Farah Louis, who won a seat on the New York City Council in May – quickly has to turn around and run for reelection in Brooklyn’s heavily Jewish 45th District. She recently visited The Jewish Press and met with the editorial team to state her case.
Louis, who is pleasant and intelligent, started her career as a community organizer after initially pursuing a career in journalism, where she got her first taste for activism.
“I used the platform of being a reporter for being a voice for the people,” she said. “As a journalist, I found myself behind the pen, behind the camera, telling people you need to fight for what you need. My first story was covering a school bus driver strike in which the drivers were unhappy with a particular contract. These people felt hopeless, they didn’t feel like they had any help in their fight. I was like, ‘Guys you have resources, there’s a council member there.’
“I was asking the elected officials, ‘What are you guys doing to help these workers? These bus drivers are about to lose their livelihoods, they need help.’”
She worked as the deputy chief of staff for Jumaane Williams – whose open seat she won after Williams became the public advocate.
Louis is a longtime Brooklyn native, who considers herself the “real” Flatbush Girl, having grown up in the area and graduated from Midwood High School. She went on to earn a Bachelors from Long Island University and then a Masters in Public Administration from New York University.
“I live in Flatbush, my church is on Flatbush, my favorite restaurant is on Flatbush. I shop on Flatbush. This is my neighborhood,” said Louis, noting how the 45th Council District, which includes East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Midwood, has always been her home turf.
As such, Louis believes the top issue facing the district is housing and affordability.
“There is a mass exodus of folks exiting the district because of lack of housing, a lack of opportunities for individuals to get affordable housing and those who can afford to own are losing their property to the increase in property taxes,” said Louis.
However, Louis believes the best way to curb this issue is community outreach and education. Currently, there are close to 5,000 vacant housing units, with a 1.6% rate of homeowner vacancy and a 4.4% rate of rental vacancy, according to NYC Department of City Planning.
“I feel like education is the most important component to addressing the housing issue in my district. I can’t speak for anyone else. And then also giving people access to resources they need in order to apply for affordable housing. We need to get people activated and to understand what it means to get access to housing,” said Louis.