highest glass ceiling will shatter and I can't wait for that day to come.
Over the last few weeks, I have learned to not be totally disheartened by my loss. I have quipped that it its better to have run and lost, than never to have run at all. I got to meet so many new people throughout the entire community that I can no longer run out to Key Foods, the Caton Market, Parkside, the library or the subway without running into someone I met while campaigning, someone who voted for me, or a key supporter. It is truly an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so many new friends and familiar faces.
I would like to thank all my dedicated staff members and volunteers. I appreciate the great lengths you all went to help make my campaign something we can all be proud of at the end of the day. We had integrity and earned the respect of many important community leaders. Thank you also to my colleagues, both past and present, my friends and family, and my husband, Jamie. I appreciate you all sharing in my vision to build a stronger community in our neighborhoods in Ditmas Park, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Prospect Park South, and parts of Crown Heights and Kensington.
I have congratulated our incumbent Councilman Mathieu Eugene on his victory and have expressed my desire to work with him on all the issues, especially affordable housing preservation in our community, that I raised throughout the campaign: the plight of our small business owners, the need for affordable and accessible after school care and an intergenerational community center in the district, the dire need for infrastructure improvements, and ensuring that our community continues to be a welcoming place for everyone. I have also thanked Pia Raymond and Brian Cunningham for running such spirited campaigns and their contributions to our community. I look forward to working with them in the future.
Many of you have asked, "What's next, Jen?" I have returned to my work as a housing advocate and am so lucky to be resuming the fight for housing justice in our city and across our country full-time. I have no doubt that new opportunities will emerge and I am excited to start this journey.
As promised, you can count on me to continue fighting for all of us. I will always be your strongest advocate.
With eternal gratitude,
Affordable housing is so important to former Brooklyn Democratic Party County Committee member Jennifer Berkley that she took a leave of absence from her job as a housing advocate and tenant organizer at the non-profit advocacy organization Tenants and Neighbors to enter the race in May.
She wants to “put more resources towards eviction prevention programs, tenant organizing, and informing tenants of their rights,” and champions the creation of a database of local landlords with “exceptionally high volumes of no fault, no cause, or holdover evictions” (cases that are generally not about rent) on their records in housing court.
Berkley thinks the 421-a program is flawed. For new developments, Berkley says the Article 11 tax incentive (under which Housing Development Fund Corporations can develop or rehabilitate affordable housing) is an effective “mechanism to sustain or build new affordable units.”
But to really make housing more affordable, Berkley says, “It requires someone at the negotiating table [who is] thinking about working class people …. A lot of the work can be done with City Council members taking a harder line with developers.”
She adds, “We have to take advantage of vacant lots. But I fear that under the current council member, we’re just going to see more luxury housing.”
For more information on Berkley's plan to hold landlord's more accountable for displacing long-term tenants from the community, click here.
To read the article in its entirety, including the background information Jen provided the reporter at the beginning of the piece, click citylimits.org.
Please contribute to Jen's campaign here to help us spread the word.
Jen scored 100% with Planned Parenthood of New York City! She is proud to support reproductive rights and affordable healthcare access for all New Yorkers. Check out the full guide here: http://www.ppnycaction.org/voterguide2
In Kings County Politics on July 25, 2017:
“The issue of housing really overshadows everything else that is happening in our community,” said Berkley, who works as an advocate/organizer with Tenants and Neighbors. “If we can’t get the housing part right, how are we going to improve people’s lives? Read more here.
Brooklyn's District 40 City Council candidate Jen Berkley, a housing advocate and tenant organizer, who lives in Ditmas Park, has an idea to help members of the community stay in their homes and fight back against tenant harassment that frequently results in no cause evictions in Brooklyn Housing Court. Listen to Jen speak about her plan to hold landlords across the city accountable for unusually high numbers of no cause evictions from their buildings. Please feel free to leave feedback for Jen. If you are a tenant currently being forced from your home unjustly, please contact Tenants & Neighbors at 212-608-4320 and ask to speak with a tenant organizer.