Today’s news:

Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez and Challenger Carlos Menchaca Battle for Red Hook Houses

Council candidates spar over Sandy recovery effort in Housing Authority Buildings

Brooklyn Daily

The storm-slammed Red Hook Houses could become the key battleground of Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez’s re-election campaign.

Gonzalez (D–Sunset Park) primary challenger Carlos Menchaca accuses the 10-year incumbent of being missing in action in the months following Sandy’s assault on Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex — a charge Gonzalez denies, and she says she has the photos to disprove it.

Menchaca hopes to pull the district that includes Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, Red Hook, and parts of Bay Ridge, Park Slope, and Borough Park from under Gonzalez by campaigning on his relief work in the massive housing projects that stretch from Clifton to Richards streets, where last fall over 6,000 residents were left without heat, hot water, and elevator service — and, according to Menchaca, without the aid of their councilmember.

“After Sandy, people kept asking, ‘where’s government, where’s our leaders?’” claimed Menchaca, a former aide to Borough President Markowitz and City Council employee. “That council office had a lot of potential to help people, and my opponent just wasn’t there.”

Menchaca — who grew up in public housing in El Paso, Tex., and moved with his partner to Red Hook from Park Slope last month — said he helped spearhead the recovery effort by working to identify what kind of assistance storm victims needed and coordinating teams of relief workers to provide it.

“The work that the volunteers brought in really were the heart and soul of that response,” said Menchaca. “The greatest need came from the New York City Housing Authority population, and it’s a part of the community that feels they’ve been a historic blind spot.”

But Gonzalez contends that she was on the ground with residents in Red Hook both before and after the storm — and provided this paper with several of pictures to back up her claims. Gonzalez provided images she said were from an event in Red Hook from early 2012 where she and representatives from the Office of Emergency Management warned about the dangers of a potential flood, along with photos of her talking to Red Hook residents with a Department of Sanitation Chief, assisting National Guardsmen with emergency supplies, and giving a freezing public housing tenant a space heater and blankets. The Councilwoman even said that when she and her staff ran out of gas during the post-storm fuel shortage, they caught rides with the police to reach the shattered neighborhood.

“We were there from beginning to end, my whole team,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also touted her work as Chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee, her role as a budget negotiator for Brooklyn, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in capital funding she has brought to the district as reasons voters will re-elect her this fall, thus making her the most senior member of the City Council.

“I have done an incredible job, and I have touched a lot of lives, and people are going to vote for me,” Gonzalez said.

But Lillie Marshall, president of the tenants association in one wing of the Red Hook public housing complex, said she was more familiar with Menchaca’s post-Sandy work than Gonzalez’s.

“Carlos, I was always aware of what he was doing. Sara, I didn’t see her more than a couple times. She may have been here more, but I didn’t see her,” Marshall said.

And longtime Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said the projects could prove an Achilles’ Heel for Gonzalez in the district she grew up in — especially since the primary will coincide with the Democratic nomination for the next hizzoner.

“If Carlos Menchaca can excite the residents of the New York City housing developments against Sara Gonzalez, then she has a problem, because they will be turning out to vote for mayor,” said Sheinkopf.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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Reader Feedback

Monica Byrne from Red Hook says:
Sadly, most of government was missing after the first 2 weeks post Sandy.

Carlos came as a liaison, but instead rolled up his sleeves and got to work with us, he was at every meeting, and worked all day everyday coordinating volunteers, and helping the community access resources.

Carlos has been deeply instrumental in helping to organize the entire community from NYCHA to founding The Red Hook Coalition.

Individuals and businesses in this community are still deeply suffering, and we absolutely have not gotten the support we needed from our elected officials. (Still!!!)

Most of the support we've received has come from within, the community organized itself, pooled its resources, and raised money to help one another. We did that, and Carlos was part of it. The rest of government and city officials were not.

It's sad, but it is what's true.
March 28, 2013, 10:01 am
Anon from Brooklyn says:
So he's asking where was government when the government sent him there as a paid employee??? Hmmmm
March 28, 2013, 10:35 am
Hector from Sunset Park says:
Sara is nervous. So nervous that she constantly speaks with Councilman David Greenfield to tap into his funding sources and political contacts. Sara instead of begging David for help, you should roll up your sleeves and help the residents of your district. David is using Sara for his own plans but is ending up creating more enemies in the Latino community. We don't meddle in Borough Park politics so don't interfere with the Latino community. When Carlos wins this race he will not forget who helped him and who worked against the interests of the Latino community!
March 28, 2013, 12:35 pm
Jose from South Slope says:
Wait - he strted working in one part of the district zone a few months ago, has only lived there for A MONTH and wants to be a representative??? Lolol
Talk about personal political ambition. Maybe next he'll go on vacation in miami and run for governor of florida
March 28, 2013, 1:42 pm
Susana T. from Sunset Park says:
i always vote for sara, she's always helped my community and our schools when we needed her!!!! if david greenfield is helping my proud latina councilmember, i'm all for it!!!
March 28, 2013, 2:19 pm
Gabby from Sunset Park says:
Carlos is a hard working member of our community unlike Sara! She is asking David Greenfield for help? The man who is like Vito Lopez? Greenfield abused his former female chief of staff and she went packing to a different state! He threatened her and abused her so much that she got scared off. This is who Sara works with? This is who she turns for money? Domestic violence is a big issue in our city and in our community and I promise that Latinas in our community will know that Sara is relying on the help of one of the worst abusers in the City Council.
March 29, 2013, 8:20 am
Tom from Sunset Park says:
Hurricane Sandy surged onto Red Hook last October. When the sea retreated it left behind flotsam and jetsam and apparently one Carlos Manchaca.
March 31, 2013, 9:24 pm
ELI G. from Sunset park says:
This is the problem with politics, Nydia is using this johnny come latley to get back at sara lol for aparently endorsing her opponent, which has not been proven. this is washington politics as usual.
Carlos who aparently has worked for the city for serveral years yet has only started "helping" district 38 in time for an election run. He never lived in the district and cant make the same claim as Sara of being born and raised in the district and working for years as activist in the community, years before carlos was even born.
what needs to be done is after Sara shows Carlos his place she needs to put a bullseye on Nydia, lets get the dead weight out of congress. Sara M. Gonzalez for Congress !!!!!
April 5, 2013, 10:23 am
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
There's a handful of people who support Menchaca because of his work in Red Hook during Sandy. It's not enough to get elected. And as quickly as Red Hook came together over Sandy, it's "back to normal" with Quadrozzi's failed CDF proposal.

If Menchaca wins it will be more of an anti-Gonzalez sentiment that carries the race, not a pro-Menchaca. The kid's still very inexperienced and unknown. Sandy is his only street cred. He's going to be eaten alive in a veteran City Council. At least Sara has some seniority and can bring home more project money for her district than he can.
May 11, 2013, 12:32 pm

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