The Role of the Borough President

The Role of the Borough President

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams speaks at a rally at the West 4th Street Station to demand restoration of service C and F lines to pre-pandemic levels. – New York, NY – March 23, 2021 (Shutterstock)

By Victoria Falk, Special to CAW

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.org, the role of Borough President was created in 1898 and is unique to New York City.  Each of the five boroughs within New York City has its own Borough President. 

This year, four of the five boroughs have term-limited incumbents and cannot run again for their current position.  The current Queens Borough President is the only Borough President who is not term-limited and can run for re-election.

The current Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, who has served in his position from 2013 until now, is term-limited and running for Mayor of New York City.  Eric Adams’ current term ends January 1, 2022.  Thus, leaving the opportunity open for a record number of Democratic candidates vying for the Brooklyn Borough President position.  This upcoming New York City election, scheduled for November 2, 2021, is indeed historic.  More democratic candidates are running for Brooklyn Borough President than ever in the whole history of the position.  

As of press time, 14 Democratic candidates are hopeful to replace Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams when he vacates the seat.  The Democratic candidates vying for the Brooklyn Borough President position include City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr., Community Leader Kimberly Council, Community Leader Khari Edwards, Community Leader Robert A. Elstein, City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, Community Leader Pearlene S. Fields, Community Leader Anthony T. Jones, Community Leader Shanduke L. McPhatter, Community Leader Trisha N. Ocona, Community Leader Robert Ramos Jr., City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Community Leader Lamor Miller-Whitehead, and Community Leader Emmanuel Jr. Whitmore.  If either Ms. Kimberly Council, Ms. Joanne Simon, Ms. Pearlene S. Fields, or Ms. Trisha N. Ocona were to win the election, this would be the first time that Brooklyn, New York would have a woman in the position of Borough President.  If either Ms. Kimberly Council, Ms. Pearlene S. Fields, or Ms. Trisha N. Ocona were to win the election, she would be the first woman in the position; and the first Black woman elected as Brooklyn Borough President.

Listen to an interview with Robert Cornegy Jr. – Brooklyn Borough President Candidate below:

Listen to an interview with Khari Edwards – Brooklyn Borough President Candidate below:

Listen to an interview with Bishop Whitehead – Brooklyn Borough President Candidate below:



What exactly does the Brooklyn Borough President do?  Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who served in that position from 2001 to 2013, was popular amongst Brooklyn residents.  He was an Ambassador for the Borough of Brooklyn and promoted the outdoor concert series in Brooklyn’s Wingate Field and Coney Island Park. 

According to GlobalTourismForum.org, Marty Markowitz’s most significant achievements during his time as Brooklyn Borough President include that he “created the Brooklyn Tourism Office, coordinated the development of the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal, and the construction of the Barclays Center…”  

According to online research, Eric Adams, who was first elected to the Brooklyn Borough President position in 2013, following Markowitz, has done more than prior Brooklyn Borough Presidents to open the doors of Brooklyn Borough Hall to the community.  Eric Adams gained popularity with Brooklyn residents because of the numerous events sponsored by the Brooklyn Borough President’s office inside and around the grounds of Brooklyn Borough Hall, which have been free and open to the public. 

These events have included town hall meetings, awards banquets for Brooklyn’s community leaders, workshops on health awareness and housing issues, and other special events.  During his time as Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams has recognized everything from Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Chinese New Year, Ghana’s Year of Return, International Friendship Day, and the Black Lives Matter mural.

The Brooklyn Borough President position is a clearly defined role that comes with responsibilities and power.  However, the power given to the Borough President is limited.  According to the online encyclopedia, Ballotpedia.org, the duties of the Borough President include, but are not limited to the following:  determining land use, allocating money to the community-based organizations within the borough, appointing community board members, serves as brand ambassador for the borough, and advises the Mayor of the City of New York, as needed, on issues pertaining to the borough.

