By Sabina Mollot
In New York City, it’s generally understood that whichever Democrat candidate is on the ballot in a general election is going to win, regardless of who the Republican or third party candidate is. And Bryan Cooper, the Republican hoping to fill the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh, knows this.
Nevertheless, he is hoping three time’s the charm. This will, after all, be the third time he’s run for the 74th District Assembly seat. Cooper, now 51, ran against Kavanagh in 2008 and again in 2014. He also ran against then-City Council Member Rosie Mendez in 2009.
While both incumbents were easily re-elected, Cooper said he’s more hopeful this time since the special election on April 24 is an open one.
He’ll be on the ballot along with Democrat Harvey Epstein who last Monday got the nomination from the Democratic County Committee. That same evening, the Manhattan Republican Party announced it was supporting Cooper.
Cooper, when not running for something, is a community activist and professionally, an event planner. He got into that business last year after leaving a job at the Board of Elections.
As for the business of politics, Cooper, who serves as vice president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, said if elected, he’d be focused on the economy, affordable housing, including within NYCHA, and homelessness.
As for how he expects to get the solidly Democratic district to support him, Cooper said he plans to ask Democrats this question about their party.
“What have they done for you lately?”
He also said he’s recently undergone some “upgrades” as a candidate, having recently graduated from the Citizens Police Academy, a 10-week-long NYPD course that gives civilians similar training to officers, and the staunchly pro-cop candidate is also a member of the local CERT (community emergency response team).
He also feels it’s “extremely” unfair that Albany Democrats blame Republicans for the dearth of affordable housing in the city.
Cooper vowed he is committed to keeping rent-stabilized apartments stabilized and said he would “sign any legislation that keeps them intact,” However, he didn’t seem to have any comments on the specific rent regulation reforms advocates have been calling for, for years, such as vacancy decontrol, ending of vacancy bonuses and changes to how MCIs (major capital improvements) can be passed onto tenants.
But, he said, “If you have fixed rents, they should stay that way. They have no right to jack your rent up whatsoever.” He added that residents should have the right to pass on their stabilized units to their children and that apartments should never be warehoused.
At the same time, Cooper said he is also concerned about abuse and fraud within regulated rent housing and said, “It has to be controlled. We have to see the books and ledgers to see how the money is going to be spent. If you keep throwing money, money, money, you’re going to get corruption.”
On NYCHA affordability – he’s a longtime resident of Lillian Wald Houses in the East Village – Cooper said longtime tenants have “earned the right to stay there as long as they want to.”
He is also against a $15 charge residents pay per air conditioning unit.
“I take care of my mom and we have two of them but they’re necessary for her,” he said. “Why are you going to be that damn greedy?”
Cooper would also like to see the embattled NYCHA boss, Shola Olatoye, who’s been under fire over lying about lead paint inspections, fired.
“She should have been gone a long time ago.”
Housing for the homeless is another priority with Cooper saying he wants to see the state, city and ideally the federal government fund more Section 8 housing, which he said landlords of luxury high rises need just as much as the would-be tenants.
“There aren’t enough millionaires” who could afford the rent on their own, said Cooper, who is also against putting homeless people in hotels and shelters. While in Section 8, the government subsidizes much of the rent with the tenant paying the rest, to get beneficiaries into all the new luxury housing being built, Cooper said there could be further incentives for building owners like absorbing some of their debts.
“Putting people in shelters is not the answer. Why are you spending millions and millions of dollars on a temporary situation?”
While also against using hotels as shelters, he is in favor of keeping shelters open and making it mandatory for homeless people to use them and stay off the streets. Cooper suggested using the money the city plans to use to replace Rikers Island with smaller jails on services for the homeless like job training and allocations to organizations that serve the homeless like Henry Street Settlement.
Cooper elaborated, “Put them in rehab. Some of them need medication. Some of them are homeless veterans. If you want help, we can help you get those services, but time to get off the street. This is a health and welfare situation. I want to do this to help you help yourself. Being on the street is not human. It’s not healthy.”
As for the economy, he’s a believer in the recent tax cuts, noting how helping companies gives them incentive to hire more people.
“You say corporations don’t deserve tax cuts but without it they can’t invest money in other interests,” said Cooper. “If you’re a small business you need that more than anything to hire extra people, to improve your infrastructure. Raising your taxes is not going to help.”
Healthcare, in particular for seniors, is another concern, with Cooper saying there ought to be more outreach on how programs like Medicare work.
“We get books every year, like an annual manual of services. They’re as big as encyclopedias,” he said. “They use very big language. Let’s break it down. The most important thing for seniors is prescriptions, how much do I have to co-pay?”
Cooper, also said that if elected, he’d “go on tour,” as he feels Kavanagh often did.
“The reason Brian was so successful is because he went on tour all the time,” he said.
By touring, however, he doesn’t mean hitting the road to other cities, Bill de Blasio-style, but being omni-present at different tenant association meetings to make sure he’s aware of concerns in the district.
Cooper, who considers his former opponent a friend, added, “It would be nice to have another Bryan.”