Bevy Of Candidates Turn Up For Public Advocate Forum


Tensions were high as in the Church of the Savior First Unitarian Church, 116 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights last night as 16 candidates for the opening public advocate seat spoke at a forum in hopes of gaining endorsements from Brooklyn’s political clubs.

The forum was a mixture of council members, assembly members, lawyers, and non-office holding citizens, all who said they wanted the position for public advocate not as a stepping stone to the mayor’s office but as a vehicle to drive change.  

Candidates included City Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York), Assemblyman Michael Blake (D-Bronx), Theo Chino, Daniel Christmann, David Eisenbach, Tony Herbert, Ifeoma Ike, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D- Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, and Murray Hill), Nomiki Konst, former Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Bronx), Dawn Smalls, Ydanis Rodriguez, Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville), Councilman Jumaane Williams (D- East Flatbush, Flatbush, Midwood) and Benjamin Yee.

Executive Editor of the Gotham Gazette Ben Max and Editorial Board Member at New York Daily News Alyssa Katz led the forum which they broke up the candidates into groups of four, fielding them each three questions and allowing them time for both an opening and closing remark.

City Councilman Rafael Espinal explains why he thinks he would make a great public advocate. Photo by Sonia Colon.

“I’m concerned about the future of our city, the direction it’s heading in, and how it is becoming more unlivable every single day. This election is going to drive the future of our city, we have to do everything we can to make sure we keep it a livable city that’s accessible and inclusive of all,” said Espinal.  

Questions ranged from how the potentially new public advocates would restructure the office, utilize funds, what they believed were the greatest issues regarding homeless, the MTA, Education, public housing, the Board of Elections, and rezoning.

Brooklyn standouts included Espinal, Walker, and Williams, who all tried to focus on their accomplishments while in office and the ways they could innovate the position.

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker ventures out into the audience to explain her [positions. Photo by Sonia Colon.
Williams said if he were to become the new public advocate he would focus on improving police accountability so that there would not be another situation like with Jasmine Headley, “I don’t think anyone who knows about police reform issues doesn’t think of me and how I stood up for reform,” he said.

Espinal came ready with a plan of action he wanted to share to explain kind of work he would try to do if he were the next public advocate.

“There are four issues we want to work on. One is expanding and connecting our precincts, two is making sure NYCHA and the MTA are fully invested in, three we want to make sure that our cultural spaces like our late night establishments and all our art spaces are being invested in and protected from SBJSA,” said Espinal.  

Espinal included that if he were the new public advocate he would make police more accountable as he is experienced with doing in his own precincts in East New York and would try to implement new techniques like meditation in the schools for students who come from less fortunate homes.

Bronx Assemblyman MIchael Blake makes a point during the public advocates candidate forum. Photo by Sonia Colon.

Walker keyed in on the work she’s done in office as of yet, including fighting against the public charge rule change and fighting for the rights of her constituents.

“I utilize my law degree for service to help people prevent evictions, to help people with stop and frisk I’m not here to talk about stop and frisk I’m actually the only legislature litigator in this race. I am qualified, I am certified, I am here presenting myself as your next New York City public advocate,” said Walker.  

After the forum closed the various political groups including Indivisible Nation BK, Lambda Independent Democrats, the Shirley Chisholm Democratic Club, New Kings Democrats, Brooklyn Young Democrats and CBID – Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats separated to make their decisions as to whom they would endorse.  

A special election for the public advocate seat is expected to come up in February for the 2019 year as current Public Advocate Letitia James will assume her new office  – that as State Attorney General – next month.