As the host of People, Power, and Politics Radio Show, I had exclusive interviews with 3 of the 14 candidates for Brooklyn Borough President:  Lamor Miller Whitehead, Khari Edwards, and Robert Cornegy Jr.  During each of the individual interviews with People, Power, and Power Radio Show, each candidate was asked to explain how he saw himself in the role of Brooklyn Borough President.  Snippets of the interviews are included as follows.  However, the entire discussion of the three interviews can be heard at www.pppradio.nyc

When Lamor Miller Whitehead was asked his view of the role of the Borough President, Whitehead stated, “This role is very important. It’s someone who has to be connected to the community. They have to be able to empathize. That’s what I do.  I am a Pastor of two churches: one in Brooklyn and the other in Atlanta. This is what I do. I’m to the people, I’m for the people, for the community, and this is what Borough Hall needs in Brooklyn.”

Whitehead does not see his lack of political experience as a problem.  When People, Power, and Politics Radio Show asked Whitehead what qualifies him to be the next Brooklyn Borough President, Whitehead stated, “The church is more than enough… I’ve been working in the community all my life.” Lamor Miller Whitehead actually views his lack of political experience as a benefit. 

“I’m not a politician. I’m a leader.  I serve the people.  The people don’t serve me… I want Brooklynites to understand that I have a moral compass to do what is right for the community – not to make a political decision, said Lamor Miller Whitehead.

When I asked about the role of Brooklyn Borough President, the Community Leader, Khari Edwards expressed his belief that he has what it takes to do well.  When asked to define the role of Brooklyn Borough President, Khari Edwards said, “For me, the role of the Borough President is the connector of the community.” 

Although he is not known for any direct political experience, Khari Edwards has been working behind the scenes helping other local politicians for years and has been doing the groundwork to advocate for better healthcare and better access to quality and affordable housing for residents of Caribbean-American and African-American communities. “I’ve been in government for 20 years, working behind the scenes and doing the groundwork within the community, “stated Khari Edwards.

When I asked City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr. how he sees the role of Brooklyn Borough President during an exclusive interview, he stated, “The Borough President’s position is an undefined role.  Each Borough President has brought their attrahents and assets to the role.  Eric Adams’ area has been health.  My area is small business and jobs creation.  People don’t just want affordable housing. They want affordable homeownership.” Although the Brooklyn Borough President does have some specific responsibilities within the position, as stated previously, Cornegy sees the role as undefined.  

Councilmember Antony Reynoso, who is hopeful for the Brooklyn Borough President position, has been endorsed by one of the leading immigrant advocacy groups, Make the Road Action.  According to online research, the organization praised Reynoso’s “…support for defunding the New York Police Department, removing police officers from schools, and decriminalizing sex work.”  “Here in Brooklyn, we succeed by never giving up and never giving in.  Right now, we need to be tough and pull together in the aftermath of COVID to finally address our affordable housing shortage, dismantle systemic racism, save our small businesses, fix our schools, and stop overdevelopment and gentrification…,” stated Reynoso regarding his run for Brooklyn Borough President.

As of press time, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon is one of the front runners in this crowded race for Brooklyn Borough President. “I’ll become the first woman Brooklyn Borough President and fiercely advocate for all Brooklynites, said Simon to New Yorkers during recent campaign events.  Some of the issues that Simon views as essential to Brooklyn include criminal justice reform, educational advocacy, gun violence prevention, disability rights, and the need for equal access to affordable housing.

Community Leader Kimberly Council hopes to make history as the first female Borough President and as the first African-American woman in the position. 

“As Brooklyn Borough President, I’ll dedicate myself to leveling the playing field for all of Brooklyn by redefining what the Borough President does,” said Council. “I will support the community organizations who are doing the work that the government has failed to do… I’ll also send a Mobile Borough Hall to communities across Brooklyn to bring these resources to every neighborhood, “said Kimberly Council on her online campaign page for the Brooklyn Borough President position.

Leave a Reply