Brian: Brian Lehrer on WNYC. We are in the home stretch now of our year-long series 51 Council Members in 52 Weeks, in which we've been welcoming every member of the New York City Council in this year and most of them have been new because of term limits, and it's majority female for the first time ever. We will meet another one of those rookie women now Mercedes Narcisse as we're up to District 46 covering in alphabetical order.
Bergen Beach, Kaar Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island, and Sheepshead Bay. This is Southeast Brooklyn, and according to a map I saw of the election results, this is one of the bluest districts in the city with like 90% having voted for Kathy Hochul for governor. In some other South Brooklyn neighborhoods, right nearby Lee Zeldin won the majority of votes, but this district, Southeast Brooklyn went 90% ish for Kathy Hochul.
We'll talk about Southeast Brooklyn and all of New York in the wake of this election, and more now with council member Mercedes Narcisse. Council Member, thanks for being part of 51 Council Members in 52 Weeks, and welcome to WNYC.
Mercedes: Hi, good morning. Thank you for inviting me and I'm happy to be here with you. Yes, and I like the way you put it. The Wookie.
Brian: Good. Before we get to any news and your reactions to it, we usually start by inviting new members of council to tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you first get interested in politics or public service?
Mercedes: I partially grew up in Haiti in a little town, St. Mark and by the time for high school, I came here to Tilden High and did some time for summer program in South Shore, and some night program in Rasmus because I just wanted to graduate and get out of high school. Ever since I came, I've been in one area, which is Canarsie and [unintelligible 00:02:16] area so I love this community. The community is beautiful and how I come to be here in this space is because of my involvement since I was in high school.
I always want to understand what's going on around me, how politics can benefit the people, and excited became president of 41st Assembly District Democratic Club under Louis Fiddler, and being president of different organizations so I got excited. I realized that we can use this for the betterment of the people in your district, in your area.
Brian: I see you've been a registered nurse for 30 years.
Brian: Do you see a connection between nursing and serving the community in elected office?
Mercedes: Most definitely, because right now more than ever with this pandemic, we need to address the inequities in our healthcare system. As a nurse for three decades it's all about getting access to quality healthcare, and not only that, I'm using that space as a chair of hospitals to see how the best way we can make sure that we have healthcare centers in every area, especially their underserved community.
My community had a rough part of it. We took rough of that pandemic, we lost so many lives, so being in that space is an opportunity to make sure that the city deliver quality healthcare to the constituents.
Brian: I see that back in 2008, you were given the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators corporate award for contributions to the growth of women in minority-owned businesses in New York state. Now, we don't usually think of nurses in relationship to business growth, so what were you doing back then, 15 years ago to earn the corporate award?
Mercedes: I run several businesses and one of the big one that I received the award for it's statewide medical and surgical supplies. I used my opportunity being the CEO of the business to bring other women to come to business and understand MWBE and getting the partner with Champions of Commerce. One of the strip where I was, took the challenge on because we had only set 25% of stores open and my whole goal is to make sure that we bring Black and brown and especially female to business world.
I'm always excited for business. I started business since I was probably very young, I could say, with my grandmother. I love entrepreneurship and I support that greatly.
Brian: Your district per the map I saw and referred to before voted over 90% for Kathy Hochul in the governor's race. Is that your impression, and if so based on demographics or any other factor, why do you think that is?
Mercedes: Because we are Democratic city, before that wave that we thought it was going to be something beneficial to the Democratic Party but in our district, for me personally, I was out there talking, engaging-- That's how I won, engaging the folks and see the quality of life that we need to check. We need the Democrats to be in office in order for us to achieve the goal that we want to achieve and my community came out and I really appreciated it.
I became the district leader for 58, and because of that too, I was able to push even more with my 46 District. It is time for us to see it, to make sure that we do our part, and when we have an election, we should come out and fight for our community, fight for our party. This is what we do as a Democrat, and that's why people learn from knowing that the importance of them to vote. We had proposal on the ballot that was very important, from early on I was out there making sure that people understand that they have to come out and they have to vote. One of the thing if you don't vote, like they said, you're not going to get the services and now we can correlate that with even the census.
We have to come out and do the census of the numbers of folks because we cannot afford to lose any congressional seat in New York State in general. What happened is unfortunate that we lost four seats that flip, that should not happen and I think us as Democrat, we need to do more. We need to do more outreach. We need to look for folks and educate and show the importance of voting.
Brian: Your constituents in your district were pretty immune then to Lee Zeldin's central focus on crime, so how would you describe the crime situation in your district these last few years? I imagine it's worse than some of the Long Island districts, say, where Zeldin did the best, where that message resonated the most.
Mercedes: Well, first, the folks in my district are very educated voters. They know that the rhetoric and the games that play in politics, so Zeldin has its own game up, but, yes, you're talking about crime in our community. It is a problem. Not only New York City, I will say the country, but most importantly for my district, I'm very concerned all over but I think we need to engage young people in what we can do best is getting them out.
