In decades past, the politicians who came out of central Brooklyn, New York’s largest black community, were shaped by the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s, with many coming of age politically during the Vietnam War era.
But this year’s elections, as well as last year’s, represented a changing of the guard that could signal a wider shift of black political consciousness in the city: the emergence of a class of politicians spawned in the professional world, with experience in private industry, nonprofit organizations and other fields.
One new state lawmaker was recently a lawyer for CBS. Another raised money for private schools. A third was a police captain; while another, who is headed to the City Council, worked for the transit system.
They are largely politicians who have little to no association with Democratic Party clubhouse politicians in Brooklyn, which has been tainted by recent corruption scandals. And the sheer number of newly elected officials in central Brooklyn, perhaps the biggest changeover in years, is something of a milestone — particularly in a political world in which incumbency, at least for state lawmakers, can last virtually a lifetime.
“We are now seeing a very new group of political leaders in Brooklyn who are, quite frankly, crossover politicians who have successfully delivered a message that speaks to the interests of different constituencies,” said Craig Steven Wilder, a professor of urban history at Dartmouth College.
Mr. Wilder, author of the book “A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn,” said the new crop of elected officials was “different from the group who came to power in the 1970s and 1980s, who came to politics through civil rights issues.”
“This group represents the post-civil rights generation. And they have to deal with a different agenda,” he said. “That includes meeting the needs of people who are gentrifying their areas, people who have been there a long time and people who have been marginalized.”
Notable among the new breed is Hakeem Jeffries, 36, who left his job as a lawyer for CBS to go to Albany. He was elected this year to the Assembly seat held for 25 years by Roger L. Green, who was convicted in a petty larceny case.
Another new assemblyman is Karim Camara, 35, who served as the director of fund-raising for the Cush Campus Schools, a private elementary and middle school in Brooklyn. He is also executive pastor at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights. Last year he succeeded Clarence Norman Jr., the former Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman who was first elected in 1982 and resigned in a scandal.
And on the City Council, there is Darlene Mealy, 42. She is a former executive assistant at New York City Transit who won a hotly contested primary last year, beating William F. Boyland Jr., the patriarch of one of Brooklyn’s well-known political families. Also elected this year was Eric Adams, 46, who will go to the State Senate, succeeding Carl Andrews. Mr. Adams, a former police captain, was also a founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.
The best known of the new group is Representative-elect Yvette D. Clarke, 42, a city councilwoman and a former director of business development at the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.
Ms. Clarke won a Democratic primary in September that received national attention when a white candidate, David Yassky, tried to capture the seat that for decades had been held by black lawmakers: Major R. Owens, and before him, Shirley Chisholm.
For many people in central Brooklyn who closely watch local politics, the new officials are a refreshing change after a period in which some of the incumbents they succeeded were tainted by scandal.
“The election of so many new black officials in Brooklyn has made a lot of people, including me, feel hopeful,” said the Rev. Clinton M. Miller, pastor of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
“I think many of these new leaders are viewed as representing the political prototype of what an elected official should be in this era: someone who is steeped in the community, but who also knows how to operate in corporate and business settings.”
Mr. Jeffries, for example, was an assistant general counsel who specialized in litigation at CBS. “We are all products of the community who have gone out and excelled in various endeavors,” Mr. Jeffries said.
“But we have come back to work in the community, to use politics as a way to make a difference in the communities that we come from. That’s what the civil rights movement was all about.”
But some Brooklyn Democrats question whether they will be able to avoid the infighting that has created friction among many of their predecessors.
In fact, a generation ago, central Brooklyn’s black leadership was splintered into two factions. One was a group whose de facto leader was Albert Vann, an assemblyman who started his public career as a teacher. Mr. Vann, who is now a city councilman, was a community leader in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville struggle between the black community and the United Federation of Teachers over the local school board’s power to hire teachers.
Mr. Vann, who was a supporter of Mr. Owens, was also the political mentor of Mr. Green and several others.
On the other side were politicians who were loyal to State Senator Vander L. Beatty. Mr. Beatty often worked in collaboration with Brooklyn’s regular Democratic organization, which until recently was led by white politicians from southern Brooklyn.
Indeed, a generation ago, candidates and officials in Brooklyn routinely complained that the infighting among central Brooklyn’s black officials often hampered their ability to bring resources and funds into the area.
The feuding among politicians in those days was heated. In one case, in a 1982 primary race for Congress between Mr. Beatty and Mr. Owens, Mr. Beatty’s supporters hid in a crawl space above a bathroom at the Board of Elections office in Brooklyn. After the office closed for the day, Mr. Beatty’s supporters went to where the voter files were kept and doctored registration cards of Mr. Owens’s supporters, apparently in an effort to thwart an Owens victory.
Although that was an extreme incident, there have been long-standing tensions and rivalries in the borough for years. The newer elected officials have hopes of avoiding such squabbling, with plans to meet often, perhaps at regularly scheduled breakfasts, to determine ways to allocate recourses to their districts.
“One of the things about that that I think is a good sign is that we all like each other and get along well,” Ms. Mealy said. “Some of them have not even taken office yet. But we have camaraderie already. And it will make things easier for us to work together and get things done.”
But getting things done might take more than friendship and amity. They all have the disadvantage of being low in seniority in their respective houses of government. And they generally have fewer staff members and less influence than their predecessors, who enjoyed the benefits of incumbency and the clout and resources that came with it.
Still, they insist that their lack of seniority will not limit their effectiveness.
“We have the wisdom and experience of our predecessors to build upon,” Ms. Clarke said. “And our job is to find ways of working together and making even more of a difference in this new era. And I’m sure that we will all find ways to make our mark.”