Managing Editor Eva Sher and SGA Bureau Chief Eliza Staples had the opportunity to sit down with Marti Cummings, one of the candidates running to represent District 7.

A year and a half out from the election, the 2021 City Council campaign cycle is already in full swing. With thirty-five of the fifty-one members of the NYC Council having reached their two-year term limits, this incoming Council will have a turnover rate of over half. 142 NYC residents have announced their candidacy to sit on the NYC Council starting in 2021.

Bwog had the opportunity to sit down with Marti Gould Allen-Cummings who is running to represent District 7, which includes Morningside Heights, West Harlem, Washington Heights, and parts of the Upper West Side. Cummings announced their candidacy this past September. The current councilperson for District 7, Mark Levine, has reached his term limit. Therefore, there will not be an incumbent running in this race. Cummings has been deeply involved in multiple areas of activism in New York City for over a decade. They’re currently participating in public duty as a member of Community Board 9, which serves Morningside Heights as well, serving on the Senior Issues Issues Committee. They also serve an appointed position on the Nightlife Advisory Board. Outside of the public office, Cummings actively contributes to efforts by the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick Martin Institute to help LGBTQIA youth in need in New York City. 

Cummings was raised in Maryland but has spent their entire adult life in the city. They mentioned that New York City truly is their home; they spent the formative years of their twenties here which played a major role in who they are today. They are a drag performer, which they believe is deeply linked to their activism and political pursuits, as it is an art form that has always subverted norms. Cummings noted the roles of drag performers in the Stonewall riots and in the resistance to the AIDS epidemic. 

Throughout their time in New York, Cummings has been politically active. They currently serve on the Nightlife Advisory Board, where they work to protect people who work and participate in the nightlife industry, without over-policing. In January 2017, they founded the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats, an inclusive, modern Democratic club dedicated to political involvement and participation. In September 2017, HK Dems defeated the McManus Midtown Democratic Club, which had held considerable sway in the district for over a century. Cummings did not take the decision to run for City Council lightly, despite their extensive political experience. Cummings mentioned that “as a neighbor, I have to show up,” and to do so consistently, “not just when there’s a photo-op.” Before making this decision, they wanted to ensure that they could always show up for the people they represent in their role on City Council.

Cummings has many plans for City Council District 7. They talked about working to improve the housing conditions provided by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Currently, there are senior citizens living in high rise complexes where oftentimes, the elevators. As a result, these people have severely decreased mobility and, therefore, can be stuck in their apartments. These apartments are also often overheated, causing the residents to suffer medical issues such as sinus infections and nose bleeds. Similarly, Cummings mentioned a need for more affordable housing to assist the sizable homeless population in the city. They also cited plans for rent stabilization for commercial properties, which would benefit small businesses and allow neighborhoods to retain their character. Cummings also addressed Columbia’s expansion into the district, and how this runs the risk of pushing people out of their homes: “Columbia is a multi-million dollar business that runs the risk of pushing people out.” They hope to have Columbia take a more constructive role in the community, for example, by putting money into local schools.

Throughout our discussion with Cummings, they underscored the importance of taking action in your local community. This, they believe, includes Columbia students. They encourage students to register to vote here in New York City because “well you live here now,” and that by attending college here, students have the option to get involved and make changes they believe in. Cummings emphasized the importance of being involved in and staying aware of proceedings made by local government as “local politics is the bedrock for democracy.” They welcomed students to the meetings of Community Board 9, which represents the neighborhoods of Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, and Hamilton Heights.
For more information about Marti’s campaign, you can visit their website. New York City residents can sign up to vote on the NYC Board of Elections’ website.

Marti via Marti For Manhattan