COMMUNITY CONVERSATION WITH ROGER GREEN AND HAKEEM JEFFRIES
Sponsored by Citizens Union Foundation
Hakeem Jeffries: Good evening. Let me first thank these wonderful organizations for their foresight and their initiative in putting together such an event, which is important to this community, to the fabric of this community, and to democracy of this community. But we also thank you for taking the time out on a Thursday evening, especially on the labor day weekend, to participate in this community conversation for a race that I believe is extremely important. And I think it's important because it presents a stark contrast to see someone who's been in office for 22 years, whose background is politics, with myself, whose background is not in politics, but in law, in the church, and in community service. As you can read in this brochure, I was raised in this community, I proudly lived in this community, went to church in this community, was educated in this community. And that's really why I decided to run: because this community is important to me, here I decided to settle down. This is where my family members, all of my relatives are. And I decided that even though the pressing issues have failed to be actively addressed by state government and the assembly in particular, it was important that if you believe that government is broken, to change the individuals in our government. There are several issues that we have to discuss tonight. Let me just focus in on three, which I believe are very important to us. We have to improve the quality of public schools. We can no longer continue to short change our children, and doom them to life sentences of mediocrity and despair, so we're going to fight for more resources, we're going to fight for class sizes, we're going to hold an aggressive campaign to increase parental involvement. We also have to address the housing crisis, which affects our neighborhood. In recent years thousands of families have been forced out of our community because of the absence of affordable housing, because of the skyrocketing rents. And so we're going to fight not just for affordable rented units, but we're going to fight to move people from rent to ownership, because with ownership you have investment and stability. Also, we're going to fight to promote economic development actively. When you look at the commercial corridors in our community. Franklin Ave., Washington Ave., Atlantic Ave., Fulton St... - you see tremendous underdevelopment. I believe there's great potential, and we're going to do everything we can: litigate, advocate, legislate, and negotiate to make that opportunity into reality. Thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward to this conversation.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Jeffries. We will now give the floor to Assemblymember. Roger Green, who has also three minutes to talk.
Green: Thank you very much... I concur with my opponent that it is important to come together in these moments. Let me take this moment to begin the discourse and dialogue on this important broad issue of our constituency. Let me thank the outstanding workers over the years in opening up the house of this church so we could gather here together on all those issues that we had to deliberate together on. I am grateful for all this, again, because I just think that there is a lot more work that we need to do to... As the chairperson of the assembly staff committee on children and families, I have arrived at that position after an evolution from a personal, a political evolution for myself. I entered politics not as a traditional politician. The modern civil rights and human rights movement, I think, concur, that the extension of that movement was honestly the development of policies and support survival protection and development in children. So it is also that issues that I perceive as most important to me. I do not perceive it as a political application, I see it as my mission, as the thing I care the most about and would like to continue in this office to address among the issues that I think impact the lives of children and families within this issue. And I concur with my opponent that we need to do more with respect to issues of public schools, and that's one of the reasons why I was working very hard towards the restructuring of New York City Public school systems. And to do so innovative, but also to make sure that we respected the role of parents as the most important social category in the lives of children. And so this year for the first time the city board of education announced that 40% of that board would be comprised of parents. We hope to begin processing for the system on behalf of the children. Also we believe that we need to do more regarding affordable housing, and that's why today....we held a press conference where I was able to secure some additional funding for the housing complex that's just down the street. We held a press conference today talking about the importance of ensuring that we have affordable housing, particularly for many of the elderly who have been displaced within this community. We need to ensure that we have new covenants for public policy and... ensure that people who live in this community, many of the elderly on top of whose shoulders we stand, would have affordable housing, decent housing, here in this community. In the context of economic development, I also believe we need to do more, and we have done some things. You know that I've worked very diligently... developing corporations and others in an effort of revitalization that area. So that I, too, again, look forward to this debate and look forward to articulating my vision for this district and talking with the citizens that are here this evening as we put fourth a pro-active agenda to uplift this community to make it stronger, make it.
Moderator: Thank you, Assemblymember Green. I've heard in each statement that they'll bring the level of conversation primarily to reach the areas of education, housing, and economic development. So what I'm going to do is ask questions in those areas, and when I've concluded doing that, turn the floor over to the audience for participation. To begin, a question on housing... Recent studies have shown that generally black and low-income neighborhoods are targets for (real estate) predators (resulting in) homes being lost due to foreclosure. Since District 57 has one of the highest foreclosure rates in Brooklyn, what legislative action would you take to reverse this trend. Assemblymemberator Green?
