BY MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK & HELEN KLEIN
By the end of the week, residents in Bay Ridge and Coney Island who’ve been without an assemblyperson since the spring will have a new representative in the state Assembly.
Democrat Mathylde Frontus – an educator and Coney Island civic activist who won the seat last Tuesday, Nov. 6 – will be sworn in on Thurs., Nov. 15, and she’ll be given the keys to the existing old Assembly office in Coney Island at the same time, with the goal of opening it up immediately.
The 46th Assembly District — which runs from Coney Island to Bay Ridge — has been unrepresented since the resignation of former Assemblymember Pamela Harris, who stepped down in the wake of an 11-count indictment on a slew of corruption charges.
“They want me to open the office on Friday,” Frontus told this paper, while on her way to catch her bus to Albany for her swearing-in, referring to Harris’ former headquarters at 2823 West 12th Street. “Just in Coney Island. I’ll be there for now, but it’s a horribly placed office.”
The former Bay Ridge base near the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue, she said, will not reopen, though that’s not to say she won’t be here.
“I’ll start off sharing an office with [Councilmember Justin Brannan], and when the time is right find an office,” she said.
Frontus triumphed over Republican-Conservative candidate Steve Saperstein, securing 54.1 percent of the vote, and defeating Saperstein by 2,927 votes. In September, Frontus won a narrow victory in the Democratic primary, upsetting establishment-backed Ethan Lustig-Elgrably for the Democratic nomination by a mere 51 votes.
On Election Day, Frontus got 14,750 votes to Saperstein’s 11,823 votes. Lustig-Elgrably, who had previously won the Working Families Party line, got 1.5 percent (370) and Green Party candidate Patrick Dwyer got one percent (284).
“It sure wasn’t 51 votes this time around,” said Frontus’s campaign manager Joe Herrera with a smile on election night.
To celebrate in this end of the district, Frontus made her way to Patsy’s Pizzeria in Bay Ridge on Sun., Nov. 11, to commemorate her win with her friends, family and new colleagues in government.
“I had a watch party that turned into a victory party in Coney Island, so Sunday, as I have been doing, I made sure to celebrate in Bay Ridge,” she said, adding that the event itself was well attended. “There was a lot of enthusiasm. It’s very exciting. I’m thrilled to be part of the Bay Ridge team. It really touched me, the way Bay Ridge welcomed me with open arms.”
That team, she said, is a hard-working one.
“In Bay Ridge, I found a community of extraordinary community-minded people,” Frontus said. “Every day, there’s a meeting. I look forward to working hard for them and people all across the district.”
Come January, the assemblymember-elect will get to work alongside newly minted state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (should the race against sitting state Sen. Marty Golden be called officially for him after a machine audit at the end of the week) and U.S. Rep. Max Rose, both Democrats. Rose defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Donovan to win his seat.
That leaves a representation, in Bay Ridge, that is four-fifths blue.
“Obviously, I’m a Democrat. There are some real differences between the parties but I can work with anyone. If the incumbents had won, I would have found a way to work with them,” she said of the stat, “but, I’m obviously pleased that [Max Rose and Andrew Gounardes] won. We are more aligned. We can get things done more quickly, so it’s an added bonus and I welcome it for the sake of expediency.”
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.
She also 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.
Similarly, Frontus has served as a consultant to other organizations such as the YWCA of NYC and HeartShare Human Services to lend her expertise in youth leadership and adolescent mental health. She also spent several years on the Community Advisory Board at Coney Island Hospital and served as the secretary of the 60th Precinct Community Council.
With all that, and despite her deep Coney Island roots, electeds on the Bay Ridge end of the district are confident that Frontus will help to bridge the gap between the communities she’ll serve.
“It’s high time for the 46th Assembly District to come together as one. No more of this Bay Ridge vs. Coney Island nonsense. We’re all in this together,” Councilmember Justin Brannan told this paper. “We need to build lasting bridges in order to restore the faith and trust of the hardworking people in this district. I know Mathylde to be smart and fearless, an outspoken champion for transparency and accountability. And I know she will fight like hell for us up in Albany. I’ve got Mathylde’s back 1,000 percent.”
The district is comprised of a hodgepodge of South Brooklyn neighborhoods, encompassing Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Seagate, Brighton Beach and Bath Beach.
Additional reporting by Amanda Glodowski and John Alexander