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City Council Profile: East New York And Bushwick

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Continuing a series of NY1 profiles on City Council races, political reporter Taina Hernandez recently interviewed the five candidates running for the 37th District seat in Brooklyn.

When you walk around East New York or Bushwick, what do you see? Ask five candidates for City Council and you'll get five different answers.

"We have a lot of space that's under-utilized," says Ricky Perez.

About seven years ago, he helped convert two basements into after-school centers. He's now a City Council candidate in District 37.

"My main focus is to make the community a part of the problem-solving process," Perez says. "I don't want to be the one to tell you what's best for your neighborhood."

Perez has an impressive list of endorsements, including two local congressmen. He has only lived in the district for a year, but he worked there for thirteen years as a police detective in the notoriously high-crime 75th Precinct.

The neighborhoods of the district, which once had nicknames like "the killing fields" and "the dead zone," have seen crime rates drop, allowing shopping areas to improve.

Those business will get the full attention of their local councilmember if candidate Michelle Romero is elected. "The small businesses need a lot of support with the upkeep," she says. "Basically, some leave sooner than we would like them to leave, and we'd like to keep them here."

Romero jokes she grew up in a family of nine kids so she knows how to work with others. She's also a legislative assistant for local Assemblyman William Boyland.

But she isn't the only politically connected candidate. Erik Dilan is the son of Councilman Martin Malave Dilan - who is being forced out by term limits - and wants to fill his father's shoes.

"This is the first one I've run for myself, but I've been involved in running several other campaigns," says the younger Dilan. "The pressure is always increased when you're the candidate."

As a manager in an office equipment company, Dilan doesn't work in politics now, but he hopes to soon.

Heriberto Mateo is also a candidate in this race. He is the director of the city's Human Rights Commission and a longtime resident of East New York.

"When you compare this district with the 42nd - the other district close to the 37th - you see that there are a lot of housing developments in the other district. There are health clinics in the other district. You don't see anything happening in my district," says Mateo.

Miguel Alonso might agree. He says there's no comparing the Wall Street area, where he works as a corporate trainer, to Bushwick, where he lives. But he says he wants to see his neighborhood get there and that his last job helped him realize his area's needs.

"As a teacher I saw firsthand what our kids and our community were faced with," Alonso says, "and this is what led me to want to go into the political arena."

It's an arena where the battle for the fall's Democratic primary is already taking shape.

- Taina Hernandez
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