Like one of the things for me, whenever I get young people, I get very excited to talk, to listen to them, to see what we can do together, and see the part of the conversation. Giving them constructive avenues to channel their energies because their talent need to be coming out. Sports is one of the things that I'm looking into because talking to them, access to music, and trying to put studios in our community, in the school after school program have to be up the game for them because young folks you cannot have them in a room and say after school we need to put activities to keep their mind going, to keep their energy going. Continue to build the relationship between the local precinct, the community affair, and whatever had happened in our community, we have to take it out and talk and have the conversation and keep our young folks engaged.
Brian: This is WNYC--
Mercedes: Perpetrators have to pay the price.
Brian: I'm sorry, what has to pay the price?
Mercedes: I say perpetrators have to go to justice process. We cannot let people lose without. If you do the crime, you have to pay the time.
Brian: Yes. Well, that's exactly what Zeldin was campaigning on saying isn't happening enough. Do you think it is?
Mercedes: It is happening but at the rate-- don't forget that we've been hit by a pandemic. That's something ever happened in our lifetime. There's a lot of mental health things that we need to address. That's why I'm pushing for every hospital to have more beds available to make sure that our young folks that dealing with mental health have a place to go. The more we do that, the less we're going to see the crime and CBOs in our community to partnership, to see who's doing the best job in the community, getting our kids out and putting them on the right track. Those are the things I'm looking to do.
Brian: This is WNYC FM, HDNAM, New York, WNJT FM 80.1 Trenton, WNJP 88.5 Sussex, WNJY 89.3 Netcom, and WNJO 90.3 Toms River. We are New York and New Jersey Public Radio and live streaming @wnyc.org. We are with New York City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse from District 46 in Southeast Brooklyn. Number 46 in our 51 Council Members in 52 Weeks series. We can take a couple of phone calls for her, maybe from the district if you're in the district, or anyone else. 212-433 WNYC 212-433-9692 or tweet @BrianLehrer.
Just to close the loop on what you were saying a second ago, it's one thing to put all kinds of preventive measures into play especially targeted at young people. The Republicans weren't campaigning on that at all, but you also said if you do the crime you have to serve the time. That seems to be what's in play right now as a debate that the state legislature is going to have to take up again, and maybe some debates at the city level too. I'm just trying to be clear on if you think that is not happening enough and there have to be some further attempts to jail or imprison people who are recidivists.
Mercedes: Actually, we have to do everything we can do as a community, as a city, to make sure people not going to Rikers Island when they have mental health. They go to a place for rehabilitation. That's one of the flows that we have right now with our system. We have too many young folks that have mental health, that do any little petty crime and end up in jail and by the time they come out, they break down mentally, physically, they cannot serve society again.
We have to create a system where people goes and they have the services that they need. They cannot come back to society unless we have a plan and those are the things that we need to address, but if somebody shoots somebody, definitely you cannot be on the street. You cannot shoot somebody and then the next day you go on the street, and it's not happening anyway. People stay in jail and those are the things that we have to understand, but for those that do minor crimes and they have mental health, they need to be addressed. They cannot be back on the street.
Brian: Here's a caller from the district, Petrella in Canarsie, you're on WNYC with your council member Mercedes Narcisse. Hello, Petrella.
Petrella: Good morning. Glad to be in the show. I met Mercedes Narcisse while I was doing early voting in Canarsie, and I'm out here ensuring that the people came out in droves I was so proud of them. The problem I had doing that is there was no representation for translation throughout the 10 days I was there except for one day the mayor sent four people, but other than that I was so happy to do it. I was so glad to see the representation, but Ms. Narcisse, we need people to translate the next election. Please, please, please. Let's do that.
Mercedes: I am so happy I have Canarsie's here. I am so excited. Yes, most definitely we need to do better, department of Board of Election actually needs to do better. They need to send translators and I heard that while I was on the poll because you probably have seen me wherever you work because I visited all the polls and talked to the poll worker and that's a big problem for us. We cannot have areas that we know mostly populated language is very important. We have to have language access, and that's what we're looking for.
I'm looking to really have a deep conversation with the Board of Election. It should not happen in our city. We know that our city is very diverse. We need to assess all languages, not only the Creole, the Spanish where they are, the Korean where they are, whatever the language. That's what we promise as a city council. We've been serious about it. Language access is very, very important. Yes, definitely and I'm in agreement with you. We're going to look into it and push.
Brian: Let me ask you about a hearing city council is having today on e-bike battery explosions like the one that set that building on fire in Manhattan last week. Reportedly, six people have been killed citywide in recent times by such explosions. I think that's a year-to-date stat. I'm not sure exactly of the timeline, but it's something that. Six deaths and more than a hundred injuries. Have you had an incident like this in your district that you know of or have a take on what you want to come out of the city council hearing today?
