Brooklyn Borough President Speaks at SFC
On November 17, St. Francis College (SFC) welcomed Antonio Reynoso to campus. The Brooklyn Borough President sat down with SFC President Miguel Martinez-Saenz for a fireside chat–style conversation that touched upon the former’s upbringing, the value of education, how he embarked on his career in public service and more.
A native Brooklynite who was born to Dominican immigrants and raised with his two sisters in South Williamsburg, Reynoso began by articulating some of the challenges he faced growing up. “I wasn’t poor — I was extremely poor,” he stated, adding that his family relied heavily on social benefits such as welfare, food stamps and Section 8 housing.
He recounted how several older cousins were involved in the drug trade that ravaged South Williamsburg in the 1980s and, as a result, either deported, jailed or killed. Reynoso’s parents desired a different type of life for their children and saw education as a path out of poverty. The future borough president attended high school at La Salle Academy on a full scholarship and went on to receive a B.A. in political science from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, also on a scholarship.
“College was a culture shock for me. I was often the only Black or Brown kid in class,” Reynoso told the audience gathered in the SFC auditorium. “Luckily, I had a mentor, Mr. Thomas, who cared deeply and worked with me.” After his grades dipped dramatically in his first semester, Reynoso managed to raise his GPA to a 3.7 by the end of the subsequent semester.
It was at college that Reynoso became a self-described “social justice warrior.” He focused on the material in his political science courses, became versed in issues and studied social structures closely. Initially, he thought he would pursue a career as a teacher to effect positive change in the lives of young people but later realized he could bring about change for millions more as a politician.
After graduation, Reynoso returned to Brooklyn and began working for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an international assemblage of autonomous community-based organizations that advocate for low- and moderate-income families. In 2009, he joined the staff of New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and quickly rose to become her chief of staff. When the term-limited Reyna stepped down, Reynoso ran for elective office for the first time and won, replacing his former mentor as City Council representative for Council District 34.
Of all the pieces of legislation he helped draft and pass as a member of the New York City Council, Reynoso acknowledged he is especially proud of the Right to Know Act, which requires New York City police officers to identify themselves at the beginning of certain interactions. It also addresses situations in which officers seek to perform a search and do not have legal justification to do so without a person’s consent.
After nearly a decade on the City Council, Reynoso was elected as the first Latino Brooklyn Borough President in November 2021 and sworn into office on January 1 of this year. As Borough President, Reynoso said he continues to be guided by the concept of equity and is working to give all Brooklynites the opportunity to succeed. He concluded his talk at SFC by telling the students, faculty, staff and invited guests, “I’m here today to impart meaningful wisdom to young people. Part of my game is finding the resources to make young people successful.”
Editor’s note: Reynoso’s talk was the latest installment in St. Francis College’s President’s Lecture Series, which welcomes leaders from business, politics and the community for a conversation with SFC President Miguel Martinez-Saenz. The discussions delve into the personal motivations of those who craft professional lives defined by service and provide guidance to young people considering similar paths. Previous participants include Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, former Brooklyn Borough President and current New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and former Congressman Peter King.