Press Clips: Bronxnet Hosts Public Advocate Debate

Bronxnet Public Advocate DebateBy Robert Press

Of the seventeen candidates running in the special election for NYC Public Advocate, only ten came to Lehman College Friday night, for a televised debate on Bronxnet Television. They were Assemblyman Ron Kim, journalist Nomiki Konst, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Assemblyman Michael Blake, Attorney Jared Rich, Councilman Rafael Espinal, attorney Dawn Smalls, andcommunity activists Benjamin Yee, Anthony Herbert and David Eisenbach.
Missing were seven other candidates Councilman Jumaane Williams, former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilman Eric Ulrich, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, attorney Manny Alicandro, teacher Helal Sheikh, and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, who has ended her campaign but remains on the February 26 ballot.
The debate almost immediately veered off-topic on the questions, and at points became a shouting match as candidates tried to show up each other. That resulted in responses and counter-responses with candidates speaking on top of each other. Host and moderator Gary Axelbank struggled to regain control of the debate, at times.
Key questions included Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.’s support of of his colleague Ydanis Rodriguez, who said that the For-Hire Committee CM Diaz had chaired — before the City Council dissolved the panel this week — did good work for the taxi industry which is in trouble now. Other candidates called out Diaz for his remarks saying that “homosexuals controlled the Council” with some going as far as saying he should resign.
Assemblyman Michael Blake was asked about the one thousand dollar contribution he gave to Councilman Diaz’s primary campaign in 2017. Blake replied that he asked for his refund to be returned when the LBGTQ community demanded that he do so, but he was still called out for that.
The topic of rezoning of the Jerome Avenue area was discussed. Blake said that rezoning results in gentrification. This led to candidate Konst going after Councilman Espinal for the rezoning going on in his Upper Manhattan district. Espinal replied that it is easy for someone who has not set foot in his district to criticize the rezoning.
When the subject of Amazon came up, Councilman Espinal attacked Assemblyman Blake for signing an early letter inviting Amazon to consider the Queens location. This led to a vigorous back and forth as other candidates jumped in.
Dawn Smalls, an attorney, got into a discussion about the legal powers the Public Advocate had regarding NYCHA. Smalls asserted that one candidate was wrong when he said he’d sue NYCHA. She said that as an attorney who has handled problems at NYCHA, shd knows that the Public Advocate has no standing to sue NYCHA.
Overall, this was a good debate, but few of the ten candidates could articulate why voters should vote for them.
The winner of this debate to me was Dawn Smalls, who demonstrated knowledge of the subject matter discussed and gave the most informative answers without going off topic. The losers were the seven candidates who did not show.

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