Green: Well, short and to the point: I co-sponsored the predatory lending bill that was introduced by the chair person of the assembly standard committee on banks. That bill has passed the assembly, it was supported by numerous organizations, including many in this community... And the bill did pass the assembly, and I think what we have to do is to strengthen the mobilization effort in the state senate, so that it will be enacted into law. But I am a co-sponsor of that bill, clearly I understand the impact that it's had on this particular community. I've worked with Sen. Montgomery. I have to say this publicly, she's done an outstanding job probably as the leading voice for the enactment of the predatory lending bill and had worked very diligently in terms of putting together community meetings, also to educate, particularly the elderly, about the practices and patterns that exist within certain real estate interests as they try to prey on many of the elderly. But, again, I co-sponsored the bill and will advocate for the bill once we're elected. Most importantly, I think we've got to identify important parliamentary maneuvers in order to get this bill enacted into law in the state senate at this point and time.
Jeffries: I think there are three things that need to happen. I call them the "three e's": you need enactment, you need enforcement, and then you need education. I support the legislation that was sponsored by the Assembly Woman. I think we need to even go further in terms of enactment of legislation that increases and enhances the penalties for those that would prey on our community and other communities, and those who would prey on senior citizens, the most vulnerable in our community. We have to enact laws that increase the penalties to send the message of deterrence in our communities. But we have to go even further. Once we enact the legislation we can't just leave it in a vacuum on the law books up in Albany. We have to make sure that that legislation is enforced: enforced by the attorney general's office, enforced by the local district attorney's office, and if necessary even enforced by the federal government. And so, I propose to be an active legislator in making sure that the law enforcement agencies in our community make sure that the laws in our community are enforced, and the community is given the perception that we deserve. And third: the third e, I believe, is education. We have to make sure that those in our community understand that there are people out there preying on them, preying on the lack of information that has been put fourth about the mortgage schemes, about the home refurbishment schemes, and about the other schemes that have been perpetrated on many seniors in our community. And I think the combination of all three: enacting stronger legislation, enforcing the laws that are on the books, and then educating the community about the fraud that is out there, will go a long way to alleviating this problem, which has plagued us, I must say, for at least a decade.
Moderator: Thank you very much. The next question will be in the area of economic development. And we'll begin with Mr. Jeffries, who must respond to the question in 90 seconds. Currently there are several phases of construction occurring at the Atlantic Terminal that include retail stores and also the tower. Please explain your view of the current development in Fort Green and ways that you will ensure that local merchants are not adversely effected by this process and that local community residents have access to employment to work jobs on the construction sight. In addition, do you think that this is a trend in all of Brooklyn, or an isolated incident just in this area?
Jeffries: Well, I think certainly the latest construction is part of a trend, and it's part of a troubling trend that we've seen in our community over the last 10 or 15 years. There are many people who are, particularly in certain parts of Fort Green, as I walked the streets..., who are very pained by the house that as they sat there, jobless, they saw Metrotech go up, were promised jobs but were not given any jobs. They sat there unemployed, struggling to put food on the table, clothing on the back for their families as the Brooklyn Mariott went up. They were promised jobs but weren't given any jobs. And so what we have to do is to look at the model of the federal government empowerment legislation, which says to certain entities, corporate entities, real estate entities, contracting companies that if you're going to receive any degree of state aid or clearance, in exchange for that, you're going to have to hire and train people from the communities upon whose land you're building. Secondly, I think that we began to see particularly along Fulton St. a very troubling trend of small businesses that popped up in the last couple of years, and were part of what I think we all would agree was the commercial revitalization of a few blocks along Fulton St., South Elliot to South Portland, who have had to move off of Fulton St. because of an absence of government support, because of an absence of information, because of an absence of access to capital, because of an absence of a way to navigate some of the regulatory problems that these businesses are faced with.
Moderator: Thank you. Assemblymember. Green, you're next.
