31st Councilmanic District
Born in the Hammels Houses in Rockaway Queens NY, James Sanders Jr. was the fourth of six children. He attended local schools in the Rockaways. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps where he served in the infantry as an anti-tanker. He was honorably discharged and returned to the Rockaways. He entered Brooklyn College and graduated in 1984 with a B.A. in history.
Sanders then served as one of the original team leaders in the City Volunteer Corp. Upon becoming a youth coordinator, he worked in the South Bronx and later in the Rockaways to bring youth resources to those slighted communities. As a strong believer in civic responsibilities, he co-founded People United for Local Leadership, a micro-economic development corporation. PULL has run a farmer’s market and an organic farm in the Rockaways for over 10 years.
Sanders served on Community School Board 27 for more than 12 years. He served numerous roles on the board, including the first African-American president and vice president. During his tenure, he placed a major stress on innovation. He created a military school in the public school system, the first one in New York City. When the Coast Guard closed Governor’s Island, Sanders arranged for School District 27 to acquire a conservatively estimated $150,000 worth of supplies from the base. District 27 was the only school district in the nation to do this.
Sanders also served as a secretary of the Rainbow Coalition for the Sixth Congressional District during the presidential run of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
As a strong proponent of the economic self-sufficiency, Sanders has worked with Cornell University’s Extension Program to teach entrepreneurship in his local community. He has also worked with several foundations to provide seed money for the budding entrepreneurs.
Sanders served as the Assistant District Manager for the then Congressman Floyd H. Flake. As Assistant District Manager, Sanders had the responsibility of understanding and explaining the Congressman’s vision and implementing the policies.
In the year 2001, Sanders was elected to the City Council. He surprisingly defeated the candidates of the political establishment in the primaries to gain the Democratic Party line. Garnering 86% of the popular vote in the general election, Sanders became the successor to Councilwoman Juanita Watkins.
Sanders has been blessed to be unanimously voted as the Chair of the Economic Development Committee of the City Council. He is the first African-American to have ever headed this committee in the last 140 years. In the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy, Sanders’ role as the Chair of the Economic Development Committee becomes crucial to the well-being of New York City. His committee will spearhead the City Council’s plan to rebuild in the wake of 9/11.
He is the divorced father of two children who attend or have attended the public school system. He is a lifelong member of the First Church of God of Far Rockaway. His hobbies include reading, especially military history, playing chess, and traveling. Councilman Sanders serves as a member of the Transportation, Consumer Affairs, Fire/Criminal Justice, and Women’s Issues Committees.