I’m going to use all forms of leverage to get things out of government. That means working inside the system with the bureaucrats and the politicians, to make sure that we get what we were promised.
While staffers are busily working away inside of barroom-turned-campaign headquarters Smolenski Democratic Club on Java Street and Manhattan Avenue, 33rd district city council candidate Evan Thies steps out into the back yard for a few minutes, to get a breathe of fresh air between phone calls. He sits down in a metal chair, folds his hands over a crossed knee and sighs.
“I have to say this is one of the smartest groups of voters I’ve ever come across. You have people in this district who are more up on local neighborhood issues than there are elected officials,” Thies said with a smile. “Good thing I’m not just a candidate, I’m a constituent!”
A Williamsburg resident who has based his campaign in northern Greenpoint, it doesn’t get much more local than Evan Thies. His experience as chair of the environment and sanitation committee on Community Board 1 for two years, in addition to his position on the boards of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee, the Newtown Creek Alliance and the Williamsburg Watchdog Project, qualifies him as something of an expert on North Brooklyn community issues, and on September 15, he hopes to win the democratic nomination for city council.
“My wife and I are going to raise children in this neighborhood, and I want to know that my councilperson will ensure the housing we were promised, the parks and open space we were promised and the infrastructure we were promised,” Thies said. “And, I’m an impatient guy. I thought that the only way to get things done is to do it myself, and that’s one of the major reasons I’m running for council: Because I think that I’m the only candidate in this race who has the necessary experience to get real results for this community.”
Aside from living in the district, which he has since 2002, Thies worked as chief of staff to current city councilmember David Yassky for five years, crafting legislation, advocating for open space, parks and affordable housing, and learning the ins and outs of city government. While he accredits Yassky with providing him with invaluable insight into the inner workings of local politics, Thies recognizes Yassky’s shortcomings as councilman, and is determined to blaze his own trail in the city council, beginning with reforming the very body itself.
“Most freshman councilmembers spend a lot of time meeting people and learning how the government process works,” Thies said. “But I’ve been there, I already understand how it works and I’m going to get the most out of it, right away, and that’s a huge advantage for a community like this one, that requires so much attention from the city.”
Thies also emphasized his commitment to reforming the council, and making sure that government is effective and efficient. He also vows to force the Mayor to keep his promise in regards to the 2005 Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning and implement the parks and affordable housing North Brooklyn deserves by building strong partnerships, both inside and outside of government.
“We have to change the process now, and that’s the biggest challenge for the local neighborhood. In the city, we have to take on that culture of patronage and backroom politics that dominates local government,” Thies said. “To that end, I want to curb the influence of special interests and powerful party politicians who control so much of what goes on in the city through a series of reforms, including changes to campaign finance law, and change the culture in the city council.”
Among Thies’ priorities, in addition to government reform, is enforcing responsible development on the waterfront, and throughout the district. If elected, Thies vows to institute his 360-degree planning strategy to secure city funding for community-based planning, and make sure the neighborhoods in the 33rd district get what they deserve: parks, open space and affordable housing for all.
“This community, when focused, has already proven to be extremely effective, whether in getting rid of a power plant, an incinerator or a waste transfer station,” Thies said. “The next step is to squeeze the city until it squeals on parks and housing, than that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Thies also plans to have two district offices: One in the north, and one in the south, and dedicate an equal number of resources to both potions of the district.
“Having that presence is so important,” Thies said. “Having two offices sends a clear message to the Mayor’s office: this community is not going to be neglected by me, and I’m going to notice if you aren’t paying attention to it.”