Green: Thank you. I think that the charge is, there are several charges. First, let me talk about the record. I created an organization called Latimer Woods economic development association, which is in the heart of the Metrotech complex. When we developed Latimer Woods Economic Development Association, what we knew was that we needed to have a vehicle that would provide both capital and also a... facility that would enable businesses to incubate. And so, it is a small business incubator, I created a legislation for that, and we now have some 18 businesses in, I think it's called, 7 Metrotech center. That came about as we dealt with negotiations that my office entered in with Bruce Ratner, who is the developer of the Metrotech Center. And, I was in there the other day and saw, in fact, I'll be in there tomorrow, meeting the businesses there, and we're now talking about how we can begin to process, bringing together the decks to provide for capital formation for those businesses. On Fulton Street one of the things that we did was to create an initiative with the Fulton First initiative that provided both operating capital for an advocacy group for those businesses on that strip, and then we moved to the identified place at 80 Hanson Place for the development of what will become a visitor's bureau for the businesses on Fulton Street so that they will in fact be enhanced by the increased traffic that's on that street. And then, finally, we supported the Washington Avenue Merchants' Association, with the work that they were doing along Franklin Avenue. My sense is that one of the things that we need to do is continue to provide some government support, but also to ensure in the long run that we create a climate so that these businesses can be successful. And to do that by essentially making sure that the essential services in those areas are being taken care of appropriately, so that these businesses can continue to grow.
Moderator: I have one final question to ask the candidates, then we'll open for questions... this last question is on the subject of education, and we'll ask that Assemblymember. Green is going to go first, followed by Hakeem Jeffries. Question is: it has been reported this week that the mayor has had the new schools chancellor cut the schools' budget by $ 379 million. Yet when the city budget was passed in July 2002, the mayor promised the lawmakers that he would not cut the school budget and keep education employment stable. What steps are you prepared to take that the school system does not suffer any more cutbacks?
Green: You know, one of the things that happened this past session was that we were faced with the challenge of trying to move toward the restructuring of the New York City public school system at the very same time that the mayor and the governor were proposing massive cuts in the city budget for the public schools. What we did in Albany, I served as chair of the New York State African-American and Latino legislative caucuses, we took a position saying that the deal breaker for us was that we needed to ensure that there was, as part of the restructuring process a maintenance of EPIC prescription. What this simply means is that in the past when the state of New York has given money to the New York City public schools system, that money has not supplemented the budget, it has been supplanted because when we'd give the money to the city, it would go to the general fund, and that money would then be used for other purposes. We put in law that we prohibit that. What did not occur, and this was really related to not the state government but the city government, was that the mayor instituted what was called the supplemented budget, and contained within the supplemental budget was a 172 million cut to the public school system. We called upon the city council to hold out on an opposition to those cuts. But we restored to the city budget more than $300 million in additional resources for the city budget for the public schools and an addition 30.2 million for capital construction for the public schools. What do we need to do? We need revenues. We also need to change the school aid formula. One of the things that I think is very critical is to make sure that the school aid formula that exists in the state of New York at this point and time short changes children in downstate New York in comparison to upstate New York. I'm a plaintiff in the case that calls for a restructuring of the school aid formula, I support their case with amicus curae that was directed at the fact that the school aid formula was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, but going beyond that, I think we also need real revenues, and that has to be a serious discussion that we should take up once the new session begins in January.
Moderator: Thank you. Mr. Jeffries.
Jeffries: First of all, I think there were two problems with the deal that was cut between my opponent and his colleagues up in the New York state legislature along with Governor Pataki for this legislation that gave control of the school systems to the mayor's office and to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. First, there was no real provision to continue community or parental involvement in the public school system and in the education of their children. The fact that 40% of the slots on this new education panel are allocated for parents was really just a smoke screen because Mayor Bloomberg himself said that the educational panel has no real substantive influence on how our children are educated. That was problem number one. Problem number two is that there was no real mechanism to prevent the type of cuts which Mayor Bloomberg is now proposing on the public school system, the $372 million. And so we have to look at the problem as not one of who controls and runs the school system, but the fact that we don't have enough resources to properly educate the children in the New York City public school system. For decades there's been an inequitable school funding formula, which gives to the New York City public school children $9,000 per child, but gives to suburban school districts approximately $18,000 per child. So it's little wonder why our public schools don't have adequate books, the library is empty, the science labs are empty, we don't have adequate computers, and after school programs are being cut. So what we really need to do - this is not a judicial solution; the appellate division said this is going to be a political solution --and for decades the current people in office have failed to change this formula. And we're committed to making sure that it's the top priority when we go to Albany, so that the future of our children does not continue to be mortgaged.
