Brewer readies to take over borough president’s shop

Downtown Express photo by Tequila Minsky Gale Brewer.
Downtown Express photo by Tequila Minsky
Gale Brewer.

BY HEATHER DUBIN  |  Gale Brewer, the Democratic nominee for borough president, said if elected, her top priority will be to ensure affordable housing is obtainable in Manhattan.  Additionally, she wants to focus on preserving mom and pop stores, employment, technology and assisting neighborhood community boards.

Brewer, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said that Ruth Messinger, the former Manhattan borough president, and Gloria Steinem, are two of her inspirations.

“I don’t have a lot of mentors, but those two people I have a lot of respect for,” she said.

A former Community Board 7 member from the Upper West Side, Brewer, now 62, remembered her first City Council Democratic primary on Sept. 11th, 2001. The election was cancelled after two hours.

“That was quite a beginning for the City Council,” Brewer said.

Once in the Council, Brewer fought for neighborhood shops.

“The loss of mom and pop stores in Manhattan, I hear about it everywhere I go,” she said.  To combat the 72 banks in her council district, Brewer passed a bill to restrict the storefront size of incoming establishments to maintain space for mom and pop shops. “It makes a difference about what can come in.”

Brewer also passed a bill for food sourcing regarding city contracts.

She said New York City is the second largest purchaser of food in the country after the United States Department of Defense.

Now, city contracts must buy food from New York, unless the item is too difficult to find.  “There is one dairy left in Queens with 1,000 employees.  They have a contract for the New York City Department of Education, and that saved 200 jobs because they got the contracts,” she said, “I call that local sourcing.”

When the Time Warner Center opened at Columbus Circle, Brewer negotiated that 230 jobs be filled with local workers.  “It became the model when Ikea came to Brooklyn, and when Fairway came to Brooklyn.  They used it as a prototype,” she said.

Brewer, who is expected to win easily Nov. 5, said she wants to set up shop in a nearby storefront instead of the borough president’s office at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building in Harlem.

Her current office, which she refers to as “One stop shopping,” is located on 87th St. and is easily accessible to people coming in for maps, applications or information about city and state services.

Brewer plans to move forward on what she called, “The number one issue in Manhattan and citywide — lack of affordable housing….

“Teachers can’t find an apartment and someone who’s making $13,000 dollars can’t find an apartment, that hasn’t changed,” she said.

Brewer thinks the solution is in local planning.

“That’s how you do this, work with community boards, work with City Council, the mayor; and every time there’s development, you figure out how to include affordable housing and work with community organizations to preserve what you have,” she said.

Brewer also wants to provide community boards with a better framework, and continue Borough President Scott Stringer’s reforms involving the member selection process.

In addition, since she passed the Open Data Law, which makes government data more accessible to the public, and she wants to help community boards learn how to better decipher this information.

Brewer returned $72,000 of matching campaign funds back to the city for the general election after the Democratic primary.

“We do have a Republican opponent [David Casavis], but I don’t feel he’s a serious opponent.  I don’t like to take the public money unless it’s needed,” she said, “We’re grateful for what we got for the primary.  It was a competitive race, and we used it all.”

Brewer lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, Cal Snyder.  They have raised foster children, many of them during the crack epidemic of the ‘80s, and adopted several of them.  Based on her own experience, and what she realizes is happening in the public schools, Brewer would also like to see “culturally appropriate mental health services,” for students in the form of social workers and psychiatrists.