With crime continuing to spiral down in Brooklyn to unheard of lows, the issue of the day at yesterdays’s massive district attorney public forum was not how to get tough on crime, but rather on which candidate would best institute such criminal justice reforms as no cash bail and programs to help those that fall into a life of crime.
Candidates debating these issues at the sweltering historic First Unitarian Congregational Society Church, 199 Pierrepoint Street in Brooklyn Heights, included acting DA Eric Gonzalez and former Assistant District Attorneys Anne Swern (the local neighborhood favorite), Ama Dwimoh, Vincent Gentile, Marc Fliedner, Patricia Gatling and John Gangemi.
The Brooklyn Reform Coalition hosted the event and it is made up of virtual who’s who of progressive Democratic Party clubs including the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, The Muslim Democratic Club of New York, The Bay Ridge Democrats, the New Kings Democrats, the Prospect Heights Democratic Reform Club, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Young Democrats, The Sunset Park Latino Democrats, the Ernest Skinner Political Association and a few others.
As for the debate itself, the tone was genteel among the candidates, with a few going after after Gonzalez, who continues to be the clear frontrunner, having garnered a wide assortment of endorsements across the borough. This includes Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and a wide spectrum of political clubs including several from Black and Hispanic Brooklyn, and most recently from the Stars and Stripes Democratic Club in Bensonhurst and Sunset Park, which numbers a good part of the growing Pacific Asian demographic as well as traditional non-Jewish white Brooklyn.
Gonzalez, pretty much stuck to the script that the late District Attorney Ken Thompson appointed him as his successor before dying to carry on his legacy of instituting criminal justice reform that disproportionately targeted young blacks and Latinos for prosecution, and wrongly prosecuted a number of cases under the former DA Joe Hynes.
Other issues the candidates discussed included the continued decriminalization of marijuana and marijuana-related arrests, no bail for low-level, non-violent arrest, treatment for those arrested trying to support drug habits and protecting undocumented immigrant rights – particularly those undocumented immigrants that are victims of crimes including domestic violence.
Rather than readers relying totally on this KCP reportage, please feel free to watch Raul Rothblatt’s excellent multi-part filming of the forum on YouTube: