A recent article posted on a Brooklyn-based online news outlet concerning City Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene’s allocation of discretionary funding was disturbingly selective – both in understating the diversity that characterizes the 40th City Council District and in failing to acknowledge the widely inclusive array of individuals and families helped by agencies such as the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush (COJO Flatbush).
Council Member Eugene’s district – which includes, among other neighborhoods, portions of Crown Heights, Midwood, Kensington, East Flatbush, and Prospect Park – is home to what the late Mayor David Dinkins liked to call the “gorgeous mosaic” of New York, a multiethnic, multiracial mix that makes our city so wonderfully unique. And while most of the residents are, as the article noted, Caribbean-American, Council Member Eugene also represents a not inconsiderable number of Jewish constituents.
Even more important, the agencies and organizations that benefit from the councilman’s discretionary funding all work hard to serve Brooklynites of every religious, racial, and ethnic background.
Speaking for COJO Flatbush, I know that whether it’s placing thousands of young people in summer jobs through the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) or graduating hundreds of students who take our Adult Computer or High School Equivalency or Adult Basic Education classes, we do so for all who come to us – and with the knowledge that public servants like Mathieu Eugene make it all possible.
We’re also proud to have worked with Council Member Eugene and other elected officials on special programs and events that primarily benefit minority communities, such as SYEP’s park and beach care and conservation component, in which the vast majority of participants are young Caribbean-Americans.
Addressing a crowd of SYEP students two years ago, the councilman – a longtime member and former chairman of the City Council’s Youth Services Committee – exulted in the makeup of the participants. “I see kids here from different ethnic and national backgrounds,” he said. “This is a cross section of New York.”
Indeed, those sentiments resonate with anyone who had the opportunity, pre-COVID, to observe a COJO Flatbush orientation event for SYEP enrollees with its signature mix of identifiably Jewish and Muslim students, others wearing crosses around their necks, still others with attention-grabbing hairstyles and tattoos; white, black, Hispanic, each representing a different type of school – public, Yeshiva, Catholic, non-sectarian private – and all sitting at the same tables sharing the same hopes and aspirations.
There is so much more that could be said about Council Member Eugene’s devotion to his constituents, his dedication to diversity, and the uncountable number of New Yorkers who have been the beneficiaries of his largesse. Certainly the article in question did a great disservice to the man and to all those whose quality of life he has done so much to improve.