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Political Novice Inspired by Clinton's Loss Takes on Greenpoint Councilman

By Gwynne Hogan | August 29, 2017 2:33pm
 Victoria Cambranes, 30, who declared her candidacy Monday, is hoping to oust two-term incumbent Stephen Levin in November.
Victoria Cambranes, 30, who declared her candidacy Monday, is hoping to oust two-term incumbent Stephen Levin in November.
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Courtesy of Victoria Cambranes

GREENPOINT — Victoria Cambranes was living in England at the time of Hillary Clinton's staggering defeat last November — but the effect it had on the Greenpoint native was profound.

The 30-year-old determined that she would not let Clinton's defeat be in vain, vowing to get involved in the community where she grew up.

"Women felt very disillusioned with politics.... It really frustrated me. There's a place here for us to increase our voices collectively," Cambranes said, noting she wanted to become an advocate for Greenpoint.

"I think someone who is a local, someone who speaks the languages of the community can definitely speak to that," she added, alluding to her trilingual skills, as the daughter of Polish and Guatemalan immigrants.

Now, Cambranes wants to challenge sitting City Councilman Stephen Levin in the Nov. 7 general election, where she hopes to make the ballot as a candidate from the Progress for All Party, which she created.

She has handed over her paperwork to the Board of Elections and is awaiting its decision on whether she will make the ballot following a Sept. 5 hearing, spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez-Diaz said.

Meanwhile, she's been canvassing voters in different parts the North Brooklyn district, which includes parts of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, as well as Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. 

"What can we do can make sure our neighborhoods, our communities are protected?'" Cambranes asked.

She moved back to Greenpoint six months ago from England, where she'd been living since 2011 to attend graduate school and then stayed on to work in marketing for the travel search engine Cheapflights.

Since returning to the neighborhood, Cambranes has advocated for street-safety fixes near her Franklin Street home, where a surge in truck traffic has hit the avenue due to a construction boom on the waterfront, raising pedestrian safety concerns, she said.

She contacted the Department of Transportation and Levin's office in an attempt to get simple fixes like more signage and paving upgrades, but got little traction. But the July death of cyclist Neftaly Ramirez on the street was a call to arms, she said.

That's when Cambranes decided she would be able to get more done on the City Council.

"Everything came together very quickly. I started canvasing in the beginning of August," she explained. "I just hit the pavement, [asking] what's going on in your neighborhood. For the most part everyone was very enthusiastic. The streets are very dangerous, especially for cyclists and pedestrians... with young kids."

If elected, she would push for safer bike lanes, longer cross times for pedestrians, better signage, more enforcement of traffic rules, and switching the pacing of green lights on streets like Franklin Avenue so drivers don't race down the block trying to make all the lights, she said.

Beyond the concerns of street safety, Cambranes said she would push for a minimum of 40 percent affordable apartments in new developments across her district, as she sees long-term residents squeezed by inflating rents.

Cambranes, who hasn't made any financial disclosures about funds raised to the city or state so far, is a long shot against Levin, who's raised $20,311 this election cycle, according to the City's Campaign Finance Board. If reelected in November, it would mark Levin's third and final term.

"I welcome the candidacy of Victoria Cambranes," Levin said, when asked about her bid for his seat. "Free and fair elections are the hallmark of our democracy, and I believe that every elected official, including myself, should face the voters in their district and that every voter deserves to have choices when they go to the ballot box."