Meet the Woman Who Wants Bay Ridge’s Vote Today for State Assembly

Pamela Harris
Via Pamela Harris for State Assembly

Today, Democrat Pamela Harris faces off against Republican Lucretia Regina–Potter in the special election to replace State Assemblymember Alec Brook–Krasny, who resigned this summer. (The district includes most of Dyker Heights, parts of Bath Beach, all of Coney Island and about half of Bay Ridge, mostly south of 79th Street. See the map here, or see a sample ballot for your address here.) We spoke to Harris by email about the race.

What’s the key state-level issue affecting the 46th assembly district?
Our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, need to feel safe when they walk down the street; however, when even our law enforcement officers are shot on the streets, we know there’s a serious problem. As a former correction officer, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t in the fight against crime, and I’m ready to fight for these changes in the state assembly. I’ll fight to get guns out of the hands of criminals and take a local approach by expanding more opportunities for our young adults. I’m a firm believer in helping our youth by teaching them skills that they can use to find good-paying jobs. I’m proud to say that the young adults in my program [Coney Island Generation Gap] have a 100 percent graduation rate and go on to build successful lives. We need to get rid of crime and expand job opportunities statewide.

Do the needs of the Bay Ridge part of the district differ from the Coney Island side?
The way I see it is that we are all one community—we want our children to succeed and have a quality education, good-paying local jobs and safer streets. I truly love this district and all the hardworking families that make it so special and diverse, from the local business owners in Bay Ridge looking to expand to the Coney Island residents that are still rebuilding. Their issues may be different, but our common values are the same. If elected, I pledge to be the kind of legislator that ensures your voices and concerns are heard in Albany. I want to hear firsthand the stories that each group shares and ensure they’re my top priority.

What did you think of Alec Brook–Krasny? How do you think you’ll represent your constituents differently?
I have always worked well with Alec Brook–Krasny and his staff. Alec has worked well with our youth program. Alec was a strong voice for Brooklyn families in the state assembly. I will represent our constituents because I understand our district is rich in diversity and unique in its composition, and it is important that we work together to accomplish the goals that we all share: A quality education for our youth, affordable housing for our seniors, after-school programs for our children, and small business development. I will join forces with other agencies to improve our quality of life by keeping our streets safe and our neighborhoods clean. Together we must strive to maintain the beauty of our community and to make certain that it remains a place that we are all proud to call home.

The media has made much of your being a black candidate running in a majority-white district, because you’d be the only candidate in the city to have won such a race. But does that seem like an issue that voters care about when you’re out in the district campaigning?
I am thankful to have been so fortunate to have met so many of the residents that make up the 46th Assembly District. It’s unfortunate in this day and age, the color of our skin is talked about the way it is. I believe that above all, it’s my stance on issues that matters the most to our families. Our district is made up of so many different backgrounds that make it so great—Hispanics, Asians, Italians, Russians and many more ancestries that help Brooklyn thrive. I am proud of this, and I am ready to represent the diverse voices of so many cultures. Every culture brings a new mix of ideas—it’s not about white or black. I believe our shared interest and common values come first.

Have you spent a lot of time in Bay Ridge?
Throughout my campaign, I’ve made it a top priority to meet with resident across the district. I’ve met so many families from Coney Island to Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and have had many good conversations. Bay Ridge is not a new area for me. My father, Nicholas Pope—who had family that emigrated from Italy—settled his family on Fourth Avenue and 80th Street. When people ask me about Bay Ridge, I like to tell them that this region is what brings my life to a full circle. I’d be honored to represent an area that has so much meaning in my family tree.

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