Mercedes: I have not had any of those accidents in my district, but I'm well aware of it. We're talking about six fire death this year. That's not acceptable and that's the reason we take it on as city council, we are taking lives very seriously, and as a nurse for me for three decades safety is everything. We have to look it is over 200 blases that we have according to FDNY. It should not happen in our city, that's the reason that we are meeting to make sure we discuss various proposal and safety is the biggest thing and we are going to focus on educating our communities like, I said, at the end of the day, we have to keep the city of New York safe.
We are looking at the sell of secondhand lithium iron batteries. It should be sealed. It should not be anybody just buying any batteries off the street. We know how that goes. There's more safety that I'm looking into as well, I'm not about to debate today, but we need to look at all aspects of any electrical bike that we have in our city.
Brian: What do you think on the safety level, the chaos on the streets generally with e-bikes and e-scooters and mopeds riding in bike lanes and on sidewalks as much as they do? Should city council do anything about that? It's one of the types of calls we'd be getting a lot lately.
Mercedes: They should not be on the sidewalk, because I can see the speed that they're going. I have seen it myself. They should not be on the sidewalk. They should be staying in the lane like I said, just the car staying in their lane, they should stay in the lane of the bike is more appropriate or the streets, but not on the sidewalk.
Brian: They're doing it. Does city council or does the NYPD need to do more than they're doing?
Mercedes: We are looking into all aspects, like I said, safety it's a big thing for us. We have to keep our city safe. We are looking in all different areas and I thank you for sharing that because we've been talking about it, now reminding us that we need to do more and I'm sure we're going to do more about it.
Brian: Listener tweets. Since you mentioned healthcare and equitable healthcare as one of your top priorities in council, listener tweets, "How does the councilwoman feel about the upcoming challenges to healthcare for New York City retirees and even active civil servants?" For people who don't know the background there, this is a plan by the city to move retirees from traditional Medicare into a private Medicare Advantage Plan. City council was looking at that I know. Have you come to a conclusion on that?
Mercedes: It's very difficult time. We need to make the difficult decision, but for now, I do believe in my retiree they have work. We stand on their shoulders and we have to do everything possible to make sure that we fair to the process. I'm always a support of retirees because they work hard many, many years to invest in our city.
Brian: You want the city to undo that plan?
Mercedes: I'm looking into supporting my retiree. Now, I'm looking to ways that we can strike the balance.
Brian: Last two things that we ask every member who comes on in this 51 Council Members in 52 Weeks series. First, what's the number one reason since you took office in January that constituents contact your office?
Mercedes: Right now I'm going to tell you the retiree talk a lot about it, but most of the things that I would talk about that I receive in my office, is sanitation. They need the street to be cleaned and abandoned cars. Abandoned cars have been a big things for me in my community, and we trying ways. I heard the commissioner came out to see the trailers on the street. No one wants trailers on their front stoop when they're coming out or the windows. I think that's something that we need to address as a city. We are all aware of it, and we trying our very best to address it.
Brian: Lastly, we--
Mercedes: I think--
Brian: Go ahead. You want to finish your thought? Go ahead.
Mercedes: People took advantage during the process of the pandemic. They abandoned their cars and they think it's okay to live it on the street forever. The trailers then we looking for places to support the city. That's what we do. We support our workers, we support our residents, but we don't have a big space available as yet that we can pinpoint, but the tris should not be on the street.
Brian: Lastly, as you know we're inviting each member of council to bring a show and tell item from your district, something you think people from outside the district might like to know about that they probably don't know about. What did you bring us for show and tell?
Mercedes: Show and tell is my Canarsie Pier [laughs] even though that is a federal property, but I'm very passionate about that. I want to improve the condition of the Pier and revitalize the area. It is still a populous part for the community to congregate, but has much more potential. We need to look into exploring the possibility of having a restaurant there. We have not have a restaurant or any eating area in our nice water view, since late 1990 and am looking to see if we can have a city feery there.
I can access transportation because we live in the transportation desert. All that people can travel to work and people can come in to visit us, and economically will be good in all aspects for our community. That's what I have for that. I want you to know that, we have one of the largest park too in Brooklyn, that's in our district. That's Marine Park. We have golf course, we have salt marsh, we have basketball, crickets, tennis, [unintelligible 00:21:38] pickleball and much more.
In Canarsie Park, we have bird watching, even myself. Recently, I went for a tour and we see some beautiful birds, as a matter of fact from New Zealand, from different places. We have a lot going on in our district. We have Floyd Bennett Field, which is had the first airport ever in Brooklyn. I'm excited for my community and I'm looking forward to putting a map and invite people in.
Brian: Awesome. Becoming the first council member in this entire series to mention pickleball, we [laughs] Mercedes Narcisse, the freshman member of City Council, representing District 46, covering Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park as of for mention, Mill Basin, Mill Island, and Sheepshead Bay. Thank you so much for being part of 51 Council Members in 52 Weeks. Good luck as your team proceeds.
Mercedes: Thank you for having me. Enjoy. This is a city to live, work, and enjoy.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.