Gov. Paterson Backs Al Vann Re-Election Bid

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Before joining President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the theater, on Saturday, May 30th, Governor David Paterson stopped at The Lab in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to pay tribute to and publicly declare his support for Councilmember Al Vann who formally announced his run for re-election to his seat of Councilmember of the 36th District in Brooklyn. Joining the ceremony and committing their support of Councilmember Vann were State Senate Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilmember, Bill de Blasio, City Council Member Letitia "Tish" James, State Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffriees, President of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, Norman Seabrook, and a host of other elected officials, leaders, adoring constituents and friends.

In 1993 and 1996, New Yorkers voted to restrict local elected officials to no more than two terms in office. But in 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite tremendous opposition, successfully campaigned for an amendment to the New York City term limits law in order to enable himself to run for a third term as Mayor, subsequently allowing Councilman Vann and others to run for another term.

A lifelong resident of the community he serves, Councilman Al Vann garnered countless amens and applause throughout the ceremony while receiving enthusiastic and unrelenting praise by his peers for his lifelong accomplishments in government including but not limited to establishing an economic development task force, vigilantly working with homeowners to prevent foreclosure due to predatory lenders and tax liens, allocating over $10 million for community mental health centers, hospitals and other activities promoting good health in the community, including the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center, working to protect brownstone blocks from hi-rise development, and collaborating with the community and other leaders to establish Business Improved Districts which have provided valuable services to community businesses. Councilman Vann also chairs the Community Development Committee, overseeing the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), a program designed to reduce poverty among the working poor, young adults, and young children.

No stranger to change, Councilman Vann experienced the down side of change in the 1960s, as his world transformed before his very eyes and under his feet into what is now a failed urban aid initiative called “Model Cities,” which was initiated by President Lyndon Johnson back in 1966. Model Cities was allegedly part of Johnson’s “War on Poverty” which often used eminent domain to seize private property and use it for public service. The program was unsuccessful and eventually discontinued. But according to Councilman Vann, the negative aftermath continues even today in that all of the Black-owned businesses were eradicated as a result of the failed Model Cities project.

Back in 2007, Councilman Vann proposed the renaming of four blocks of Gates Ave to Sonny Abubadika Carson Avenue, which was initially approved by Community Board 3, but rejected soon after by City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, pointing out criminal activity in Carson’s history. Councilman Vann’s office rebutted with a list of Bedford Stuyvesant streets which included biographies of the historical people they are named after, many of whom were slave traders and pedophiles. Today, the name, Sonny Abubadika Carson succeeds Gates Avenue for some blocks.

Further to his credit, Councilman Vann has injected approximately $24 million in community revitalization programs that include the renovation and expansion of the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, renovation and expansion of the Bed Stuy YMCA, complete renovation for the Bed Stuy Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, access to services to help and maintain community health initiatives, two recreation centers, community centers, cleanliness and safety in community parks and more. Councilman Vann oversees over $48 million of the President Obama Stimulus Package Funds.

In support of Councilman Vann’s run for re-election, Governor Paterson stated, “Councilmember Al Vann has been the catalyst for the success of so many other people who have come into government. When some others in government sit and suck up the air, Al is the man who gives oxygen to other people. He is always thinking; always evolving. Al Vann has always maintained an ability to change and metamorphize but has never forgotten where he came from. So, when we honor Councilman Vann, we are not just honoring him. We are honoring all of our foreparents, and our ancestors who struggled and persevered so that all of us would be here today supporting this great man in his re-election campaign. We are also honoring the great communities that have struggled so long, and have finally begun to get what has been owed and desired for decades and centuries.”

“But we do have to remember,” Governor Paterson continued, “in these difficult times; in these periods of struggle, when the economy is down, that we have always been told that we could share in the worst of times, but never seem to have had a hand reach out to us when times were prosperous. But today, I want you to know that in State Government, even though we have a recession, we have increased the welfare allocation for those who live on the edge of poverty right here in New York State, that have not been changed in 18 years. We’ve implemented COBRA insurance legislation to help ensure that there will be Unemployment Insurance for a longer period of time since so many of our people have lost jobs. We’ve introduced food stamps at 30 percent higher rate than we had last year because there are people who had six figure salaries last year who are on the food lines and food pantries around New York today. We are remembering those who don’t have a voice and who don’t have millions of dollars to advertise on TV, but suffer just as much as we do during the recession,” Governor Paterson garnering a thunderous standing ovation and lingering cheers when he announced, “AND we have fulfilled one of the dreams for which Councilman Vann has fought for 27 years in the legislature -- we have eradicated the Rockefeller Drug Laws.”

The ceremony took place at The Lab, one of Bedford Stuyvesant’s main event hot spots. Festivities began with exhilarating performances by The Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band, the Noel Pointer Foundation Youth Ensemble and the Mike Fritz Benjamin Trio.

The Brooklyn Steppers were one of 1,400 marching bands selected to participate in President Obama’s Inauguration Parade in Washington, January 2009. The Brooklyn Steppers were the only group selected from New York City.

Other related articles:

The Streets Where They Lived: Al Vann

Al Vann: “Read This List. Your Street May be Named After a Slave Holder”

Brenda Jeanne Wyche is Managing Editor of The Black Star News 

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