It could be argued that one candidate is beholden to real estate interests and the other to non-profit interests, but either way, the debate between 46th Assembly District Candidates Mathylde Frontus (D) and Steve Saperstein (R) made for good theater.
The verbal jousting match was part of a triple bill of debates that the Bay Ridge Community Council sponsored at Xaverian High School, 7100 Shore Road this week.
With BRCC Civics Committee Co-Chair Alex Conti moderating the war of words, the other debates included incumbent State Senator Marty Golden (R) against his Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes for the 22nd Senate District; and incumbent Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis (R) against her Democratic challenger Adam Baumel for the 64th District Assembly seat.
Saperstein introduced himself as a born and raised district resident, now with a wife and two kids, and a special education school teacher, and who is a bridge builder with both Republican and Democratic supporters.
Frontus introduced herself as a longtime district resident, accomplished student and teacher, and founder of a successful, but now defunct mult-service non-profit agency.
When the topic of real estate development came up, Frontus noted that she though she had a hard-fought primary race, she never took money from real estate developers and continues to refuse to take their money in campaign contributions. There is a a lack of affordable housing while the Coney Island Peninsula is being over developed with market rate affordable housing, she said.
Saperstein countered that in regard to real estate developers it shouldn’t be an us versus them scenario. It’s important to work with everybody, including developers to create more affordable housing, he said.
While Frontus pushed hard against real estate interests, she indicated on several occasions that the answers to such problems as homelessness, crimes and veterans services was more funding and creation of non-profit community based organizations, such as the multi-service Urban Neighborhood Services (UNS) she founded in Coney Island.
Although Frontus shuttered the non-profit a few years ago, the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island maintains the name and operates it as one of their affiliate services. She noted she helped both the JCC in an advisory role as well as the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative in getting started.
Frontus did not mention that advisory role was through her for profit business Avante-Garde Consulting, which among other services, helps non profits in grant writing. As non-profits receive large chunks of funding through the government, this could pose a conflict of interest if Frontus was elected to the assembly.
In a previous KCP story, Frontus said she “will hit the pause button [on the business] once I transition to the assembly.”
The two candidates also disagreed on marijuana legalization with Frontus believing it should be further decriminalized because it puts thousands of people in jail and through the criminal justice system unfairly, particularly when it’s already legal in other states. Saperstein argued it should not be legalized as it is a gateway to harder drugs and will lead to more criminal activity.
In regard to the de Blasio Administration’s plan to get rid of the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) to get into elite academic schools so their can be a more diverse student body, Saperstein opposed the plan while Frontus said the exam should be revised, but not abolished.
In regard to the Child Victims Act, which proposes the state’s statute of limitations for victims of child
sexual abuse to charge their abusers in court, currently capped at 23 years of age, be raised to 28 years for the victims to pursue a criminal motion and 50 years for civil cases, both Saperstein and Frontus expressed empathy towards victims of sexual abuse.
However, Saperstein said the caps should be 20 years for criminal charges and 30 for civil cases.
Frontus noted it often takes years for people to come to terms with their being sexually abused when they are young. There is a cultural shift on this issue now and there should be no statute of limitations, she said.
The district includes Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and a slice of Brighton Beach. The election is Nov. 6.