by Christopher Edwards
The Councilmember-elect describes himself as an “authentic East New Yorker” fit to tackle the neighborhood’s challenges. More than a decade after his first political campaign, East New York Democrat Chris Banks was finally elected to City Council last month.
Banks, who will represent the 42nd district in City Council beginning Jan. 1, beat incumbent Democrat Charles Barron, who’s held the position on and off for 14 years. The 42nd district covers East New York, New Lots, Remsen Village and Starrett City.
Since 2012, he ran five times for Assembly and district leader seats against the husband-and-wife team Charles and Inez Barron.
“I think the district was just tired,” Banks said. “I think they were tired of the ineffectiveness of the Barrons, the inability to work with colleagues, whether that was on the state level, in the assembly or in the City Council.”
Before his election, Banks worked in community advocacy in several positions. He served on Community Board 5, was the president of the New York Police Department’s 75th Precinct Community Council and is a founding member of the East New York Coalition, a group that advocated against creating additional shelters in East New York.
In his first time running for office in 2012, Banks came close to victory, receiving 40% of the vote and raising around $45,000. Though it would be years before he finally won, he said he knew it was only a matter of time before he was successful.
“I knew that the days of the Barron machine were over. We just had to stay the course and continue to beat the streets on issues that were important to residents,” Banks said.
In June’s Democratic primary, Banks received 50% of the vote, while Barron received 43%. Banks officially took the seat in the November election with 98% of the vote.
Banks ran on issues including affordable housing, public safety, and small business. East New York is one of the city’s most rapidly expanding neighborhoods, with thousands of new housing units and retail spaces being built in recent decades.
“There’s a lot of land that’s still in East New York” said Banks. “Folks are looking to develop in the community, but we want to make sure that any development that comes in is sensible development.”
Banks also said he is concerned about Mayor Adams budget cuts, which he said he’ll address once he’s in office. Last month, Adams announced steep budget cuts affecting. police, libraries, and schools.
“You can’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” Banks said. “We’re going to fight. for our fair share.”
Banks will begin his two-year term on Jan. 1, 2024.