Never heard of a District Leader? Until 2017, neither had 25-year-old Greenpointer Kristina Naplatarski, who’s running for the position in the upcoming election. The lover of Five Leaves, Variety Coffee, Archestratus and Jimmy’s Dinner is a proud lifetime local, who still lives close to her mother and childhood friends near McGolrick Park, where you can find her exploring pockets of the green space on weekends. You’ll also find the Brooklyn Young Democrats-endorsed candidate near the bottom of your ballot on June 23rd, as Naplatarski runs for public office for the first time, inspired to oust a 35-year incumbent, Linda Minucci, and use her voice to amplify the concerns of her community.
A quick side note: a “district leader” and a “state committee member” can refer to the same position in certain districts. In the 50th Distrct the term is interchangeable, and will be listed as “State committee member” on the June 23rd ballot.
Empowered by the 2018 elections of U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and State Senator Julia Salazar, Naplatarski is continuing the momentum of voting in young, female voices by running for District Leader. Greenpointers chatted with Naplatarski to get to know why this position matters to her, and why the lifelong Greenpointer is adding her name to the ballot.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Why are you running for office?
The decision to run for office was a very personal decision for me. I was born and raised in Greenpoint and have lived here my entire life. I graduated from the local public schools and my mom [a public school teacher] has always been very involved in community activism. For example, in the early 2000s, there was a plan to build a power plant in Greenpoint, and the community rallied against it and stopped it. North Brooklyn has a history of [activism]. My upbringing led me into public service.
And why run for District Leader?
Currently, I work for City Council, so I’m already professionally involved in the government, but in my work life or personal life, I had never seen our District Leader. Via The North Brooklyn Political Democrats, I first heard what a District Leader was. I learned that the one we have has been in office for 32 years and had never shown up for the community. Planted a seed in my head and continued on. Following the 2016 election, with AOC and Julia Salazar, I saw women being put into power against really entrenched incumbents. If there is a chance of to bring some vitality and new leadership to he role of district leader, it’s going to follow the wave and be in 2020.
So what does a District Leader do?
District Leader is a very unique, kind of wonky position that many people don’t really know about. One of the things that make it especially special is that it’s a part-time, unpaid position. It’s a person that should really just care about the work and is doing it for the sake of the work. Historically, this position has been used by a person who is a ‘yes’ vote when it comes down to decision making at the county level. It could be someone who really cares, or a person who is very complacent and is just there as a pawn for Kings County Democratic Committee’s leadership. That’s the case we have now. [I want to] tap into the work that’s happening on the ground. A lot of grassroots organizing goes on in North Brooklyn, we have very invested community groups and organizations. It’s a position that can help facilitate that work and be a bridge between the community and elected officials.
What would you want to accomplish as District Leader?
District Leader’s priorities should be what the community see as most important. My three issues and areas of concern right now would be environmental remediation, that’s been a constant threat, housing affordability and more responsible development practices. I’d also want to look at what The King’s County Democratic Party should look like. I’m running as a reform candidate for sure to bring more transparency and accountability to the Brooklyn Democratic Party and make it more engaging.
How would being an elected official change your day-to-day?
I would keep my day job working in communications for Council Member Antonio Reynoso, which luckily keeps me in North Brooklyn, and in the [political] world. I think the most important thing is being present and showing up. North Brooklyn has a very robust schedule of community meeting and actions and things to support. I want to show up to these as best I can and give these things equal weight, to keep my finger on the pulse of what people care about. It’s very fluid, like all organizing work. You need to be able to adapt to what’s happening on the ground and create quick responses and maintain an active dialogue with community residents about things they want to see and how we can achieve that. For example, writing a letter or setting up meetings with certain elected officials.