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Cumbo's Brooklyn Council Seat Faces Challengers Opposed to Armory Deal

By Rachel Holliday Smith | March 20, 2017 3:06pm | Updated on March 21, 2017 8:28am
 Ede Fox, left, speaks to a group of Crown Heights residents at a meeting held in February regarding the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment. Fox is fundraising to challenge Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo for the 35th District council seat, but has not yet officially declared her candidacy.
Ede Fox, left, speaks to a group of Crown Heights residents at a meeting held in February regarding the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment. Fox is fundraising to challenge Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo for the 35th District council seat, but has not yet officially declared her candidacy.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — It’s a three-way race for the 35th Council District this year, with two candidates coming forward so far to challenge Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo for her seat.

The Democratic councilwoman has represented the district, covering Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, since January of 2014. Voters will choose between her and challenger Ede Fox, a Democrat, in a Sept. 12 primary; Green Party candidate Jabari Brisport will join the ballot in the Nov. 7 general election unless another Green Party challenger emerges in time for the primary.

Fox, a former City Council staffer and Prospect Heights resident, lost to Cumbo in 2013 but is once again trying for the seat, she told DNAinfo New York, though she has not yet made her campaign official.

 City Council candidate Jabari Brisport speaks at a recent protest of the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment.
City Council candidate Jabari Brisport speaks at a recent protest of the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment.
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Courtesy of Jabari 2017

Fox said she considered the idea after people in the community approached her to run because of “lack of leadership and a lack of advocacy” in the district, she said.

“Things like constituent services, things like quality of life issues and then, of course, there are the bigger projects that are coming down the pike, including the Bedford-Union Armory,” she said, speaking of the controversial redevelopment of the former military building on Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights.

She said a lot has changed on the project — including one of its developers dropping out — since the city began the process to repurpose it in 2014 and thinks the current plan should be scrapped.

“We really need to start from scratch,” she said.

In the latest Campaign Finance Board filings released Thursday showing all funds collected between Jan. 12 and March 11, Fox raised a total of $29,976, more than double the $13,720 raised by Cumbo in the same period.

Fox said the numbers were “pretty tremendous,” but has not yet committed to her candidacy; she said she will make a final determination whether or not to run in early May.

Another Prospect Heights resident, Jabari Brisport, officially kicked off his campaign in the 35th District on Thursday.

Brisport, an actor and tutor, said his top concerns are housing, police reform and income inequality and, like Fox, he thinks the plan at the Bedford-Union Armory needs to change. As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Brisport has participated in at least one recent protest at the armory, he said, advocating for the building to be used for 100 percent affordable housing.

“Even beyond that, I believe it should be put into a community land trust,” he said.

As a councilman, Brisport hopes he can help reverse the rapid change making the area where his family has lived for three generations unaffordable for many.

“I’ve seen gentrification sweep across my neighborhood in Prospect Heights and seen a lot of businesses get replaced by larger, national retail stores,” he said. “I don’t want to see that happen in Crown Heights, too.”

So far, Brisport has raised $2,314, campaign filings show.

In total, Cumbo has the largest war chest for the campaign, with a total of $66,457 raised over several years, CFB records show. Over the weekend, the councilwoman kicked off a new round of fundraising at her 40th birthday party, held at a Clinton Hill club with guest speaker Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, according to a notice about the event.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Jabari Brisport is running as a Democrat. He is in fact running on the Green Party line.