Eight years ago, Debi Rose made history by becoming Staten Island's first African-American elected official. But now she's facing a spirited primary challenge as she seeks a third term. NY1 Staten Island Reporter Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Staten Island's North Shore is a hub of construction. The New York Wheel and the Empire Outlets are expected to bring a surge of visitors.
As the local city councilwoman, Democrat Debi Rose demanded that the projects create union jobs, save green space, and preserve harbor views.
But a woman hoping to unseat her points to a new parking garage as proof that Rose has fallen down on the job.
"It's a monstrous cement block that blocks views. It's not pretty," Kamillah Hanks said. "And we need somebody who's going to say listen, 'If we're going to do this, let's make sure we do it right.'"
Hanks thinks she's that leader. She's running on her record as a longtime community activist.
She said Rose simply isn't around enough. "We need someone who's present, we need someone who's there, who is answering constituent calls," Hanks said.
Rose acknowledges that her council attendance has slipped because of injuries from a fall three years ago.
But she says her health hasn't kept her from doing her job.
"My constituents, when I go out, that is not the conversation that they have with me," Rose said.
Rose made history by becoming Staten Island's first black elected official eight years ago when she won the 49th council district.
She takes credit for helping to shape the North Shore's redevelopment.
"There are a lot of projects that I've already been able to get started, but there's no outward manifestation of them," Rose said. "And so I want to bring that to a close."
Rose voted to limit council members to two terms, but she is allowed to seek a third term because that was the limit when she first took office. Hanks said that make Rose a hypocrite.
"I don't think it's hypocritical at all," Rose responded. "I believe that it's capitalizing on experience and opportunity."
Hanks's challenge makes this one of the city's rare competitive council primaries.
Democratic newcomer Phil Marius also is running. He said he was inspired after volunteering for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Stapleton resident says he wants to make sure the North Shore remains affordable for longtime residents.
The three are slated to square off Sept. 12 on Primary Day.
The winner of that race will face Republican Mike Penrose in the general election.