From pulpit to politician, Reverend Robert Waterman is one of the nine candidates in the running for City Council District 36’s soon-to-be open seat, in which term-limited City Councilmember Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) currently represents.
Waterman is a well-known pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy and serves as President of the African American Clergy & Elected Officials (AACEO). He is a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and has served on Community Board 3. He is also married to Attorney Lola Waterman, who is running for Civil Court Judge in the 2nd Municipal Court District.
Waterman was born in New York but raised in North Carolina on a tobacco and cucumber farm.
“It is laborious because at the time my grandmother only had one tractor and we had to field crop it, walking. And every weekend there’s 3 to four leaves of a layer you have to crop,” said Waterman about his adolescence.
No stranger to hard work, he made the move back to New York for college. “Went to Brooklyn College and flunked out,” said Waterman, self-deprecating. After an arduous journey trying to find a job, he finally landed in the mailroom for an engineering firm. By the late 1980s, he said, he was moving up in the company and stayed in the industry for years before becoming a pastor.
Waterman said the congregation was lucky when the pandemic hit to have owned their building. Many religious organizations, he said, couldn’t afford to keep on church staff and had to make cuts to musicians, pastors, and clergy.
“It’s been hard and difficult but we’ve tried to mobilize people through social media, and streaming the ministry,” said Waterman. “We’re not fully operating yet.”
His main policies center around police reform, healthcare, and education.