Antonio Reynoso, Celebrated Reformer, Says He’s Ready To Make Brooklyn The “Center Of The Universe”

Barring any twists ahead of the November general election, Antonio Reynoso is poised to be the next Brooklyn borough president after winning the Democratic primary this week. Should he win, which is all but assured since Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans, he will be the first Brooklyn borough president of Dominican descent.

His victory, winning 55% of the vote after ranked-choice voting, will build on the successes of a much more progressive city government, which has begun to take shape in the New York City Council. Reynoso, 38, currently represents the 34th Council District in Bushwick and Williamsburg, areas where he grew up. In the eight years since being in office, he has established himself as a left-leaning lawmaker who’s helped reform the sanitation industry while voting against the city budget for not cutting NYPD funding enough.

READ MORE: What Does A Borough President Actually Do?

Reynoso’s message—with calls for police reform, improved healthcare to low-income communities, and greater transit options—garnered support from progressive groups such as the Working Families Party New York chapter and the New Kings Democrats, which officially endorsed his run. The latter was especially won over by Reynoso’s pledge for greater inclusivity in the land use process, which borough presidents have influence over. While the powers of a borough president are limited—with control over a fraction of the city budget, and community board appointments—their biggest influence involves deciding the fate of land use applications.

“He was one of the only candidates to offer very specific ideas of what he would do in the office to reform the land use process and community boards, such that we will be able to alleviate the disproportionate impact the city’s zoning laws and budgeting practices have on communities of color in the borough,” read the group’s reasons for endorsing Reynoso.

The WFP, the same group that endorsed Maya Wiley for mayor, sees Reynoso as a lawmaker with a “clear vision for rebuilding this city to finally work for working people.”

Sochie Nnaemeka, NY WFP director, said Reynoso’s career as a champion of working class families, police reform, and tenant protections will make him a “fierce Brooklyn Borough President.”

While deciding land use matters will be central to the next borough presidency, given the Gowanus rezoning project that’s still in its early stages, the discussion around what to do with the decaying Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will likely be at the forefront. Reynoso said if it were up to him, he would “tear down the BQE, and not have it come back.” Though he would replace it with a more modernized thruway.

Reynoso, an environmentalist, has also pushed for “containerized” trash bins set on public parking spots, lobbied for a citywide composting program, and promised to make his security detail ride on bikes instead of cars.

Still, his win is something of a paradox. Come January, Reynoso will replace Eric Adams, the moderate Democrat who won the mayoral primary, and the two are nearly at opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum. Adams, for instance, ran on a message of reclaiming the streets from gun violence, while Reynoso partly ran on his record for deep NYPD reforms. And yet both were favored the most by Brooklyn voters for each respective race.

On the Brian Lehrer Show Thursday morning, Reynoso said it’s conceivable that, despite both men coming from the same borough and expressing different policy priorities, each had a message that rang with fragments of Brooklynites.

Indeed, primary night returns showed neither candidate had exactly won a large swath of first-choice votes from constituents. The figures showed Adams won Brooklyn, securing 36% of first-choice votes. Reynoso, who was one of 14 candidates vying for the nomination, secured 28% of first-choice votes, putting him in the lead. After the ranked-choice voting rally, Reynoso won 55% of Brooklyn voters over Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“I just think that Eric Adams did a very good job in his campaign at outlining a message that resonated with the most amount of people,” Reynoso told Lehrer. “For him, it was about bringing about safety and doing that in a way that is comprehensive and doesn’t infringe on the rights of Black and brown people. And that worked as well. I just thought it was it was two messages that both resonated, that ended up getting us a victory. It’s a lot more complicated than that for sure.”

Reynoso’s approach to the borough presidency won’t all be working toward greater progressive policies. Borrowing a page from the playbook of Marty Markowitz, the gregarious Brooklyn borough president before Adams, Reynoso looks to make Brooklyn “the center of the universe.” He also appeared to take a jab at Adams, recalling a lack of enthusiasm for the borough on Adams’ tenure. (Last month, reporting suggested Adams may live part-time in New Jersey.)

“There’s so many beautiful things and great things about Brooklyn that I really don’t think was shone in a positive way. I’m talking about cultural things and things that really excite us. And I want to go back to cheerleading,” Reynoso said.

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