Some friends and I were sitting out on the grass in Transmitter Park one warm June evening watching a film when we were approached by a young woman campaigning for Emily Gallagher, who was running for the position of Female District Leader of the Democratic Party. Most people, even people who follow politics closely, would not know there was even a Female District Leader, let alone what the job entailed. But I was familiar with the position because Peter McGuinness, the legendary Greenpoint Democratic Boss and the namesake for McGuinness Boulevard, owed his rise to power to his Female co- leader, Margaret Conlon.
A District Leader is an unpaid position in the local Democratic Party, representing the neighborhoods of Greenpoint, North and South Williamsburg on issues regarding judicial nominations and elections. At the end of World War I, McGuinness, had grown fed up with the inertia of local Democratic politicians, but he had never gone to high school and needed someone’s help to write letters to the editor criticizing the party establishment. He turned to Conlon, a poet as well as a skilled prose writer, who helped McGuinness write a series of highly provocative attacks on the corruption and inertia of the local political machine and the letters hit home. Thanks in large part to Conlon, she and McGuinness in a shocker were elected as local Democratic Party leaders and they served effectively for years, bringing a number of positive changes to our area and making history.
Let’s fast forward to 2016 when Gallagher, another Irish-American woman, is trying to follow in Conlon’s footsteps and create a more responsive political party. Emily has been an activist, a volunteer, and a non-profit board member as well as a fixture at community events. She’s spoken at city hearings and has written articles in local publications like the Greenpoint Star. Like Conlon so long ago, Gallagher wants to create a party that is responsive to the needs and issues that North Brooklyn faces. Gallagher feels that the present Female leader is largely missing-in-action at community events and she feels the area needs more political engagement.
There is a grassroots push for Emily to become Female Leader because she has a strong record of local activism. People know her for speaking up at community meetings on such issues as quality of life, affordable housing, environmental justice, good government and transportation equity. She is a Board member and former co-chair of neighborhood activist group Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) since 2007. She also petitioned Mayor de Blasio to change how industrial fires were monitored and reported on after the 2015 Citi Storage Fire, which led to over 70 pages of signatures and changes in hazard reporting procedures. Additionally, she organized the first “Where’s Our Park?” protests in 2009 to draw attention to the unfulfilled rezoning promises.
Emily’s challenge is to get out the vote on Tuesday September 13th. Few people come out to vote in primaries and the few that do often rubber-stamp the candidates already in office. It is in many ways an uphill fight, but Gallagher is a fighter and there are many people who believe she, like Conlon before her, can bring change.
Don’t forget that every vote counts, especially in this local election! Voting day is Tuesday, September 13th. Get out there! For more info, you should check out Emily’s site, Instagram and Facebook accounts.