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Candidates clash at Dyker debate

A ho-hum election forum turned electric in its final seconds as Republican Lucretia Regina-Potter, one of the two candidates for the vacant Assembly seat in the 46th District representing portions of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Brighton Beach and Coney Island used her closing remarks to impugn her opponent, Democrat Pamela Harris, suggesting that Harris took some of the funding provided to Coney Island Generation Gap (CIGG), a non-profit founded and run by Harris out of her home, as salary.

“I don’t have to hide behind a not-for-profit that perhaps collects, charges rent and pays it to myself, as some people do,” asserted Regina-Potter, who made allusions during the evening to her own participation in an unspecified volunteer group. “I’m sorry. It’s a disgrace. If someone is running a non-profit out of their home, they shouldn’t be collecting rent nor should they be collecting a salary. This is not what we need. The same core of corruption over and over and over again.”

“I didn’t collect a salary,” Harris said immediately after Regina-Potter ended her closing remarks, but by then the Dyker Heights Civic Association forum held in St. Phillip’s Church Hall had come to an end. Harris also subsequently asserted, during a give-and-take with reporters following the forum, that, “You have to be in compliance in order to stay a not-for-profit. I am in compliance and always have been and always will be.”

The controversy stirred up by Regina-Potter followed just under an hour of discussion on various topics that unearthed much disagreement between the candidates and occasional concurrence.

Both oppose illegal conversions and believe that minors should not go to jail or get criminal records for non-violent first offenses. But, while Harris said in no uncertain terms that she is against co-locating charter schools inside public schools, contending that it pits school communities against each other, Regina-Potter expressed strong support for charter schools as well as education tax credits for those parents who choose to send their children to private or parochial schools.

Harris — a retired corrections officer who has worked with youth in Coney Island for the past decade, rechanneling their energy into the creation of videos that is at the heart of CIGG – emphasized her grass-roots background.

“I’m not a career politician,” she told the crowd, stressing her years in public service. “The nitty gritty of what it takes to be the assemblywoman is grass roots.”

While much of her experience has been in the southernmost part of the district, Harris emphasized that she also has Bay Ridge roots, with her dad hailing from the nabe, and she repeatedly emphasized that, while diverse in many ways, the communities that make up the 46th A.D. share many similarities. “We need to see the commonalities,” Harris told her listeners. “Dyker Park doesn’t have wi-fi, nor does Kaiser Park, but Prospect Park and Central Park do.”

In addition, while, she said, both District 20 and 21 are strong academically, both are also extremely overcrowded, in part because of illegal conversions, which impact many other aspects of quality of life in neighborhoods across the district, making them even more impactful on residents.

An issue that concerned Harris is the ongoing construction at Dyker Intermediate School. Holding up a photo that showed a construction worker there in protective gear, she noted, “They’ve been doing construction at this particular school, but guess who’s not wearing a mask. The kids. The teachers. Have they told the parents what’s going on at this school? No. And that’s the School Construction Authority.”

Regina-Potter, who identified herself as a small businessperson and spoke strongly about getting government out of the hair of small businesspeople, strove to depict area residents as being perennially dissatisfied, and herself as being the cure for their malaise. “The people want change, and they want someone who respects them, who is down and dirty in the neighborhood and has seen what’s going on,” she said. “I would like to be the assemblywoman for everyone. We have to work together to bring positive changes to the community.”

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Helen Klein
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Helen Klein

This is not Regina-Potter’s first try for elective office. She unsuccessfully ran in two primaries to challenge the last occupant of the seat, former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, who resigned in July to take a job in the private sector, and also unsuccessfully challenged another sitting Assemblymember, Peter Abbate, on more than one occasion.

The Dyker Civic forum was the second time the two opponents had come face-to-face. The previous Wednesday, the pair introduced themselves to members of the Bay Ridge Council on Aging during a meeting at the headquarters of the Guild for Exceptional Children. At that event, as well, Regina-Potter mentioned her involvement in a not-for-profit group which, after being asked, she did not identify.

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