City Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, East New York) officially kicked off his campaign to replace State Attorney-elect Letitia James as public advocate yesterday at the House of Yes in Bushwick to a large crowd of supporters.
The venue was significant for Espinal who was the top champion legislator in repealing the notoriously racist and bureaucratic “No Dancing” Cabaret Law, last year. The Brooklynite also created the first -ever Office of Nightlife that includes a Mayor of Nightlife.
House Of Yes is a well-known Bushwick nightclub that opened in 2015, and is the brainchild of New York artists Kae Burke and Anya Sapozhnikova. On any given night, party-goers might encounter trance DJs, aerialists, circus performers, marching bands, burlesque dancers, magicians, and tarot card readers.
“We’re standing in one of the coolest venues in the world. Built by two of the coolest entrepreneurs in the world. A place that makes us all proud to live here. These two people have not only created a space where people congregate for fun and play in a safe space, but these two leaders have also created a space that has given back to New York City,” said Espinal.
Most recently, Espinal introduced three bills aimed at promoting consent in nightlife. These bills will require bystander intervention training for nightlife staff, mandate posters in all venues informing patrons about consent, and require the Office of Nightlife to post information relating to consent and trainings on its website.
Espinal also noted that his main intention for running is to represent city residents and effect change, not to use the public advocate seat as a springboard for higher political aspirations.
“I am not here to be a career politician. I am here for as long as I can effectively bring change for our communities and our cities. There are a lot of people who focus their attention in staying in office, instead of figuring out ways to move our city forward. And I want to make it clear. I am not here for me, I am here for us,” added Espinal.
Some of Espinal’s top priorities if elected to the citywide office, include supporting the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), pushing for rent control for small businesses, protecting service and creative workers from wage theft, pushing consent policy and supporting the Agent of Change Bill.
The longtime lawmaker is hoping to energize young and new voters in his district to get him a win in the special election in February.
“I need you to vote, I need your friends to vote. In politics there is culture and that culture believes that we should only prioritize the issues of those communities that vote in large numbers. And because of that belief, political insiders don’t believe that we can win, political insiders believe that we can’t win because in their assessment the people in my district don’t vote,” said Espinal.
Also at the event were Espinal’s siblings, his four brothers who came to support him.
Espinal was born on the cusp of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant to working-class immigrants of the Dominican Republic in 1984 and is the third of six children. He attended public schools in East New York and grew up in Cypress Hills — one of the most disinvested neighborhoods in New York City, at the time.
He has spent the better part of the last decade championing efforts to fight for better health care, protect arts and creative spaces in gentrifying neighborhoods, promote environmentally-sustainable practices to protect our environment, and secure the rights of those who have been disenfranchised by the City.
Also in the race for the open seat include City Councilmemebers Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) and Eric Ulrich (R-Queens), Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville), former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake.