By Sabina Mollot
In a race that so far has no set Election Day, three candidates have already announced their hopes of replacing Brian Kavanagh in the New York Assembly, 74th District.
The most recent one to make his candidacy official is former Community Board 6 chair Sandro Sherrod, a resident of Stuyvesant Town.
Sherrod, 41, works at NYU Langone Center with the title of director of collaborative infrastructure and audio-visual strategy. (As he explains it, he’s responsible for integrative technology and how it gets used.) He’s been at the East Side hospital for the past 17 years and has a record of community activism that’s almost as long. He’s been the president of the Tilden Democratic Club, where he is now a district leader. He’s been the corresponding secretary of the 13th Precinct Community Council and he’s served on the board of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. He is now a board member of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association and is still involved with CB6, which he chaired from 2012-2015. He also chaired the board’s health committee and was vice chair of the parks committee.
Sherrod (the emphasis in his last name is on the “rod”) announced his intention to run for office last Tuesday and has just begun fundraising. In an interview this week, Sherrod said this is so far going well, though he declined to discuss numbers just yet. Sherrod said decided to run based on his experience in land use and quality of life issues through CB6 and his other volunteer duties over the years.
It was actually declining quality of life in Stuy Town and the adjacent areas in the mid-aughts that led him to join CB6 and the Tilden Club in the first place.
“Met Life had a stable approach and that changed when the property changed hands,” Sherrod said, although he added he doesn’t necessarily just blame the landlord, citing other factors like the economy on the local landscape. “I think there were outside influences,” he said. “We saw a dramatic change, the loss of small businesses. We had a lot of stable restaurants and establishments that just unfortunately couldn’t survive.”
Sherrod, who said he’s a lifelong resident of the community, has lived in the same apartment — which he now shares with husband Bert Ongkeo — for the past 29 years.
As for his aspirations to serve in Albany, Sherrod shared the optimism of local Democratic elected officials that the State Senate will soon be flipped, leading the way for progressive legislation that won’t just die on that chamber’s floor. This, he said, is due to the efforts of activist and good government groups “to have a more responsive Albany,” activity that he’s been following and participating in. If elected to the Assembly, Sherrod said he considers affordable housing the most pressing issue.
“That’s still number one for us, ensuring affordable housing in the state to make sure that people can afford to be raising families in their communities,” he said. “We need to be very proactive. We need to strengthen the rent regulations.”
This includes reforming major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases.
“We need to make sure repairs aren’t being treated as actual MCIs,” said Sherrod, adding, “It happens more often than you think. Once or twice is more often than it ever should.”
Having been involved in the ST-PCV Tenants Association, Sherrod knows all about MCIs. (A meeting between TA leaders and the state housing agency a decade ago revealed that 20 percent of the MCI applications in the city came from ST/PCV alone.)
Sherrod echoed a statement made by TA President Susan Steinberg at a public meeting last November when she called out the agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, for not following its own regulations on MCIs during the approval process. “They don’t follow their own rules,” Sherrod agreed. “They pick and choose which rules to follow. It’s not a consistent outcome and that’s really not fair.”
In addition to housing issues, Sherrod said called the planning and funding of transportation and public space priorities. He gave an example on the latter issue of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, saying he would like to see the East Side esplanade treated more as “a larger, holistic plan,” rather than several sections to be built.
Another issue of importance, one also championed by Kavanagh, is making it easier for New Yorkers to vote. Along with making sure voters aren’t kicked off the registry, Sherrod said he wants to improve the voting experience by finding ways to keep talented poll workers on duty from one race to the next.
“It’s very difficult to have a consistent, good experience for voters when you have a very different experience with the staff that’s putting it together each and every time,” he said.
To help small businesses, Sherrod suggested tax breaks to incentivize rent-burdened businesses to stay open. “We’ll need to look at different ways to create tax relief structures,” he said.
For Sherrod, the interest in politics began in high school, where he was involved in a student leadership program and then in college, when he joined student government. He went to City University of New York and later New York University, where he studied political science. While he doesn’t credit any particular elected official for his delving into politics, “I’ve always had an interest in working to help people,” he said.
In the race to replace Kavanagh, Sherrod is running against East Village resident and Urban Justice Center project director Harvey Epstein and Murray Hill resident and City Council aide Mike Corbett, both Democrats. Governor Cuomo has yet to call the election following Kavanagh’s decision to run for the State Senate seat that was vacated by Daniel Squadron.