Correction 06/24/24: This piece has been updated to reflect that while Simpkins lives near the Meeker Avenue Plume, the boundaries of the Superfund site do not encompass her Newel Street address.

We’re kicking off another season of our election coverage, which for us always means interviews with each of the candidates running. This year, Greenpoint locals will vote for State Assembly, State Senate, and District Leader. You can check out our interview with Assembly Member Emily Gallagher here. As a reminder, Greenpointers does not take money for political ads, ensuring our independent coverage of the candidates. 

This year, Assembly Member Gallagher faces a challenger in Anathea Simpkins. We spoke to the first time candidate to learn more about her campaign for State Assembly.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

To voters who don’t know, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about why you’ve decided to run?

My name is Anathea Simpkins, and I am a mom. I have a 12-year-old son who was born in New York City and who I’ve raised here. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for almost twenty years, longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere in my entire life. I lived on Guernsey Street for 13 years, and I’ve been on Newel for about five, same cross streets. So I’m very familiar with everyone in this little quadrant. 

For the past 26 years—really my entire professional career—I’ve been working in education. I have a master’s in education. I’m a former teacher. I’ve worked in the education sector in publishing and also in tutoring. I worked for Sylvan Learning for 10 years. I worked in the corporate offices, designing and bringing programs to all of the franchises across the country.

Most recently, for the last seven years, while I was still working at Sylvan, I was a volunteer Promise Leader. I ran the New York Marathon for Sandy Hook Promise twice, and then also was a volunteer, and I brought some of their violence prevention programs to District 14, first PS 31, where my son went to elementary school, and then to the entire district elementary and middle schools. I then worked for Sandy Hook Promise for five years. I most recently was the Associate Vice President of a program called the Say Something Anonymous Reporting system. We teach youth how to identify signs and signals of someone who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others.

I have been working in education and nonprofits, struggling to survive in Greenpoint. I’m a single mom, I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. I also live in the Meeker Plume and my son has asthma. [Editor’s note 06/24/2024: according to campaign filings, Simpkins lives a few blocks away from the Meeker Avenue Plume] I care deeply about safety, and most importantly, the safety of our kids. That’s what I’ve devoted my entire career to.

I decided to throw my hat in the ring because I really want the place that I’m raising my son to be a community again. The conversation has reached a fever pitch. And I want to work as the adult in the room, who’s able to bring people together, and have conversations to tackle the issues that are affecting everyone. I think it’s really important that people work together with compassion, in conversation, collaboration, and compromise. And that’s really why I decided to enter this race. I want to work with everybody, and my door will always be open. 

Image via Anatheaforny/Facebook

You’ve lived in Greenpoint for 17 years. What community groups or local causes have you been involved with?

Most importantly, I was a volunteer at my son’s school. I was on the SLT [School Leadership Team] committee. Early on when I was here, I also worked for a CSA; I actually co-wrote a cookbook for the Garden of Eve Greenpoint and Williamsburg CSA.

I’ve really been devoting myself to youth and youth violence prevention and making sure that youth have the support they need. I was also a volunteer with the Lower Eastside Girls Club, I was a mentor there and also was volunteering bringing these violence prevention programs to the local schools. 

What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing Greenpoint and Williamsburg today?

Education. I feel that our schools are really being neglected right now. There are cuts happening. There are 41% of the youth in our district living below poverty. I care deeply about youth having access to a bright and successful future. I consider myself the education candidate. I’m a public school mom, I’ve worked in education for almost 30 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of school districts across the country, and I want to make sure that our local schools are well-resourced, safe, and free of political agendas.

Schools in New York City do not automatically provide 3K, preK, after school, and summer programs. In addition, enrichment activities like music, STEAM, and sports are not automatically available in schools. So what you have then is an example of segregation, where the materials and resources that are available to schools and the programs are only as robust as the demographics in the district, in terms of socioeconomics. And I really want to make sure that [for] all youth, no matter what school they’re going to, that the schools are well resourced and that they have access to all of the programs that they need to be successful and receive a well-rounded education. 

Just to clarify, when you say “free of political agendas,” is that in reference to how different mayors and elected officials have different ways they go about funding programs, and sometimes that means that places don’t get funding?

Well that is one, but the other one is that we’ve had a lot of controversy in our district school board, aka the CEC [14], involving a call to protest—a walk out of children leaving school to go and protest against Israel. Politics really has no place in education, of that nature. Calling for a walkout while you’re being in a role that is supposed to be about education and curriculum and protecting children, it really isn’t an appropriate use of that platform. 