Moderator: Thank each of you very much for responding to the questions. I hope that we're going to get the audience and their thoughts, because now it's your chance to get involved and to raise some questions... I will begin with candidate Hakrrm Jeffries on the subject of the criminal justice system and what is related to the Rockefeller drug laws. Could you please clearly state your position on the Rockefeller drug laws?
Jeffries: Well, I think that the time has long since past when we need to reform in a real way the Rockefeller drug laws. And there's been a failure in the New York state legislature to do this over the last three decades. The problem is that these laws have not done what they were designed to do, which was to eradicate the drug problems in our community, but what they effectively have done is set nonviolent drug felons, substance abusers, for long prison terms upstate without giving any real discretion to the drugs. And I think it's part of something very vicious that has happened in New York state in the body politic, which is the emergence of the prison industrial complex. And I think we really need to take a hard look at this. As the car manufacturers, as the tire manufacturers, as the textile industry left upstate communities, the powers that be in New York state and in upstate in particular turned to prison maintenance and prison construction and the primary means of economic development. But when you build prisons, you have to find people to fill those prisons with. And we have to look at the Rockefeller drug laws in the context of the prison industrial complex, because I maintain that it is the Rockefeller drug laws that sent countless people from New York City communities, seven communities to be precise, including the one that we're standing in right now - 9 out 10, who are black and Latino, to fill those prisons in upstate New York. It is very destructive, vicious policy, and I'm going to fight with all that I have to eradicate that and to return to reform once and for all the Rockefeller drug laws.
Mod: Thank you.
Green: I'm very glad that my opponent is going to fight that, because that's what we've been doing in Albany. And so I'm hopeful that when I return to Albany, he will be one of the leading advocates for building a grassroots movement in support of the legislation that I cosponsor which is the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws. What we have proposed is a repeal that is a modification that would bring about additional treatment for inmates in prison and also would give additional money for substance abuse programs as it relates to early prevention problems, and also one of the things that we could do is also develop an initiative that would enable a greater discretion for the judges. At this point and time, my opponent is absolutely correct, when Governor Rockefeller introduced a bill, what we now call the Rockefeller drug laws, it put too much power in the hands of the prosecutors. And so, as a result of the leadership of Jeff Aubrey, one of my colleagues who is also a member of the caucus, we introduced a bill to do just that. And we wait today, not patiently, angrily waiting for the governor to return to the table to negotiate with us in order to have that bill enacted into law. With respect to the issue of prisons. The governor proposed building a juvenile prison that would cost $74.5 million in an area called Bankridge in Bolton, NY this year. And I led the fight to kill that prison. Working along with the prison moratorium project I actually went up to a rural area, spoke to farmers and environmentalists, and we organized what was probably the first urban-rural coalition In opposition to that prison. And we defeated it and directed that money into the capital budget for the conversion of armories for sports and recreational facilities for children within our district. And I think that's the type of leadership that we need to continue as we move forward in the days ahead.
Moderator: Thank you very much. A question, I have one, on social services... The state government has routinely shortchanged the city of New York. the city needs to provide critical public health and social service problems, like Medicare and food stamps. What have you done in your time in Albany to make sure that the city gets the money it needs to run these important programs? So, Assemblymember. Roger Green. Hakeem Jeffries, what would you do if you were elected?
Green: You know I serve as chair of the join budget conference committee chair on human services. That committee has oversight of what was the state department of social services, and now is office of children and family services, state dept of labor, veterans affairs, human rights and aging. In that position, each year what I propose is a state takeover of Medicaid, because I think that would relieve a real burden on our localities. And I will continue to do that. But as Velmanette Montgomery knows, our chief opposition to that initiative are upstate legislators, primarily in the Republican party, in the state senate. The opposition to this proposal that I've introduced is also backed by the governor of the state of New York, Governor Pataki. But we will continue to do that, and hopefully if in fact we have a new governor, someone like H. Carl McCall, I'm pretty certain that the proposal that I've introduced each year will be looked at a lot more favorably in the next legislative session.
Moderator: thank you.
