MIDWOOD – About 150 residents of Community District 45 came to hear what seven of eight candidates running for Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ old council member seat had to say, at a forum hosted by the Pakistani American Youth Society (PAYS) and moderated by Bklyner last week.
The first question asked to the candidates was on addressing affordable housing. How would they do it?
Candidates answers by saying they’d go directly to the Land Use Committee, advocate for more accountability, regulate the price of rent, and provide resources to legal service groups. Xamayla Rose threw some shade at contender Farah Louis and said, “What’s interesting that I also served on Community Board 17, and right now the board is working desperately to fight and change land use and zoning codes.”
She continued, “We have had support from Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuels, Councilman Mathieu Eugene to fight for land use issues… What we have not had support from Jumaane Williams and his budget director Farah Louis. They have not provided any money for the community board to fight some of these land use.”
Louis responded, “I just want to respond to a contentious angry candidate… Is the CB17 Land Use Housing team here, because that’s who I worked with to ensure we give $42,000 dollars. I advocated for that money to ensure that land use was a major option for CB17.”
When candidates were asked how they would get the community involved in the 2020 Census, they said they work to make sure people in churches, synagogues, and mosques are being educated. L. Richie Tulloch suggested, “We need to teach our students so they can tell their parents and disseminate information to their folks.”
Candidate Adina Sash said she’d focus on the more digital aspect of it. And then came the Taylor Swift reference.
“We should be using social media influencers to encourage people to tell their parents to participate in the Census,” she said. “There’s no reason why Taylor Swift… is registering millions of people to vote with one click, and we aren’t adopting similar models within our neighborhoods.”
Congestion Pricing was just passed in the State Budget. Drivers will be charged when entering congested areas in Manhattan and the money will go toward fixing the MTA. When asked if they were for or against it, Tulloch said he was remaining neutral because he wants to take a serious look at how it will come about.
Sash said, “I’m going to be totally honest. I only know a little bit about it and from what I’ve read, I believe I am for it.”
Candidate Victor Jordan said if the plan burdens his constituents, he is against it. “There should be another way,” he said.
Candidate Jovia Radix was also against it because she believed it’s another added burden. Louis said she was all for fixing the MTA, “but not at the expense of working-class people.”
Monique Chandler-Waterman said the State comes up with so many ways to fix the MTA and asked if anything is really getting done. “We need to make sure that we are holding people accountable and that money is managed correctly.”
Rose said since the plan has already been passed, she’d ask the legislature to focus some of the money to repairing the system in the 45th District and expanding transit.
When asked if they’d preserve parking or build bus lanes, they all said preserving parking except Sash and Jordan who said they’d rather build bus lanes. The audience applauded at their response.
It’s been one year since cops shot and killed Saheed Vassell, an unarmed Black man in Brooklyn. When asked how they’d hold the NYPD accountable, Radix said she’d make sure there’s a special prosecutor for every police shooting in the City. Jordan said it’s up to the Mayor. If he were mayor and someone shot one of his constituents, then the person would be “out.”
Tulloch said training is necessary and he’d make sure they’re enough funding for more training. Louis suggested changing policies and procedures to make sure everyone is held accountable. Rose and Chandler-Waterman both said they’ll focus on mental health and making sure cops are educated on how to deal with it.
Sash said she does not know what she’d do.
“I can’t say I’m an expert on this subject,” she said. “I will work alongside my staff to figure out a solution. I can’t think of an answer on the fly.”
In a lightning round, candidates were asked what the worst bus line in the district was. Radix, Jordan, Louis, Chandler-Waterman, and Rose called out the B8, “We call it the B Late,” Rose said. Sash said it was the B49 and Tulloch said the B6.
Toward the end of the hour and a half-long forum, the question of how will they will make sure the district remains united was brought up.
Rose said there is currently factions between “This type of Caribbean, that type of Caribbean, this ethnicity, that ethnicity.”
Louis said she’s a woman of faith and unity was very important, especially because, “I’m a Haitian America and sometimes I find that I have to say I’m not Haitian American because of the attacks I’m getting from my candidates.”
Chandler-Waterman said unity was necessary but she felt that it wasn’t being accomplished.
“Candidates feel they need to go low in order to win a candidacy,” she said. “It’s not about that. We need to make sure we embrace each other. We’re not at war with each other and it’s becoming this competitive battle.”
“Unfortunately when you are the front runner, you are under attack. There are targets on your back.”
PAYS organizer Kashif Hussain believed the forum was a success.
“I wanted to make sure that we not only got to know the platform of our candidates but also got to know their personalities intimately, which often gets lost in today’s politics,” he told Bklyner. “I’m glad that diverse constituents took part in this forum.”
In the end, they all got together for a big group photo and everyone was smiling. The Special Election is set for May 14. There will then be a primary and general election in June and November. Keep up with election coverage at Bklyner!