Dr. Mathylde Frontus said she’s not afraid of competition, even if it means grooming her eventual replacement.
Frontus, an educator and Coney Island civic activist running in the Democratic primary in the 46th Assembly District (A.D.) on Sept. 13 for the right to run as the party’s nominee in the general election in November, said she is on a mission to bring government closer to the people.
As a way to encourage citizen engagement, she plans to sponsor workshops for people interested in running for public office, even if they want to run for her Assembly seat someday.
“I’m cut from a different cloth,” Frontus told this newspaper.
Among the projects she would start if she wins election is the creation of a Southern Brooklyn Community Think Tank to promote inventive new ideas on improving the quality of life for residents.
Frontus vowed to bring participatory budgeting to the Assembly district if she becomes the next assemblymember. A popular program in New York City, participatory budgeting allows everyday citizens to vote on which capital budget projects they would like to see in their neighborhood.
Speaking of budgets, Frontus said she would also push for more transparency in the state budget process. She is floating a proposal to list the discretionary budget items of every lawmaker online.
“I don’t want to go to Albany and do business as usual,” she said.
Frontus comes from the world of academia.
She earned a Master’s degree in social work at NYU. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Prior to running, Frontus was an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, where she taught a course in advocacy. She has also taught courses in advocacy and social justice at New York University (NYU).
Eager to give the Assembly district a fresh start, Frontus has been touting her credentials as a community activist on the campaign trail.
“A lot of people wanted to leave Coney Island. But I couldn’t wait to come back after college. I made the choice to come back and work to make Coney Island a better place to live. I have worked hard and I have a record of leadership and service that the voters can look at and judge me on,” she told this newspaper.
Frontus founded Urban Neighborhood Services, a social services agency, started a project to help local military veterans, created an LGBT Outreach program, organized the group Coney Island College Bound, which offers free SAT prep for high school students and founded the Coney Island Anti-Violence Academy.
The 46th A.D. is diverse, “but there are issues facing the entire district,” Frontus said.
Housing is one.
“One universal issue is affordable housing and the lack thereof. There is a shortage of affordable apartments for regular people to find,” Frontus said.
She also questioned the criteria used by the city to determine what constitutes affordability. “What is affordable is questionable,” she said.
Frontus called for larger investments in housing vouchers to help lower income people find homes. “These programs have to be fully funded. These programs fall into bureaucracy,” she said.
She also charged that local schools are not properly funded. “Millions of dollars are sitting on the table. There is state funding that has not being distributed. We have to do better for our public schools. I will be fighting in Albany for every single cent owed to each one of our schools,” she said.
Schools are also lacking in essential, life-saving programs, according to Frontus. “The lack of mental health services in schools is appalling to me,” she said. “We have a community where children hear gunshots. You have a community hit by Hurricane Sandy. These things have an effect on children,” she said.