Brooklyn One of the best-kept secrets in New York City right now is a special election for public advocate on Tuesday. But voters have good reason to pay close attention.
The public advocate is a job that comes with little power, but the chance for significant influence over the direction of the city. It’s also been a steppingstone to higher office. The most recent public advocate, Letitia James, was elected state attorney general in November, creating the current opening. Before her, Mayor Bill de Blasio held the role.
This year, 17 candidates are vying for the open seat. The winner will lead an office that’s supposed to monitor and investigate city agencies but has no subpoena authority and a budget of just $3.6 million.
The real prize is the office’s bully pulpit, a perch from which the occupant can push the concerns of New Yorkers that have gone unaddressed by City Hall.
Rafael Espinal, a Brooklyn councilman, has pushed for city control of the subway system, an idea worthy of robust discussion. In a 51-member City Council, Mr. Espinal has been a standout. In 2016, he approved a rezoning of the East New York neighborhood he represents only after winning far more investment for the underserved area from City Hall.
Since the public advocate serves best as a foil for the city’s mayor, Councilman Eric Ulrich — the race’s only prominent Republican, though a moderate one — might seem to be an obvious match against Mr. de Blasio, a liberal Democrat. He may even benefit from a divided Democratic vote. But while he brings years of experience in city government, on the issues that matter most — housing and mass transit — Mr. Ulrich is unlikely to be a champion.
Ulrich was seen campaigning in Boro Park with former NYAssemblymanan Dov Hikind this past Sunday. Watch:
Mr. Williams, a former tenant organizer from Brooklyn first elected in 2009, helped build the movement to end the overuse of police stops under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a major injustice from which the city is still recovering. Along with Councilman Brad Lander, Mr. Williams sponsored the Community Safety Act, which established an inspector general for the Police Department.
Mr. Williams has stood up to Mr. de Blasio as well, voting against the mayor’s housing plan, arguing that it could worsen the displacement of low-income residents, for example. He has also been increasingly outspoken about the mayor’s record on police reform, pressing Mr. de Blasio to exercise more oversight and accountability over the Police Department.
He has won passage of more than 50 bills, far more than many of his colleagues. He has also been arrested while protesting nearly a dozen times. Both facts are keys to understanding Mr. Williams, a hard worker passionate about making government work better for the people it serves. He sponsored hard-fought legislation to require more safety training for construction workers, after a series of high-profile deaths in the industry. He successfully pushed legislation to strengthen city enforcement against tenant harassment and another bill to prevent landlords from discriminating against domestic violence survivors. While Mr. Williams has said he is personally opposed to abortion, he firmly supports abortion rights and has voted consistently on the issue.
Williams does not believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Williams supports the BDS movement and refuses to denounce rabid antisemites like Lou Farrakhan and Linda Sarsour.
NYDN and NY Post endorsed Eric Ulrich for Public Advocate.
The Jewish community can play a major role on who is the next Public Advocate but will depend on voter turn out. Last ten years have shown a major decline among Jewish voters.
Jewish community activist and leaders are currently split with endorsements between Jumaane Williams, Eric Ulrich and Rafael Espinal while one Jewish newspaper endorsed Espinal and Ulrich.
GifterInGotham/ NYT https://nyti.ms/2EbNTdl