BP Candidates Verbally Joust in Kick-off Debate

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Brooklyn Borough President candidates from l-to-r: City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr., Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon and City Councilman Antonio Reynoso

A bevy of Brooklyn Borough President (BP) candidates threw down on Sunday, January 31, in the first of many major debates to come this election cycle. 

They discussed a wide range of topics from being working parents to the NYPD budget to Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) reforms, but, several candidates were highly interested in the $125,000 loan that boosted Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon’s (D-Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill) campaign fund.

The debate was hosted by the Kings County Democratic County Committee and Assembymember and Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (D-East Flatbush), with fellow Brooklynite and commentator Errol Louis moderating three hours of Mayoral, Comptroller, and BP debates among featured candidates. 

The night’s BP candidate list included Councilmembers Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood), Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick, Ridgewood); Brownsville Democratic District Leader Anthony T. Jones, Rev. Kim Council, Khari Edwards, and Founder of Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes (G-MACC) Shanduke McPhatter.

Skipping opening statements, Louis launched right into the issues of displacement, land use, and changing how community boards interact with developers. Then, candidates got to cross examine each other. 

Edwards really got the ball rolling by calling out Simon for starting her campaign late and then loaning herself $125,000. He said the rest of the candidates had to raise funds “the old fashioned way,” which is representative of constituents incomes across the borough. 

“I had looked at this race and I decided that when COVID happened my first obligation was to my constituents and people that needed our help. I got into this race a little late and this was an insurance policy I was able to loan myself. As you may notice, I have raised virtually the same amount of money from more people, over 800 donors, and 80 percent of which is coming from Brooklyn,” said Simon.

Reynoso also countered when Simon asked about why only 52 percent of his donations were from Brooklyn residents. 

“Unlike you, my base doesn’t come from a lot of money. I come from an immigrant family that just got here from the Dominican Republic less than 30 years ago, so because of it I haven’t been able to build a network that could help fund a campaign with millions of dollars,” said Reynoso in response. “So I have the most donors in this race, more than anyone else from the donors that are paid the least, $100 for each of my donations, and I’m showing I’m going to be able to raise money in low dollar amounts from tons of people.”

Simon said she hasn’t touched that money and she has to pay it back before the primary.  

Cornegy softballed Reynoso and asked about his duties to his family as a new father of two. 

Council turned up the dial by putting Cornegy on the defensive about “smoke and mirror” budgeting choices last year in terms of the NYPD budget cuts. 

Cornegy said that moving resources and police accountability are not mutually exclusive. He said there are programs in the police department that do not serve the community, but there’s still spikes in violent crime that require coordination with police efforts to curb.

“I invested in a budget that actually took care of our seniors. It wasn’t smoke and mirrors. We’ve been working on shifting the balance of resources into quality programs from day one and I didn’t want it to be punitive,” explained Cornegy. “We should be doing that because we’re good fiscal stewards, not to try and punish the police department.”