By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Alithia Alleyne (government relations officer, Brooklyn Museum of Art)
Health Insurance:covered by employer
Rent:$0 (lives in house owned by parents)
These days she spends her time analyzing charts and statistics and running over to City Hall to smile at councilmembers and whisper in their ears how wonderful the Brooklyn Museum is, so that the city's budget provides the museum with the money it needs.
But there was a time when she sat in a teller's cage counting money, six-inch stacks, $10,000, $25,000 in bills, and handed them over to excited stockbrokers. Those were her Wall Street days, her Donna Karan suit days, at Bank Leumi. "It was l987, before the crash. I was at the window where the brokers came to cash their checks. They were all tall, very nice. They used to laugh because my hands would shake. Well, I didn't want to miscount the money.
"I was always good in math," said Alithia Alleyne, 30. "I'm not sure why. I skipped two grades in grammar school in Flatbush. My father's a retired MTA inspector. My mother was Eubie Blake's executive assistant." She sang, "I'm just wild about Harry . . . "
Alleyne's bank-teller phase started when her mother told her to get a job during her first year at City College she was going to be a doctor and she walked into the Lincoln Savings Bank in Flatbush. "They hired me but they said there'd never be any promotion. 'The other ladies are never going to leave.' So they got me that job at Bank Leumi."
Then she met a broker at the bank and forgot about being a doctor. "We had the same Gucci watch. I'd always ask the brokers, 'Do you think I could be a broker?' After many weeks of seeing the man with the watch, he said, 'You're the only one who smiles at this bank. How would you like to work for me?' I became an assistant in a discount brokerage. That's when I began to understand how the market works. In minority communities there's a big mystery surrounding the stock market. It was always very intriguing to me. It's the most lucrative way to make money legally. I handled the clients, worked on profit-and-loss reports, compliance and tender offers, acquisitions and . . . "
But then she started dating a rapper and found herself in the music business. "He had an album and everything. In my zeal to help him, I got involved in promotion. By 1991 I knew I had a gift for it. I wanted to start my own promotion business. My boss at the brokerage firm said, 'Take our empty offices across the hall. In return, you can work for us part time.' I handled big productions that came into town the Grammys, Emmys, ESPYs. I'd provide seat fillers. Sometimes I'd provide the talent. Say there was a premiere in New York. They didn't have any rappers. I'd say, 'I'll call up a management company and get you Big Daddy Kane or Naughty by Nature.' "
How much was she making? "Not enough. You start your own business, you have a lot of things you think will happen but they don't. You have to consider overhead, paychecks, benefits. I incurred a lot of debt. I thought I had limitless spending and that I needed to buy quality things. I'm digging my way out."
Just as her entertainment business was winding down, the Democratic Convention came to town. "I found out they needed podium people my debut into politics." She subsequently became a publicity person for the 1993 Clinton inaugural, a staff person for council- member Una Clarke, and then a public affairs officer for the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Last summer, she got a job as a government relations officer for the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She said she is relieved to be using her math skills in public service rather than for brokers and rappers. "I'm one of seven children. Fair share is in my blood. And I am also an active churchmember I faithfully tithe 10 percent of my salary."
In 2001, 38 City Council member seats will become available. Alleyne said maybe she is going to run. She is going to have to be very charming. "For Brooklyn you need at least a hundred grand."