Brewer Combines State of the Borough with Activist Fair, Panel

MANHATTAN — The mid-30s temperature and driving rain did not keep Manhattanites from showing up for Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer’s third State of the Borough, held at the Manhattan Center on Sunday, Feb. 12. The entire day was focused on the theme of activism.

Gale Brewer gave her State of the Borough address to a packed crowd at the Manhattan Center. (Jack McLoone)

Prior to Brewer’s speech, there was an “Activist Fair” featuring 15 local activism groups. Following her remarks, there was also a panel focused on the theme of activism in the current political climate.

Brewer used her Address to touch on many different topics, including local legislation that she is hoping to push through in the coming year, but a good portion of her time was spent discussing activism. The crowd, which was estimated to be well over 800 people, was in line with the Democrats position, often responding verbally to different remarks made about President Trump and his appointees.

“It’s a moment that can’t help but be different because of President Trump, who’s actions and appointments challenge not just policies we support and depend on, but even the basic ideas of America that we thought we sacrosanct,” said Brewer. She continued on to say that President Trump’s actions and policies have given everyone who cares about New York at least one thing to be worried about.

While going through the various hit points of her Address, Brewer once again turned the light to the rise of activism when discussing community boards, stating that there has been a surge of greater than 35 percent of new applicants to these boards since the election.

The groups present at the Activism Fair were diverse, but all focused on the theme of grassroots and local activism.

One such group was the New York Progressive Action Network, a collection of Bernie Sanders supporters that have rebranded and now try to help people spread their messages.

“It’s historically a very good time [for activism],” said Ting Barrow, a Steering Committee Member for NYPAN. “You know, there’s a tremendous need for it, a tremendous grassroots uprising of a lot of people who want to do something.”

NYPAN was one of the 15 activism groups in attendance before the Address. (Jack McLoone)

There were more national groups in attendance as well, such as Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America. According to Local Group Lead Janina Bandi, the New York City chapter of Moms Demand Action has over 5000 members.

“We’ve had a lot more signups without having a major shooting happen,” said Bandi. “Usually the big shooting happens and then we have an influx of members. Right now, every time he [President Trump] says something, we get [more signups].”

Brewer’s ties to activism were apparent throughout the event. One of the speakers to introduce her was Tish James, the current New York City Public Adovcate, who described Brewer as a “21st century Eleanor Roosevelt.”

“She really appreciates what’s going on on the ground and she understands the importance,” said Bandi.

Other groups in attendance included Fight for 15, Planned Parenthood NY, NYCLU and Food Bank for New York City. A full list of the groups at the fair are available here.

Following the Address, Brewer moderated a panel featuring Jennifer Jones Austen from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Angela Fernandez from the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Janella Hinds from the United Federation of Teachers, Andrew Rasief, the founder of the Civic Hall & Personal Democracy Forum and Gene Stone, author of The Trump Survival Guide. The panel was focused on what individuals could do to empower their communities and push for their ideals over the next four to eight years.

Brewer (right) moderated the “What to Do, How to Win” panel following her State of the Borough Address. (Jack McLoone)

The well-attended event included people of all ages. This includes younger children, like the four-year-old daughter of Lindsey Cormack, a professor at Stevens Insitute of Technology who lives on the Upper East Side. Cormack understands there is some push back against politicizing children, but sees the message Brewer is promoting as just another lesson to teach her daughter.

“I teach her other values that I have about like healthy eating, so this is just part of that,” said Cormack.

Brewer made clear her commitment to continuing the growth of activism in Manhattan in the upcoming year and beyond, something her constituents appreciate.

“It’s important to combine the State of the Borough with saying, ‘Okay, every American, we need to stand up right now and make our voices heard and really work on our society from the ground up,’” said Bandi.