City Council Candidates Spar in SW Brooklyn

Candidates Bob Capano, Liam McCabe, Lucretia Regina-Potter, John Quaglione, Nancy Tong, Justin Brannan, Kevin Peter Carroll, Khader El-Yateem and Vincent Chirico. (Photo by Helen Klein/Brooklyn Media Group via Brooklyn Reporter)

The nine candidates vying for the City Council’s 43rd District seat in southwest Brooklyn participated in an Aug. 15 debate that involved both major political parties. The incumbent council member, Democrat Vincent Gentile, is term-limited.

With Democrats Justin Brannan, Kevin Peter Carroll, Vincent Chirico, Rev. Khader El-Yateem and Nancy Tong seated on one side and Republicans Bob Capano, Liam McCabe, Lucretia Regina-Potter and John Quaglione on the other, the candidates presented their positions on issues such as public transportation and education, as well as one particularly controversial matter in the Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bath Beach area – illegal home conversions.

In a story for the Brooklyn Reporter, which hosted the event, Jaime DeJesus noted what some of the candidates said.

“We know it’s spreading and I do believe illegal immigration is a big root cause of this,” Capano said. “The sanctuary city policy causes illegal home conversions and overcrowding in schools and it makes me sick to my stomach that my mom, who had to go work 20 years ago after my dad died at 49, works her butt off while those who come here illegally get a handout and public health benefits. That must stop today.”


Regina-Potter had a different perspective. “What puzzles me going around the community is to see two-family homes with 15 or 20 electric and gas meters,” she explained. “We need to make these utility companies answer for why they are knowingly allowing these builders to break the law by installing all these gas and water and electric meters. It doesn’t make sense. They’re complaining about illegal immigrants, but as a daughter of an immigrant, everyone needs a place to live.”

Some of the Democratic candidates approached the issue from what they consider the root cause for the home conversions.

“People that live in these illegally converted homes are either new immigrants or undocumented ones that don’t know their rights. They are living in these homes in unsafe conditions because people are taking advantage of them,” said El-Yateem. “I have issues with our mayor giving tax cuts to developers without holding them to providing affordable housing. It is about everyone having the right for safe living in our neighborhood. I want to fight for that.”


“Do you know why the tenants go to those illegal conversions?” asked Tong. “Because they can’t afford it. If they could afford it, they would not live like that. Once [inspectors] come in and fine landlords, people have to leave and they end up homeless. We need more affordable housing. If they have a choice, they would never live in those home conversions.”

Kadia Goba, who covered the event for Kings County Politics, mentioned that during this part of the debate, an audience member yelled, “Get the Asians out of here!”

KCP spoke to Chris Digennaro, 52, who refers to himself as a conservative patriot. The longtime resident of Bensonhurst said his comments were not racially motivated.
“It’s not about being a racist, you got to call it as it is,” said Digennaro “They bully you. They knock on your doors. They want to buy your house cash. It’s all about the money.”

Did any of the candidates respond? Find out at Kings County Politics. Also read more details on the debate there and at the Brooklyn Reporter.

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