Got it. 

And housing, of course. As I said, I live paycheck to paycheck. My rent for a single person who’s been working in nonprofit is just at the border of what I can afford. So affordable housing—I support Good Cause, the LLC Transparency Act. I’m for tenant protections, under Good Cause. And I also want to make sure that small landlords and homeowners are not being preyed upon. Many of the people who are small homeowners are elderly people of color who just want to live in their homes alongside their tenants in their neighborhood where they’ve lived most of their lives. I believe that housing solutions require an all-government approach, and all options are on the table when it comes to the housing crisis, and we have to look at things and make sure that they don’t just look good on paper but they’ve considered all of the repercussions. In terms of 485-x, the new one has stronger labor and tenant protections. And also, fully funding NYCHA. One thing to remember is that District 50 is Greenpoint, but it’s also Williamsburg. And we co-exist with each other. NYCHA has been severely neglected. We need to fund it from the state budget, which we haven’t done in almost two decades.

I’m looking forward to working with legislators in the assembly. I believe the assembly is all about conversation, building relationships, and compromising with one another. 

Third, I believe in robust constituent services. All policies interact with robust constituent services. One thing I’ve said a lot over the course of my campaign is that the job of a leader is to make their team feel safe, and the job of a leader in a community is to make their constituents feel safe. There are many issues surrounding our community—environment, small businesses, healthcare, transportation, and the one common thread that would really help our locals is being present and offering robust constituent services, which are currently non-existent. 

[Editor’s note—Assembly Member Emily Gallagher offers office hours at 685A Manhattan Ave. from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and provides mobile office hours in South Williamsburg during the first Sunday of every month at Jonathan Williams Plaza Houses. A campaign spokesperson told Greenpointers: “We go above and beyond to be accessible, and are extremely proud that we’ve helped literally thousands of constituents access government services and resolve issues over the past 3.5 years in office.”]

You’re saying our current leader isn’t offering robust constituent services. What would your vision for constituent services in your office look like?

Available during different business hours, so 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. In an office that is centrally located between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Providing constituent services in both Polish and Spanish. It’s very important because those two are the two other languages, other than English, that are spoken widely across the district. We would have the ability for folks to set up office hours with me. They’d be able to log into a website or call in, and they can just via something like Calendly, they can just set up a meeting with me for days that I’m in the office. Of course, when I’m there, I’m going to be all about constituent services and meeting with people. And also making sure that we’re providing mobile constituent services at different places across the community. There are people who aren’t able to get to the office, and for those reasons it’s really important that we come to them. So offering those mobile constituent services across the district, and also having town halls. I believe that a public servant needs to be accountable to their constituents. And I want people to be able to hold me accountable.

I want to hear from the youth in the community. Too often, we don’t listen to them, and they’re really our eyes and ears. So another thing I’d like to do are youth town halls. 

The G train shutdown is approaching, which will make necessary repairs and improvements, but might be a bit of a logistical pain for Greenpointers. The MTA and DOT presented their plan for how they will be handling the shutdown at a recent town hall. What was your take on their plan? Do you think it went far enough in providing adequate alternatives for transportation? 

I think it’s sufficient for now. I think we have to look at it. One of the things that concerns me that I don’t hear about as much is that youth also rely on the G train. They rely on the train to get to camp, to summer school. So I also want to make sure that no matter what is happening that we have accessible public transportation but also that our youth feel safe using the public transportation that they’re going to be provided as well. We have middle schools that we have a lot of Greenpointers attending that are in South Williamsburg. Those are some things that also concern me, that I want to see accounted for. 

Our elected officials were pushing for a dedicated busway on either Manhattan Avenue or McGuinness Boulevard. Is that something you would have supported?


Neighbors have expressed concerns about the recent reporting on the role that corporate PAC money has played in your campaign donations. I was wondering if that was something you wanted to comment on?

Well, I’ll just say this. We’re not allowed to talk to PACs. We don’t organize or collaborate with PACs. I really can’t define or explain their activities, but I’ve been talking to lots of people across the district. We’ve been out there pounding the pavement. I have the blisters and the holes in my sneakers to prove it. And what I can tell you is that our message of positivity, inclusivity, of providing robust constituent services, of trying to bring the community together, rather than divide it, is really resonating with people.

