By Larisa Karr
In Council District 46, Gardy Brazela helps deliver 950 boxes of food each week through the Beraca Baptist Church’s food pantry predominantly to Canarsie’s Haitian community. He also refers the community to get vaccinated at the local Brookdale Hospital from Tuesday through Thursday each week alongside District Council Member Alan Maisel.
Brazela said Maisel has been instrumental in reaching out and helping the Haitian community in their district. Unlike other council members in neighboring districts who give their discretionary funding to outside organizations, he said that Maisel genuinely strives to keep this funding inside his district.
“I’ve known Alan for 30 years and he’s been one of the most effective council members in south Brooklyn,” said Brazela, who is running for term-limited Maisel’s council seat this year. “The notion that he doesn’t give Haitian organizations funding is false.”
Maisel served as a state assembly member from 2006 to 2013, representing the 59th District covering Canarsie and the other neighborhoods in the 46th Council District. In 2014, he was elected to his current position.
For Fiscal Year 2021, he has focused more than half of his discretionary spending inside his district and community members like Brazela view him as an asset to the Haitian community. In Maisel’s district, there are no Haitian nonprofit organizations with a 501c3 status that are eligible to receive discretionary funding and there is only one Caribbean nonprofit organization in the district, the Guyana Cultural Association. In previous years, he also gave to the West Indian American Day Carnival Association in District 35.
He said he receives many requests from other organizations outside his district, but cannot recall whether other Haitian nonprofits in neighboring districts reached out for funding.
“If I’m familiar with the organization and the work they’re doing, that’s why they’re receiving money,” said Maisel. “If an organization in the Bronx wants funding, I’m not going to pay attention to that.”
According to The New York City Council Expense Funding database, Maisel had an allocated budget of $1,450,000 for Fiscal Year 2021. Out of this budget, he gave a total of $772,000 to organizations in his district and $678,000 outside of his district. He gave $118,500 to the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty outside his district, which supplies the food boxes to Beraca Baptist Church.
While he gave $351,000 to Jewish organizations in total, several of them were located in his district, including the Hebrew Educational Society and the Flatbush Park Jewish Center. He said these organizations are Jewish in name only and because of Canarsie’s demographics, 90-95 percent of the community they service are neither white nor Jewish.
Data from Statistical Atlas shows that there are approximately 1,743 Jewish residents living in District 46, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island, and Sheepshead Bay. Overall, the total population of Haitians in the district is approximately 22,159, while there were 132,846 Caribbean residents in total.
“I have to have a connection with organizations in some way and I have to know who they are and what they do,” said Maisel. “Many of these organizations like the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie are leftover from 30 years ago, but they are still providing services to seniors.”
Both Brazela and Maisel have stressed the role the Met Council has played in helping the Haitian and Caribbean communities in the district by providing food boxes. Maisel also said that the Hebrew Educational Society has been a valuable resource in Canarsie for the Haitian community by providing educational resources and health services for immigrants.
Brazela said Maisel is willing to help Haitian organizations receive nonprofit status, but so far has not been approached by them. He said that unlike neighboring districts with several Haitian nonprofits, they are not actively seeking funding.
“Alan is willing to help organizations fill out the paperwork to become a 501c3, but if they don’t go to elected officials and ask for help, they’re not going to know you exist,” said Brazela. “You cannot compare East Flatbush to Canarsie because it’s different.”
Other candidates to replace Maisel have not been impressed by his leadership, saying he could have done better both in terms of funding allocations and community outreach.
“He went MIA during most of the disasters that we faced, including Sandy and COVID,” said Mercedes Narcisse, who is running against Brazela for Maisel’s seat. “You need to know what people’s needs are and if you’re not deep in the community, you’re not going to be able to help people.”
Narcisse said he could have given more funding to organizations that specifically addressed housing foreclosures, education, and health care.
Maisel said that the organizations he does fund have been the result of him cultivating relationships with district residents and he hopes that local organizations will continue to be supported.
“I’ve been involved in the district for 30-plus years, so I know these organizations and the people involved with them,” said Maisel. “The most important thing in the future is to keep these organizations alive because some of them are very, very small.”
Editor’s Note: The calculation of the funds disbursed does not include dollars given to city agencies like the Department of Education and quasi-government entities such as the public universities and local community boards. Such entities are evenly funded amongst council members throughout the city.