After Wednesday night’s first debate for Feb. 26 public advocate special election one thing became clear: Amazon is the new Trump.
Yes, the multibillion-dollar company planning to build a new office complex in Long Island City was a major topic of the debate, with all of the candidates criticizing the process to various degrees and criticizing each other for their varying levels of support or opposition. The tech giant seemed to dominate the conversation in the way that the topic of Donald Trump’s presidency has dominated previous debates for citywide office in New York City.
The discussion also turned to such hot-button issues as congestion pricing, the entrance exam for the city’s specialized high schools and the poor living conditions for New York City Housing Authority residents, even though the public advocate has a limited ability to address such matters.
As the 10 candidates (out of 17) who qualified for the debate jostled for attention in the crowded field, City & State reporter Jeff Coltin tweeted out some of the highlights.
Moderator Errol Louis asks candidates the first bill they would introduce as PA.— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Nomiki Konst: $30/hr minimum wage
Melissa Mark-Viverito: something about housing
Dawn Smalls: something for women and children
Ydanis Rodriguez: (first answering in Spanish) let immigrants vote
Cont...— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Ron Kim: end corporate giveaways and end student debt
Eric Ulrich: strengthen office of public advocate, give it an independent budget
Rafael Espinal: pass resolution to more effectively tax Wall Street
Michael Blake: focus on housing, e.g. lead remediation plan for NYCHA
Jumaane Williams: moratorium on neighborhood rezonings, etc.— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
(Got to admit, most of these were tough to boil down into a sentence.)
Oh and back to first law you would pass!— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Daniel O'Donnell: subpoena power for the public advocate.
Konst, for some reason, given an opportunity to rebut, says that she's an investigative reporter, and you don't need subpoeana power to investigate.
Time for a show of hands!— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Asked if they support congestion pricing in concept, everybody says yes except for Queens Republican Eric Ulrich.
Mayoral control of subways? Espinal, Konst say yes. (Williams and Smalls halfhearted yes.)
Espinal says one reason for mayoral control of subways is that voters would be able to hold someone responsible come election time. But easier said that done. The gov easily won re-election, despite growing awareness of #CuomosMTA.— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Mark-Viverito says both MTA and NYCHA are "creatures of the state." I'm no expert on NYCHA's governing structure, but it's definitely a city-run authority. The mayor appoints the chairman.— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Mark-Viverito double down. "NYCHA is a creature of the state," saying that the state legislature has more of a say over NYCHA than the City Council. That may be true, but only in the broad sense that city government is beneath state government.— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
Overall, lots of discussion about how to fix the ailing MTA. Currently, public advocate has essentially no influence over the authority. But with recent talk, from Cuomo and others, of reforming the governance, possible that city could have more say in the near future.— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
HIGHLIGHT. Blake asks Williams about his past (alleged) opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Apropos of nothing, Williams says “I’m not as polished as you, and I don’t have the flowery titles that you do..."— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
You can read more about William’s stance on same-sex marriage and abortion in this 2017 Gay City News article.
Favorite media set in NYC?— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) February 7, 2019
MMV: Law and Order
Smalls: Brooklyn (film)
Ydanis: independent Dominican films
Kim: A Bronx Tale
Espinal: (missed his answer!)
Blake: A Bronx Tale
Williams: Malcolm X (film)
O’Donnell: biography of Eleanor Roosevelt
Espinal mentioned writer James Baldwin and the TV show “Mad Men.”
One thing is for sure: Anti-Amazon activists like Seth Pollack were happy with the debate.
i personally think the viewers won— Seth Pollack (@sethmpk) February 7, 2019