Is there anything else you want to communicate to voters?

Well, I did like your question about a dream day. 

Oh, from a couple of years ago? Sure, if that’s what you want to do.

If I could start my day with a cup of coffee being handed to me, that would be an absolute dream. Something that I also love to do is take a long walk or bike ride in the mornings. One of my routes that I like to take is to walk over or bike over the Pulaski [Bridge] into Long Island City and then walk back along [Newtown] Barge Park. And then up to Transmitter [Park], I would love to be near the water. I grew up near the water so it’s really important to me to be near it. Maybe go to the farmers market, depending on the day of the week. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Kinoko (179 Meserole Ave.) but it just opened up on the corner of Newell and Meserole near the corner where I live. She really worked hard to get that restaurant open. One of the things I’d love to do now that they’re starting brunch is go in there and have some brunch.

Then I’d also love to just be out and active during the day, with friends and family. Maybe going to Bushwick Inlet Park and grabbing some snack at Edy’s [Grocer] (136 Meserole Ave.), spending time playing frisbee or other things there. Just spending time with my friends and family and our kids is just a really nice thing that I love to do. And maybe do some grocery shopping, being able to do that without a time crunch would be lovely. I’ve been going to Manhattan Fruit Inc (678 Manhattan Ave.) since I moved here. I also love Nathan’s Farm (829 Manhattan Ave.) And then maybe go to a movie, because I never get to go to the movies other than animated films or some sort of Marvel movie, so to be able to see a more adult film would be a dream come true. Maybe go to Stuart Cinema & Cafe (79 West St.). And then I would love to just end the evening with a bubble bath. 

The one thing I want to end on is what sets me apart. I have 20 plus years of leadership experience and policy experience. I’ve been working to bring violence prevention policy to states and school districts across the country. I’ve worked with some of the biggest school districts, so I really know how to manage bureaucracy and how to navigate it. I’ve worked with a lot of cross-functional teams. I know, and I have the experience and the resume to show it, that I have experience in leadership and effectiveness in bringing people together. And that’s one of the critical parts of this role.

The Assembly is a collaborative effort—that is the most important thing to remember. And you have to work well with people.

Join the Conversation


  1. The Editor’s Note comment was totally unnecessary if you’re trying to write an unbiased article.

    1. On the other hand, the note is very helpful from the perspective on not letting a politician get away with an obvious lie.

      Among my neighbors, even people who lean more conservative have been impressed with the quality of the constituent services that Emily’s office provided when they needed help.

  2. According to this interview, Anathea lives near Newell & Messerole which is well outside the Meeker plume. Plenty of people have been actually harmed by living above the plume. Not sure if this candidate is lying about living above the plume for clout or if she just cant read a map. Seems suss. I would love some clarification if they actually think they live above the plume or they just like to repeat that as a talking point

      1. Candidates’ home addresses are public record when they file to run for office and she also refers to her own cross streets in the piece. No one is being doxxed.

  3. Love that this candidate wants to focus on schools, youth and education all of which have been neglected at this level over the past few years. Conversation, collaboration and compromise is also refreshing to hear. Our community is diverse and not only on the fringes of the political spectrum. We need a leader who listens and works with everyone, sounds like Anathea actually wants to work in that way.

  4. She does not strike me as progressive, which I guess is a positive quality to some, but not for me.

  5. As a small business owner in the district, I welcome a leader who is open to engaging with everyone, including businesses. We design our products and manage our business here in Brooklyn and distribute all over North America and Europe. Not once have we been approached by the current assembly member or their office.

  6. Simpkins is being funded by AIPAC and a dark-money outfit calling itself “Solidarity PAC” that is dedicated to the same ends as AIPAC. It is disappointing that she was not challenged about this, and what appears to be corporate backing, in what is nothing more than a puff piece. The executive director of “Solidarity PAC” has gone so far as to tweet “Progressives are the MAGA of the Democratic Party.” Surely support from an organization with huge amounts of money to throw around that puts forth such odious nonsense merits a challenge. Voters are not served by letting a candidate ramble on unchallenged; they can get that from the candidate’s campaign materials. Reporters (I was one for many years) should not be stenographers.

    1. New York Solidarity is an org that supports your Jewish neighbors in NYC. When the other candidate refuses to denounce antisemitism in our community, of course an organization that represents Jewish residents in NY would support an opponent who is inclusive and vocally against hate, in ALL forms. I would imagine same would be said by relevant orgs if there was a huge uptick in hate crimes against any other minority group in our city, and without backlash.