Jeffries: I think that the fact that New York City continues to be short changed in terms of the resources that we receive with respect to social services is part of a broader pattern, which, I'm sure to the audience has already emerged. What's happened in New York state government in area after area after area? We're being shortchanged. Shortchanged in social services, short changed in terms of the inequitable school funding formula, shortchanged in terms of having to bear the burden of the Rockefeller drug laws. And that's why I decided to run for office - because our government , our New York state government is broken. And the only way I believe we can change government is to change the people who are governing. And what can't continue to happen is for our legislator in the New York state assembly, the democratic majority, to continue to allow for legislation to pass both houses and to be signed off by the governor, such as the repeal of the commuter tax, which took away $400 million annually in New York city, such as the Nassau County bail out, which gave to Nassau County $250 million this year, such as the economic development package, which focused on upstate casinos in seven counties passed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, even though they're trying to be acquired right down here. Those things continue to be passed, signed off on by our New York city legislators without us getting anything in return. And that is sort of what has to change. We have to cut better deals and demand: "in exchange for what you want, we want to get our fair share of social service resources, education and prison reform."
Moderator: Thank you very much. I have a question here on the subject of human justice slash police relations. And I will ask it this way to begin with Hakeem Jeffries to respond, followed by Assemblymember. Green. In the last month at least four police shootings have resulted in community outcries that rocked Brooklyn. One shooting occurred in this neighborhood on Franklin and Green Avenue where a man was shot several times after a dispute over food in a soup kitchen. Since the Diallo shooting, tensions remain between neighborhood and police. As a leader what role will you play in improving a long-term relationship of mutual respect between the police and our community? Mr. Jeffries.
Jeffries: Well, as a member of the 77 precinct community council... I think I've been part of one of the most active, visible and engaging police precinct councils in the city of New York. So I've already participated in a constructive dialog and discussion which takes place on a regular monthly basis to make sure that in our community we maintain a productive relationship. But I think that the question speaks to a much broader problem. My opponent spoke of him coming into office as part of the human rights movement. I am very familiar with the movement to which he speaks. Randy Evans, a teenager who was shot and killed on these very streets - unarmed, teenager - it helped empower many of the black elected officials who we have in our community today, including my opponent. That happened in 1976. 1978: businessman Arthur Miller was strangled to death near Medgar Evers college, 12-13 police officers were involved, no one was ever charged with the death of Arthur Miller. Bumpers, Diallo, Doresman, Luoima - on, and on and on, year after year we've seen this continuing problem. And so we don't need rhetoric, we don't need pronouncements, we need legislative action. And for decades, we've gotten no legislative action. We need a residency requirement to ensure that police officers don't just police the community, but they have some familiarity with the community. We need special prosecutor legislation, because the relationship between the DA and the police department is often too cozy, and so we don't see vigorous prosecution of the police. And lastly we need to abolish the 48 hour rule, which permits officers to get their stories together and often is an impediment to justice.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Assemblymember. Green?
Green: Again, once again I agree with my opponent, and I would say that I hope he supports my legislation. I'm the lead sponsor and the author of the bill that created the legislation, the bill that deals with the 48 hour rule. I'm a co-sponsor of that bill, but I'm also the lead sponsor of the bill that establishes a special prosecutor for the investigation of racial and police abuse. That bill was introduced several years ago, and we've been advocating that bill. I'm one of the few elected officials in legislature that's faced arrest in protest of the Amadou Diallo case and other cased of that nature. I'm also the lead sponsor of the racial profiling bill... And as of today, we are negotiating that bill, and I think that bill will in fact be enacted into law this session. Because of the negotiations that we've held with the PBA, the PBA has bought it, several packages for their benefit packages, and we've held their packages up for over two years now, as Velmanette Montgomery knows, and we've said that until we get this bill enacted into law, the things that they want, they will not receive. And so we've held those bills up, and I think based upon some phone calls I've had recently, I think that my bill, the bill establishing a bill for, a prohibition against racial profiling will in fact be enacted into law, and I also think that the 48 hour bill, that' s sponsored by my colleague assemblyman Keith Wright, and I'm the cosponsor, will be enacted into law also, and I would hope again that my opponent will join us in advocating for the enactment of these bills.
* * * *
Jeffries: Well, I've taken to saying that seniority without influence is like a race car with no engine: it looks nice on the outside, but it's not going to get you anywhere. And so, there's always got to be a tradeoff between seniority and new energy, new ideas, representation that's going to be active and visible and on the scene... and that's the type of representative that I propose to be. And often incumbents will throw out the question of seniority as a boogie man to scare the community: "the world is going to collapse if I'm somehow thrown out of office." Well, we saw a historic turn over in the city council, and New York City kept on ticket, and I think that many people have found that that turnover, that infusion of new energy was a positive thing for the city and for many communities in this city. Let me also say in terms of this argument there always has to be a transition in politics, a passing of the baton. Adam Clayton Powell was among the most prolific legislators in the history of the republic, but at a certain point his time came and went, and he passed the baton to Charlie Wrangle, and it was a positive thing for the community of Harlem. I believe that passing the baton at this point in history will be a positive thing for the community in the 57th assembly district.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Assemblymember Green?
