COURIER L 12 IFE, JANUARY 22-28, 2021
CHECKIN’ IN WITH:
BY ROSE ADAMS
Democratic Assemblywoman Marcela
Mitaynes took offi ce on Jan. 6 after
defeating 26-year incumbent Félix Ortiz
in the June 2020 Democratic primary for
the District 51 Assembly seat, which represents
Sunset Park, Red Hook, and part
of Bay Ridge.
Mitaynes, a tenant organizer and
registered Democratic Socialist, is one
of a handful of young progressives to be
elected to the state legislature in recent
years, including North Brooklyn Assemblywoman
Emily Gallagher, Bushwick
state Sen. Julia Salazar, and Bedford-
Stuyvesant state Sen. Jabari Brisport.
Brooklyn Paper virtually sat down
with Mitaynes to discuss the district’s central
issues and her legislative goals.
Note: this interview has been edited for
clarity and brevity.
Brooklyn Paper: As you start
your fi rst term, what are your top
priorities, what are some of the issues
you plan to tackle fi rst in the
coming weeks and months?
Marcela Mitaynes: I think a big
issue, because of the housing crisis, is
about rent. The eviction moratorium is
great, but it still leaves a lot of folks vulnerable.
It’s just passing the buck down
the line — it’s really just allowing folks
to get into debt — so there’s a lot of concern
from families about how that’s going
to be dealt with.
I’m pushing to cancel the rent, not
just for residential tenants, but for commercial
tenants as well. I’m hearing
from some small business owners that
they’re dealing with rent increases during
the pandemic; they’re struggling to
fi gure out how to adjust to the regulations
and stay afl oat. I’m recognizing
also that our small mom-and-pop landlords
depend on the rent to pay their
mortgage. If we can cancel rent for these
three constituencies, I believe we will be
able to stabilize our community while
we work with at state level and with the
federal government on relief.
BP: What’s something you’d want
to do differently than predecessor,
MM: One of the things I’d want to do
differently is just being more present
in the community. Being visible, being
accessible. I think that for a lot of folks,
we didn’t see that, and I know that’s
something that I saw that was a big
change when we got Councilman Carlos
Menchaca. Bumping into him on Fifth
Avenue, seeing him get on and off the
train — there was a difference in being
able to see him actively in the district,
and that’s something I want to continue
Assemblywoman Marcela Mitaynes.
to do. I love being able to walk on Fifth
Avenue or on the way to the supermarket
and run into constituents and have
conversations about the things that are
BP: As you know well, gentrifi cation,
displacement, and waterfront
development are some of your district’s
biggest concerns. How do you
plan to tackle that in the Assembly?
MM: Defi nitely working with community
organizations and coalitions
that are already on the ground. Especially
with the waterfront — there was
a lot of work done by local community
groups and local leaders on having the
community lead a vision of what our
waterfront could actually be. That was
really instrumental in fi ghting off the
Industry City rezoning. We know that
this is the largest and last working waterfront
this city has, and plugging in
the Green New Deal and the new green
economy will give our folks an opportunity
to enter living-wage, union jobs.
BP: Who’s an assemblymember,
past or present, who you look up to,
and how would you try to emulate
MM: That’s a little bit diffi cult, and I
say that because as someone who came
up in the tenant movement, I became
more aware of the corruption that’s involved
in the state legislature, and I
understood that the real estate industry
has a really big hold on what happens.
So I don’t know if there’s someone specifi
c that I look up to. Wanting to just
continue forging a new path — a more
progressive path — challenging the
political infrastructure that’s already
there, really envisioning what ‘community
led’ really means.
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