    2. This is not a legitimate fact but an opinion to place shade on a candidate. Gallagher has also accepted money as she clearly is spinning an agenda, and that is my opinion based on how she is never available when I call or present myself to her office.

  7. Love that she is talking about communities beyond Greenpoint’s gentrified sector. She’s showing interest in NYCHA and youth. That’s refreshing.

  8. Anathea, you have run a fantastic campaign talking about today’s community issues. You know you’re a threat when your opponent sends in a strike team to discredit you in the comments. Keep walking the walk till primary day.

    1. This comment is ridiculous as you can not at all prove what you are saying because it’s not based on facts.
      I have no affiliation with either campaign but I can see thru BS and will not be voting for Simpkins.

    2. In response to Cathy Peake, I not only have no affiliation of any kind with the Gallagher campaign, I am not even a registered Democrat. Some of us, however, believe Palestinians are human beings and that who backs a candidate and what the agenda is of that backer are legitimate areas of inquiry.

  9. Put this comment in the Emily interview but with the constituent services shade thrown here I wanted to add that I have had great constituent service from Emily’s office the one time I contacted them earlier this year.

    Emailed both Emily’s team and Lincoln Restler’s team on a Saturday afternoon. Emily’s team replied Monday morning and by Thursday had secured a detailed promise to address the issue from the NY State Parks department. That is great constituent service.

    I got an auto responder from Lincoln Restler and no followup. It has been about six weeks since that email. That is horrible constituent service.

    I am not a shill at all, and have issues with some of what she focuses on, but Emily earned my vote with going back to the basics: Good constituent services.

    1. Sorry, your defensive reactions prove my point. Anathea has run a great campaign. I want her to win. And those of Jewish faith or culture have a right to financially support whoever they want without it being some big dark conspiracy.

  10. Hi Peter,

    I am a Greenpointer, and I care about our neighborhood. A state assembly member is meant to listen and represent her constituents. Emily went on a rant against Israel out of nowhere in an email sent to us on April 1st titled “The big money funding my opponent”. I had no idea about her position on the subject since I don’t follow her on social media.

    This is the paragraph she shared about it:
    “And then there’s Israel’s terrible war crimes in Gaza. For months, I’ve been calling for a ceasefire, the release of all hostages and freedom for Palestine, a principled stand for justice that has put me on the target list for a Republican-backed pro-war PAC. ”

    This is it. “Israel terrible war crimes”, no condemnation or even mention of Hamas. We all know how emotional this conflict is for so many of us. We need a representative capable to empathize for all. We all want this war to end, not a representative only blaming Israel and writing “freedom for Palestine” without defining what it means. Based on this statement it is not even clear Emily believes Israel has a right to exist.

    As far as I know, AIPAC didn’t finance this email. Emily decided to send it to all of us on her own.

    I really wish she stayed out of this topic instead of going for a vague and divisive statement. I want a representative focused on her local community and aiming to represent us all. And it is a lot more courageous today to have a measured statement on the situation than to go for something that will only please one side.

    Emily put herself in this corner on her own and now calls for a conspiracy against her instead of taking any accountability.

    I wish the best to Anathea for her campaign.

    1. In response to Josh, I, too, care about the neighborhood and I have lived here for 28 years. You statement about “listening” to constituents implies that everybody in the district, or in Greenpoint, opposes Gallagher’s position on Israel. That is very much not the case. That Hamas’ October attack is a despicable act of terrorism is not in dispute, certainly not by me, but that does not give Israel “permission” to commit larger crimes against humanity, nor does it give ex post facto permission for Israel’s ongoing crimes against humanity for the past 80 years. Israel has killed 20 times more Palestinians than Hamas did in its October attack. How large a ratio of killing is necessary for the need for revenge to be slaked?

      Having said all this — I make no apologies for believing Palestinians are human beings in direct opposition to the positions of the Israeli government and AIPAC — local issues ought to be predominant in a local race such as this. Why then, we should ask, is AIPAC and its spawn so intent on mounting primary challenges to so many progressive office holders? It is Simpkins, and her corporate backers, who have injected the Israel/Palestine conflict into this race and as such there should be no surprise that there will be pushback from people who can see beyond Israeli apologia and AIPAC propaganda points and see all peoples as human beings. Human rights means just that — they apply to all human beings. Palestinians included.

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