Challenger Zellnor Myrie yesterday blasted State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D) for taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the real estate lobby instead of dealing with the dire housing situation in the 20th Senate district.
But Hamilton countered that he steadfastly stood with the disenfranchised – many of which need affordable housing – both on district streets and in Albany’s halls of power through legislation he has written and sponsored.
The verbal confrontation was just some of the issues the two political gladiators clashed on at The Flatbush Tenant Coalition forum held at P.S. 6, 43 Snyder Avenue. The district includes Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, and Sunset Park..
“We have representatives that take tens of thousands of dollars from real estate lobbies and cannot come to the table with clean hands,” said Myrie, pledging not to take any donations from real estate lobbies.
Myrie blamed the Republicans and the members of the Independent Democratic Conference, which Hamilton was apart of, for the lack of tenant-friendly legislation passing in the State Senate.
But Hamilton countered that Myrie was playing fast and loose with the facts, and pointed out direct actions he has taken to fight for tenant rights for the people in the district.
One such instance he brought up was being one of only 17 senators to vote to get rid of preferential rent, something he thinks does not help the neighborhood.
Hamilton said in his two decades of service, he has fought by co-sponsoring bills that help the disenfranchised people of the neighborhood.
“I am on the ground fighting for this community, I will stay on the ground fighting for this community,” Hamilton said
When questioned about policing in the area, Hamilton discussed the scenes he has witnessed during his time in the Senate, where he said unjust practices are occurring that are disproportionately affecting people of color.
“Too many men of color are being unjustly arrested,” he said.
One such instance he pointed to was young people being targeted for jumping the turnstile at subway stations, then being unable to afford the ticket, and as a result being sent to prison
“We’re sending our children to prison for not paying $2.75,” Hamilton said.
Myrie used his career as a lawyer to demonstrate his knowledge of the issue. He said he represented clients in the past who have dealt with unfair treatment by the police.
“Police brutality isn’t just a political topic,” Myrie said, “It’s a personal topic I’ve dealt with.”
Myrie claimed his first actions in Senate would be to repeal rule 58, which allows the records of off officers to be sealed, even if they deal with police brutality.
For the topic of education, Myrie again took the legal route, pointing to several legal cases where he claims schools in district 20 are owed $36 million. He said he will ensure that money comes.
“What I plan to do when I get to the State Senate is to vote for fully funded schools, which is what the highest courts in the land say they deserve.
Hamilton said the schools should be focusing on specialized programs, such as coding.
He claimed that students can make up to $80,000 a year if they learn how to code, and that introducing students to a young age would be of great benefit.
Though Hamilton said it’s not as easy as one would imagine, as there have been roadblocks to getting the proper funding for these kinds of programs, and even programs that address mental health in schools.
“Why is it that when schools of color are doing well, they are under attack?” Hamilton questioned.
The primary election is Sept. 13.