One sunny Saturday afternoon, Lincoln Restler takes a stroll through Greenpoint. Carefully licking the edges of a rapidly melting ice cream cone, Restler pauses, and takes a seat on a bench on the border of a small playground, across the street from the 65 Commercial Street site.
“Look at this,” Restler says, gesturing towards the gigantic empty site, which is currently owned by the MTA. The lot was supposed to have been turned over to the city prior to the 2005 Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront rezoning, and eventually converted into a waterfront park. “We’re sitting across from 65 Commercial Street, where there has been absolutely no movement,” he says. “I look from Fort Green to Greenpoint, and there’s a common feeling that our neighborhood priorities, and the issues that affect our lives are not being addressed.”
Now Restler, one of the founding members of the progressive, grassroots political organization New Kings Democrats, a member of Community Board 2 and an avid neighborhood activist, is taking it upon himself to influence and affect change in Greenpoint/Williamsburg and beyond—he is running for state committeeman of the 50th Assembly District.
“I’m running for an obscure post, for something that most people have never heard of,” Restler says with a smile. “As the local Brooklyn Democratic Party representative, I would want to see greater engagement in community and political affairs in order to see the promises of the 2005 waterfront rezoning here in Greenpoint/Williamsburg realized, and to finally get the open space we so desperately need. We need to make sure elected officials, both city and state, are responsive to our needs and our priorities.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, 26-year-old Restler currently serves as a Program Officer at the New York City Office for Financial Empowerment, working with local middle- and low-income families on banking issues. Restler is also a member of the Pratt Area Community Council, the Fort Greene Association, Brooklyn for Peace and one of the founding members of the Brooklyn Vanguard. Restler explains that being elected as the next district leader would allow him to take his activism and advocacy one step further. More importantly though, Restler is primarily concerned with the concept of reform, and is willing to do whatever it takes to propel that reform forward, and into the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
“For decades no one has been willing to stand up and challenge the Brooklyn Democratic Party. Whether it’s the father or the son, we need independence and we need change,” Restler says. “There are just two counties in the United States that have more registered democrats than Brooklyn. We deserve a strong, reform-oriented democratic party to move delegations in city and state politics, and I will fight tooth and nail to make that happen. All we know in Brooklyn and across New York City is machine politics, and I believe that the Brooklyn Democratic Party could and should be a think tank for new ideas, innovating and addressing the needs of our community.”
If elected, Restler pledges to play a proactive role, engaging all constituents in relevant conversations about neighborhood issues; regularly host topic-driven forums; lead voter-registration drives and most importantly, hold elected officials accountable for their actions and put pressure on them to fulfill their responsibilities. Restler also stresses the importance of a district leader as having a significant influence over the appointment of judges in the borough of Brooklyn—something that is often overlooked in discussions about the position, and politics in general.
“We really need engaged, active political representation to ensure that all of government is addressing our issues, and that’s not happening right now,” he says. “Should I have the privilege of being elected I will fight for Brooklyn.”