2010-05-07 / Top Stories

Lebarty To Challenge Titus For Assembly

By Nicholas Briano

Okenfe A. Lebarty, a Far Rockaway resident plans, to challenge New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Titus in the Democratic primary this September. Okenfe A. Lebarty, a Far Rockaway resident plans, to challenge New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Titus in the Democratic primary this September. Okenfe A. Lebarty, a Nigerian- born Far Rockaway resident announced this week to The Wave that he will challenge New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Titus in the Democratic primary this September.

The cornerstone of Lebarty’s campaign is to change the culture of Far Rockaway by bringing in a CUNY community college that would serve as the centerpiece of a revitalized neighborhood.

A community college would provide localized education that could serve as a positive alternative to gangs, drugs and violence, Lebarty said. Businesses would be added and existing ones could begin to flourish again. Around the vicinity of the school, near Mott Avenue, locals would be provided with an increased number of employment opportunities.

Lebarty knows he won’t be able to change the lives of everyone, but wants people to realize that financial aid would allow kids of Far Rockaway to get a good education for free while learning a trade to ultimately become a productive piece of the community’s revitalization.

“I look to the community and it has a huge potential for greatness,” he said.

But at the same time the community is voiceless and has leadership that is not doing us any good. It is like having an absentee landlord.”

Lebarty has been living in Far Rockaway for more than a decade after emigrating from Nigeria at the age of 16. He attended Brooklyn College where he majored in Political Science and continued on to receive his master’s degree in 2007.

He worked his way through school at McDonald’s on Mott Avenue and as a full-time security guard after that.

He got his political start in Brooklyn College while serving as student government president. He went on to intern for Senator Malcolm Smith and in 2008 served as an Obama Delegate to the Democratic National Convention as a regional field organizer for the election.

Lebarty plans to work closely with area residents and have increased accessibility to constituent services. In addition to the school, a strategy to create jobs involves investing funding in community based employment centers. They would be places that aid in job training and placement. Lebarty insisted that he wants to see real results. “You have officials who are giving funding to groups who are not doing anything,” he said. “I want an accountability process in place, to make sure that if you are getting funding, that work is actually being done. If a grant for job training is given out, it must actually provide job training.” He is also firm supporter of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and their initiative to transform the firehouse at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard into a space used to educate and work closely with the youth of the community, citing it as a long term investment in Rockaway’s youth.

Incumbent Michelle Titus, a former attorney, has been serving in the State Assembly since 2002. The 31st Assembly District encompasses Far Rockaway, South Ozone Park, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale.

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