BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Robert E. Cornegy Jr. vowed to tackle unemployment and improve education in his district, as supporters crammed into Cornerstone Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy on Saturday to celebrate the incoming councilman's inauguration.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Public Advocate Letitia James were just a few of the big names from across the city who joined hundreds in the packed church supporting Cornegy, who laid out his plan to improve the district that includes Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
The new councilman vowed to combat unemployment and improve education in an area he said was hit hardest by the recession.
"We are, as central Brooklyn residents, some of the most resilient people on the face of the Earth," Cornegy said. "I just swore an oath to serve you constituents of central Brooklyn. I'm ready, I'm strong, only because we are ready and we are strong."
In particular, Cornegy said he would use capital and discretionary funds to help nonprofits and local small businesses grow and hire within the district, as well as to bring new educational and job training programs to the community.
Cornegy added that he would fight to bring a new gifted and talented program to a district without one since the loss of P.S. 3's program in 2012. Parents in the district began lobbying to reinstate a program last year.
"In a community of so many gifted and talented youth, they shouldn't have to travel to outside neighborhoods to receive the specialized education enrichment they need and deserve," Cornegy said to applause.
The incoming councilman, who defeated four other Democratic candidates to win a close September primary before winning November's general election, also touched on housing development, violence and issues affecting seniors in the district.
But while he spoke about the need to address healthcare in the community, he didn't mention the fight to save Interfaith Medical Center, a battle for which he has been at the forefront and one which helped boost his visibility during the election season.
The state last month approved a $3.5-million, two-month reprieve for Interfaith, though no long-term plan is on the table to save the bankrupt hospital.
Mayor de Blasio acknowledged Cornegy's work to save the hospital in remarks made before the new councilman's swearing-in.
"He's like a dog with a bone when it comes to saving Interfatih Hospital," de Blasio said. "He will not let it down."
Vann served central Brooklyn for almost 40 years, and received a standing ovation from the crowd before walking up to the podium to honor his political protégé.
"[Cornegy] brings intelligence, he brings integrity and he brings a tremendous work ethic," Vann said after wishing "farewell and godspeed" to his former constituents.
Most of the speakers also zeroed in on another of Cornegy's characteristics. Jeffries, in his remarks, referenced an Old Testament passage about "giants in the land," comparing it to the 36th city council district.
"As it relates to Councilman Al Vann, he was a giant in the community," Jeffries said. "He leaves some big shoes to fill."
"Thank god Robert Cornegy is 6-foot-10."