Bushwick City Council Candidate Accuses Corey Johnson of Political Retribution

Natalie Colarossi


Bushwick city council candidate Sandy Nurse has accused Council Speaker Corey Johnson of “political retribution” by slashing funds for districts who voted against his 2021 budget. 

Nurse, an organizer for efforts to defund the NYPD, said that Johnson’s budget proposal failed to meet the demands of cutting $1 billion in funding to the police department, prompting a number of city council members to turn it down. 

“The demand was that $1 billion be fully removed from the NYPD budget and reinvested into community groups into public services that save lives and keep our community safe,” she said in a statement on social media.

“Many councilmembers stood alongside this movement in voting against the budget that did not have cuts to the NYPD.”

Because of this, Nurse and a number of active council members have accused Johnson of cutting discretionary funding to their districts in an act of retaliation. 

“Now, to get back at the council members who did the right thing and voted against it, Johnson and his allies are punishing districts that are overwhelmingly communities of color, with very little disposable household cash, with high rates of homelessness, and with undocumented familes completely cut off from state assistance,” Nurse told the Bushwick Daily. 

According to a budget analysis by the New York Daily News, council members who voted “no” on Johnson’s budget received an average of “seven times less discretionary and capital funding.”

On her social media, Nurse shared a chart from the Daily News detailing how much of the budgetary spending was allocated to districts who voted in line with Johnson, with one district up as much as 145% in budget increases. 

View this post on Instagram

As an organizer who coordinated #defundthenypd actions to turn up the pressure to defund the NYPD, I am outraged by the political retribution being done to our community by @speakercoreyjohnson . District 37 is being slammed by a lack of political representation, thanks to @nygovcuomo canceling the special election, a huge cut to funding that goes towards supporting community groups, and no district staff for constituent services. The entire point of the framework that became the #DefundThePolice is to make funds available for deeper, more adequate investments in community services and programs that create safety in our community. In this year of unprecedented economic recession where all public agencies are getting severe cuts, the demand was that the NYPD also receive cuts. The demand was that $1 billion be fully removed from the NYPD budget and reinvested into community groups into public services that save lives and keep our community safe. Many councilmembers stood alongside this movement in voting against the budget that did not have cuts to the NYPD. Our demand was not met. The NYPD got a budget increase. A real ally to Black and People of Color movements and communities would have empathized with the disappointment and anger for the failure to make any cuts to the overbloated and opaque NYPD budget. A real ally would reach out and work to rebuild the relationship and strategize ways to make that a possibility next time. Instead, we have acts of punishment and retribution against a district with very little disposable household cash, with some of the highest rates of youth homelessness, with many women and children seeking shelter from domestic violence, with undocumented families completely cut off from any assistance or relief. The 160,000 people in our community do not deserve this. Yet, our community will continue to suffer with little to no support from the city because of the privileged power games the Speaker, the Governor, and the Mayor have played throughout this year.

A post shared by Sandy for Council (@sandyforcouncil21) on

On the other end, those who voted “no” experienced losses well into 90%, with district 38 in Brooklyn receiving no funding at all. District 34, which represents parts of Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Ridgewood, received only $350,000 from Johnson, down 93% from last year. 

However, Johnson’s team provided a statement to the Bushwick Daily claiming that this analysis is incorrect. 

“Their analysis is wrong. No council district received less than $1.6 million in expense funding or less than $5 million in capital funding. It also only looks at a fraction of the funding that every district received. For example, it doesn’t include initiative and programmatic funding, which brings millions of dollars to districts, and inexplicably excludes group projects on capital funding despite the fact that that’s how we encourage members requests,” the statement said. 

But Nurse wasn’t the only public figure to speak out about the budget cuts. 

“There’s no way to come away from that and not feel that it’s punitive and absolutely related to my vote against the budget, because the NYPD piece was a sham,” Jimmy Van Bramer, city council member from Queens told the Daily News. 

According to the Daily News, this year Johnson allocated over $11 million less to Van Bramer, including a $150,000 budget cut for a nonprofit arts education program that serves many students in public housing. 

“That cut doesn’t hurt me,” said Van Bramer. “It hurts the children of color who had the ability to paint and express themselves. It’s unconscionable.”

In addition to her statement about slashed funding, Nurse said that District 37 is being “slammed by a lack of political representation” due to the canceling of the special election by Governor Cuomo. 

As previously reported by the Bushwick Daily, Nurse was taken off the ballot after Cuomo cancelled the election and announced that only one Democratic party official would be allowed to run. 

“By canceling the special election yesterday, the Governor is saying that a high needs African-American and Latino community should lack representation for nearly a full year. This is by far the most blatant anti-democratic power grab,” she previously told the Bushwick Daily.

Taken together, Nurse believes these actions by state and local government culminate in harmful acts against the Bushwick community. 

“The hundreds of thousands of people in these communities do not deserve this,” Nurse told the Bushwick Daily. 

“Yet, they will continue to suffer because of the privileged power games the Speaker, the Governor, and the Mayor have all played throughout this year. Myself and many other progressive candidates intend to end this type of punishment politics.” 

Johnson’s team has maintained that all allegations of political retribution are false.

 “Any allegation that the Speaker made decisions based on anything other than the city’s unprecedented financial hardships is patently false. It’s unfortunate that people who were part of the decision-making process underestimate the economic reality we’re facing and are now complaining,” Jennifer Fermino, Communications Director for Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement given to the Bushwick Daily. 

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