In New York City, tomorrow is Primary Day, when the crowded field of candidates vying for Mayor, City Council, and the five borough presidencies (among other offices) gets tighter as voters select those who will make it to the general ballot. For registered Democrats in the Big apple, there’s something new this year, too: ranked-choice voting. Instead of choosing a single candidate, constituents can vote for all of them in order of preference. In theory, this gives new candidates (especially those seeking elective office for the first time), a better chance against established “machine” politicians with access to greater resources and funds. Among the newcomers to NYC’s political arena is a young progressive Democrat seeking to fill one of five City Council seats being vacated (due to term limits) by LGBTQ politicians.
Meet Wilfredo Florentino, a young, energetic out, proud husband and father running for Brooklyn’s District 42, which takes in East New York, Starrett City, Brownsville, New Lots, Remsen Village, and Spring Creek. Although he’s running in a tough race that includes Charles and Inez Barron (she’s term-limited, and Charles is again running for her seat), a powerful Democratic couple who have alternated the district’s Council seat with its New York State Assembly seat for many years, Wil thinks the voters are ready for change. “ I’m running to not only continue to serve,” the Army veteran tells the Brooklyn Paper, “but [to] create space for community co-governance and self-determination.” Along the way, Wil has picked up endorsements from the Stonewall Democrats, the UAW, and even getting a perfect score from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ PAC.
Raising two adopted daughters with his husband, Kareem, Wil advocates sweeping school improvements for the day when his girls take their places as pupils alongside all the other children of his district: “I support ‘community schools’ that focus in the basics, academics, health services and community engagement,” Wil notes. He is a strong proponent of a more robust, inclusive classroom curriculum, emphasizing Black, Latino, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ education, and putting an end to the notorious school-to-prison pipeline caused by bias and excessive student discipline.
Wil firmly embraces the concept of housing as a “human right:”, a formidable position to take in a city known for its ruthless, often predatory landlords. That includes support for programs such as mandatory inclusionary housing, meant to insure that people aren’t foreclosed from apartments by skyrocketing rent prices. The central themes of Wil’s campaign are “equity, justice, and transparency”, and these words center on Wil’s pledge to give his constituents agency — a real say in what happens in their lives and interactions with city government. The NYPD’s 75th Precinct, which covers the district, is the source of the most excessive-force complaints in the city. To address these excesses, Wil supports an elected civilian review board whose members, independent from the police department, could cause meaningful change by being a body “with teeth,” as a current CCRB member, speaking anonymously, suggested recently.
As voters go to the polls or mail in their ballots, they have the opportunity to elect a new kind of Council member, one who is deeply invested in looking forward as new opportunities arise with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, to do things differently. Wil Florentino hopes to be the harbinger of that transition, in the borough where he has spent his entire life.