Green: Well, a little history lesson: Adam Clayton Powell didn't pass that baton to Charlie Wrangle. Adam Clayton Powell was booted out of office, and many people in Harlem feel that that was the worst thing that ever happened to Harlem - ever. AND: it took a long time for Charlie Wrangle to assemble the type of influence and power that he has today, and I hope Charlie will this year become the chairman of the ways and means committee. And Harlem sucked it during that period of time. I mean, I believe we do need a transition in terms of politics, I do think we need generational change, I really believe that this young man will offer some serious leadership to this community some time in the days ahead. But what I want to say (is) there's a difference between what I define as tantrum politics and transformative politics. The issue is that we need an honest and mature and appropriate transition of power for the next generation. We need that. We need this young man's voice and other voices to have an honest critique about my leadership and others'. Because when we get that, we're strong. In fact, I appreciate the fact that he's challenging me because I think he makes me stronger and he makes our community stronger. But we also need to understand the uses of power in a system like Albany. You know, I serve as chair of a committee in a budget committee where I have a surplus budget of 1.7 billion. You know, today we opened up a computer technology center. $7.5 million legislation that I offered in Albany because I am a committee chair, and I know what it was like when I was a freshman. I would never want to be a freshman again! But what I would like to do is work with this young man and other folks in this district, because I don't think that I should die in this office. I think that I should be most responsible in working with them to ensure that we have an appropriate and mature transition of power in this community and throughout the borough of Brooklyn. I really believe that.
Moderator: Thank you. Ok, next question is directed toward Assemblymember. Green... It's in the area of community centers and youth centers. The person says that in 1998 you (worked) on 1024 Fulton street at a warehouse that turned into a community center. Four years later the building is still empty. They question is... that there is not a singly community youth center in this neighborhood. There's a similar question about the need for career centers. Assemblymember Roger Green, could you respond to that? And then Hakeem Jeffries can respond as well.
Green: Ok, the first thing is we had a... ceremony for the old OIC building where we have appropriated something in the range of, I think it's $9.7 million for the conversion of that sight into a major youth center that will feature a pinhouse theatre, computer labs, a recording studio, and also a dance studio and a museum gallery. What happened, why we don't have the construction completed at this point and time is that the city of New York failed to put the roof on the building after we had petitioned for them to do so. And as a result of that the pilings in the building we paid for were essentially destroyed. So we had to go back and do another architectural rendering, and find some additional moneys to complete this project. But the project will be completed. The money has been appropriated, and Jackie Robinson will complete it. I think it demonstrates what happens in government sometimes: that you can appropriate resources to have an initiative developed, but if you don't have an appropriate collective response from all segments of government, there could be problems. In this case, it was the city's failure. With respect to youth space we have 22 after school centers in central Brooklyn through the Jackie Robinson center for physical culture, which I started. You know? It is a youth center. We have 7000 children in these youth centers. I have a letter, in the previous debate on NY 1 my opponent said that I didn't create the program. So the director of the Jackie Robinson center said, "I'm not going to gamble," sent a letter to NY1 saying, yes, I did. I started the program. We have 7000 young folks in aft er school programs in 22 after school centers throughout central Brooklyn, and it is one of the proudest projects - one of the things I'm most proud of since I've been elected to office.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Mr Jeffries?
Jeffries: I appreciate the history lesson from my opponent, but to remind him a bit of our history Malcolm X often said, "beware of the career politician who promises much but delivers little." And I think it's very interesting that what we've seen in the last two years of a 22 years career of promise after promise after promise to deal with problems, serious problems - it's not a laughing matter - serious problems that have afflicted our community. The fact that thousands and thousands of public school children in our community have not been receiving the education that they deserve; the fact that thousands of families have been pushed out of the communities of central Brooklyn, the fact that there's been a tremendous absence of economic development, the fact that unemployment have continued to plague this community - it's not a laughing matter. So it's very interesting to joke about a political transition, and I'm very versed in political history as you understand it, I know that you came into office at the age of 31 against an incumbent who had been in office for over two decades. There was no smooth transition then: you stood on your convictions, just as I'm standing on my convictions now. And there is a serious need for after school programs in our communities. Because, as you know from just observing the gang problem in central Brooklyn has increased. And the reason that the gang problem has increased is because there is a lack of productive after school activities and a lack of summer programs for our children. Sport, theatre, recreation, chess, whatever it is - it doesn't really exist. You may be able to point to something on paper, but the reality of hundreds if not thousands of parents that I've talked to over the last two years feel that there's nothing for their children to do, and they're very concerned. And that is part of the rationale for my candidacy -- no laughing matter, extremely serious issues.
