U. S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), rumored to be running for president in 2020, encouraged attendees to fight back and speak out at a CUNY Medgar Evers College Town Hall yesterday where she fielded questions from city-wide constituents.
Rep. Yvette Clarke introduced her mother, Una Clarke, as the moderator of the town hall with Gillibrand. Nearly 350 constituents poured into Founder’s Auditorium, 1650 Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights. Gillibrand tackled Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Title IX, climate change and public schools during her Brooklyn stopover.
Gillibrand answered about a dozen questions. Before the Q & A began, the senator addressed the repeal of DACA, the executive order that protects undocumented immigrants who have come illegally to the states as children, of which, Congress must correctly legislate by the president’s March 25, 2018 deadline.
“I think it’s so troubling because it just undermines and goes through the heart of who we are as Americans,” said Gillibrand.
The senator urged attendees to speak out and named the women’s march as an example of how communities should collectively engage, an event she called the most inspiring period in her political career. On the legislative side, Gillibrand said she is pushing to pass the DREAM Act before the year’s end.
In light of Hurricane Harvey’s disastrous plunder through Texas and rumors of Jose possibly impacting the northeast, attendees pushed for answers on how lawmakers plan to keep New York safe from impending catastrophic weather.
“I think we have to invest in infrastructure and resiliency,” said Gillibrand. “One of the projects we are working on right now is the Gateway Rail Tunnel.”
The $30 billion proposed project will connect New Jersey to Manhattan by way of the Hudson River and is said to be a vital infrastructure project because the existing Amtrak tunnels were damaged during Super Sandy.
The senator also said it is important to tackle climate change and acknowledged local representation for pushing forward with the Paris Agreement, despite the president’s retraction.
When one East New York patron complained about homeless shelters creating dead zones by isolating occupants who do not have the tools to sustain a lifestyle outside of poverty, the senator agreed.
“I believe in the model where we just integrate families. I wish we would just build housing,” said Gillibrand. The U.S. congress member also said that Trump is cutting the budget of HUD drastically, which will impact money for senior and low-income housing.
In line with the homeless conversation, Gillibrand also touched on healthcare by touting single-payer plans. Gillibrand noted that while Obamacare did many great things, the system is flawed because it still revolves around a for-profit system.
When the conversation turned to education, Gillibrand denounced Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ decision to rescind the sexual assault guidelines the Obama administration implemented in 2011.
“I am very concerned about Betsy DeVos which is one of the reasons I voted against her,” said Gillibrand. “Title IX is really important to keep campuses safe and to have a process if there is a rape on campus.”
A Brooklyn public school teacher brought up charter schools and New York State Gov. Cuomo’s perceived alliance with special interest groups that push the agenda of charter schools.
“I would like to work on ways the federal government can support public schools, and one of the programs that’s doing really well in New York State is “Say Yes to Education,”” said Gillibrand. The program is designed for high-poverty areas and offers assistance to students on a case-specific basis ranging from supplemental meals to after-school programming and internships.
“They literally build the system around every single student,” said Gillibrand, adding the program has been doing well in Buffalo and Syracuse.
While the responsibility of education usually lies on local city and state government, the senator contends the program is one way federal policy can contribute to the public school system.
After the town hall, the senator took the time to answer questions and take selfies with dozens of attendees.