With just under a week until the primaries, the four candidates for Brooklyn’s 35th City Council district gathered at P.S. 9, 80 Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights, last night for a second candidate forum – this one decidedly less chaotic, more tightly controlled, and more focused on the candidates’ platforms, rather than their records.
The event, which DNAInfo Reporter Rachel Holiday Smith moderated, had the incumbent Laurie Cumbo, her Democratic challenger Ede Fox and Green Party candidates Jabari Brisport and John Hutchins answer questions about several issues in their district. The Republican candidate, Christine Parker, was invited, but could not make it. The district includes the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and part of Crown Heights.
The forum covered a wider, more diverse range of issues than the previous one held on July 25. While the candidates were asked about hot-button issues like the privatization of public housing and the contentious Bedford-Union Armory project, they were also asked to provide their stances on more minor, oft-neglected issues.
Among the subjects covered were the expansion of bike lanes, the reformation of the bail system, and a proposed bill that would, “create a more equitable distribution of waste transfer stations throughout the city,” as Smith put it.
Brisport expressed satisfaction that the moderator was devoting time to the district’s less visible, but nonetheless important, problems.
“There are other things we need to be doing, just in terms of the way we handle waste,” said Brisport, in response to the question about the waste transfer bill. “We throw away a lot of organic waste… I’m appalled at the fact that we have over a million New Yorkers that are currently food insecure, while meanwhile we’re throwing over a million tons of food away every year.”
Like the last candidate forum, this one had the audience members pose their own questions for the candidates to answer. However, instead of speaking directly to the candidates, the attendees wrote in their questions, which were then hand-picked by the moderator.
The questions posed were far less vitriolic than those posed by the audience at the previous candidate forum. The moderator only chose benign, non-accusatory questions which could be answered by all four of the candidates (rather than being directed at just one).
But that didn’t stop the challengers from taking occasional shots at the incumbent, nor did it stop the audience from displaying their passion. When asked about the Bedford-Union Armory, Hutchins cast doubt on Cumbo’s professed devotion to the community, bringing up her support of Councilmember Stephen Levin’s controversial Brooklyn Heights Library development plan.
“Ms. Cumbo appraised Stephen Levin when he went against what the community wanted,” said Hutchins, whose remark was met with a cacophonous response from the audience. “Can we even trust her that she even means what she says tonight?”
In response, Cumbo stood by her decision to support that project, claiming that it would provide employment opportunities and affordable housing to the neighborhood of Clinton Hill.
Throughout the forum, the candidates were frequently met with cheers, jeers and interjections from the crowd, despite repeated warnings that doing so would make it more difficult for them to address their questions in a timely manner.
During her closing statement, when Fox began that, “We need a councilmember who is willing to roll up their sleeves,” she was promptly interrupted by a cry of, “We got one!” from the audience.
Despite the interruptions, the candidates managed to answer fifteen questions comprehensively by the end of the forum, giving the audience a comprehensive look at their respective platforms.
The polling for the council primary election will take place next week, on Tuesday, Sept. 12.