2013-02-15 / Top Stories

District 31 Special Election: Meet The Candidates

By Miriam Rosenberg

Eight candidates will be on the ballot for the Tuesday, February 19th, Special Election to determine who will replace Senator James Sanders Jr. in the City Council for the 31st District which includes Far Rockaway, Edgemere, Arverne, and Bayswater.

The candidates are Marie Adam-Ovide, Selvena Brooks, Michael Duncan, Allan Jennings, Saywala Kesselly, Jacques Leandre, Donovan Richards, and Pesach Osina.

This reporter was able to contact five of them for background information and points of view. All candidates were researched.

Marie Adam-Ovide

* Marie Adam-Ovide has been in city government for more than a decade. Among her accomplishments was serving as District Manager of Community Board 8. “I brought City’s resources to the residents of Community Board 8 and beyond,” she has said. Her website is vote4marie.com.

Selvena Brooks

* Selvena Brooks is a life-long southeast Queens resident and Rockaway Beach homeowner for the last six years. “Our community is in need of real leader(s) with real solutions, who are willing to fight for the resources necessary to ensure our neighborhoods thrive,” said Brooks in an email. “Now is the time to trade in empty answers for tangible results. “Following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy we need a leader with vision looking to rebuild, and I am that candidate.” Brooks began her career of public service as a volunteer for former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green. She has served as State Senator Malcolm Smith’s Director of Constituent Affairs. With Smith, she climbed the ladder to become Deputy District Director and Downstate Press Secretary; and, when Smith became the Senate Majority Conference Leader, she was appointed Press Secretary. She was later promoted to the role of Deputy Chief of Staff. “My career has been filled fighting tough battles to bring real change and solutions,” said Brooks. “Understanding the true value of coalition building, I have partnered with agencies on all levels of government, grassroots organizations, unions, and elected officials to address some of the city’s most controversial issues.” Her website is www.brooks2013.com.

Michael Duncan

* Michael Duncan is married, has four children and has lived in Rosedale for the last 18 years. The candidate immigrated to Brooklyn from Jamaica when he was 14 years old. “I am bringing 18 years of service and commitment of leading this community. Not only have I served at the PTA level, I am the president and a coach of the Rosedale Soccer Club, which organizes and manages a soccer program for 305 boys and girls; 75 of them are from the Rockaways. I also created a food co-op, the purpose of which is to provide organic food to the members of the community, in addition to creating an economic relationship among the district residents for future business ownership,” said Duncan. Duncan served as chiefof staff for then Councilman Sanders in 2007. “I decided to run because my eighteen years of service to this Southeast Queens community on the social, education, and economical levels have prepared me to be the best candidate to represent the 31st council district.” His website is michaelrduncan.com.

Allan Jennings

* Allan Jennings, though among the first to get on the ballot, has provided little fresh information. He does not currently have a website, has not been seen in Rockaway and most research reveals only his controversial past. Jennings previously served in the City Council from 2001 to 2005.

Saywalah Kesselly

* Saywalah Kesselly is a married father of three who lives in Far Rockaway. “I have served in various capacities including but not limited to President of Nordeck Co-op, Business Administrator of Full Gospel Tabernacle, Member of York College Teacher’s Ed Advisory Board, Vice President of Farmers Boulevard CDC, Board Member of the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center, Executive Director of the African Center for Community Empowerment and more.” His Facebook page is facebook.com/ saywalah.kessely.

Jacques Leandre

* Jacques Leandre’s first home in the United States when he emigrated from Haiti in the 1970s was the Beach 41st Street Houses. As an attorney he has worked with low-income women with legal issues while they attempted to transition from welfare to self-sufficiency. Now working in the private sector, he supervises 18 attorneys and 6 paralegals. “For the past several years, I’ve conducted several free legal workshops in the Rockaways to address youth violence, police brutality, financial illiteracy, elder law, and transportation problems. Additionally, immediately following Superstorm Sandy, I transformed my law office into a Relief Drop Off Center…“These experiences have compelled me to seek to expand my service to the community via the City Council.” Leandre told this reporter, “I will use my experience as a community activist, trial attorney, and parent to fight for the integrity of our families, communities, and institutions.” His campaign website is votejacques.com. Leandre recently withdrew a legal bid to challenge six of those running for the seat. “This was nothing out of the ordinary. We were simply following the democratic electoral process,” said Leandre.

Pesach Osina

* Pesach Osina moved to Rockaway in 1999 when he got married and immediately got involved in the community as an active board member of the Jewish Community Council (JCCRP) and was one of the original members of the Rockaway Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). “I have been involved in public service for nearly 10 years,” said Osina. “The open seat presents a new opportunity for young political leadership to effectively deliver for the community. The Rockaways deserve the best representation available, and I believe I am the person (to provide) that.” For Osina safety and security are at the top of his list. “If there is anything that Sandy has taught us it is that the role of government in protecting its citizens is priority one,” said Osina. “Our district has unique needs that require special funding for flooding mitigation and for our community’s first responders. Second is our youth. I will fight for both increases in school funding and after school programming. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and I want to make sure our community’s youth have the best chance to succeed.” Osina is Community Liaison for Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder. Osina’s website is voteosina.com.

Donovan Richards

* Donovan Richards, who has lived both in Far Rockaway and Arverne, has worked serving Rockaway for the past decade and says, “The clearest difference [between myself and the other candidates] is that I have the more experience and a track record of results.” “For the past ten years, I have dedicated my life to this community working side by side with now State Senator James Sanders Jr. and community leaders across the peninsula. Although, we have made significant progress during my tenure there is so much more work to do.” He started working for Sanders when he was 19 and worked his way up to community liaison for Rockaway and then chief-of-staff. “As I worked my way up to Chief of Staff, there has not been an issue affecting the peninsula that I haven’t been involved in.” Those issues include getting guns off the streets and keeping schools and libraries open and funded. “More than that, as a former Chief of Staff, I’ve spent years in City Hall and know the ins and outs and day-to-day responsibilities a Councilmember has to face.” “The damage from Superstorm Sandy will require rebuilding and reshaping the peninsula. Richards says, “That means that we have to ensure that Federal money arrives and gets distributed equitably across the peninsula. We can utilize the money to build seawalls or jetties to better protect us in the future. I also want to ensure that there is a local hiring agreement, so that we can put our community to work.” Richards’ website is donovanrichards2013.com.

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