Moderator: I'm going to ask two more questions that I received from you - from the audience, and I'm going o summarize them as related to two categories. One in the area of education... and the other in real estate. And then following those two questions I am going to ask the candidates to give their closing statements... On the subject of education we'll begin with Hakeem Jeffries followed by Assemblymember Roger Green. On education: the justice department is currently looking at the abolishment of community school boards [that could start] in October. How do you propose organizing parents politically and others in the community around these hearings, and what would you like to see as the community school board replacement? Legislation calls for abolishment of community school boards, the person would like to know your opinion on the replacement of those boards.
Jeffries: Well, I think what needs to happen is that we need to launch a grassroots campaign to increase parental involvement to disseminate information and to inform parents of what is happening and what's at stake. And I think this speaks to a broader problem. Because there is far too many people as I've traveled the four corners of this community who say to me, "if you get elected, are you going to be like the rest of them?" which is that we're tired of career politicians who only come out during election time, make a whole bunch of promises and then disappear afterwards. As someone has was just commenting to me today, assembly member, they've seen you more times in the last two months than they've seen you in the last 22 years. And that is the cynicism - it's that type of behavior that creates cynicism toward politics. And so we have to bring the same level of intensity that we bring to campaigning when it's in our self interest to get elected to the office that we seek, to governing in our community. And I think there's no better way to do that than increasing parental involvement. You go door to door now, campaign at subway stations, people have seen you more than they've seen you in the last 22 years; I'm very active right now. And that is how I propose to organize, activate, and get parents involved in the public school system, and have them informed about the stakes that are involved with justice department considerations.
Green: Once again, I agree with my opponent, I am looking over at Robin Brown, head of the United Parents Association, one of the activists of the United Parents Association and parents' council. Every time that Robin and the parents called me, I was there. I was there for rallies, my opponent wasn't. I stood in the rain on days, handing out leaflets in front of the public schools, urging parents to fight the budget cuts not during the election year, but during the regular year. Robin, I did that, all right? I've been everywhere. When it comes to the issue of children, folks in this community know that there's nothing that I feel more concerned about and what I would fight harder for than our children, our kids. And so I have been there. Many a time I urge folks that have a critique about leadership - "where you have been?" Were you at the rally when we were fighting the budget cuts for these children. Were you standing with us in front of the public school buildings when we were fighting the budget cuts? Were you with us when we attempted to organize parents, in a response to, among other things, the changes in the governance structure. In fact, right here in this church with the Central Brooklyn Churches we met for three hours in meetings organizing and strategizing how we were going to respond to not only the budget cuts, but to empower parents to participate in a real critique of the school governing structure. So I didn't see my opponent during that time, you know, but I was there. And I will be there whenever there's a call on behalf o the children of this distrcit, and most people know that.
Moderator: this question is on the subject of what's been called "predatory real estate developers." It has to do with building developers who are buying up property in the community and are bypassing the due process and bypassing the traditional... community boards... The question is, how would you address this type of predatory real estate developer who are breaking up our neighborhoods and are bypassing the due process? Beginning with Assemblymember Green.
Green: The major crisis was transitioning housing that was proposed in both Prospect Heights and other parts of fort green. As soon as we heard that this was occurring the office - I'm very proud of my staff - we contacted an attorney. Through the attorney --we raised funds to pay the attorneys, so that we could get (to) court, and we were in federal court. We'll be going back to the federal court on September 19, and I'm a plaintiff in that case. So what we try to do is try to respond appropriately through our legislative office in terms of that, but I do think that we need a more active approach. It is a crime - a crime against humanity, and it is a moral imperative that we need to address the issue of children sleeping on the floor of the emergency assistance unit in the Bronx. And that has occurred because the city has failed to develop a proactive agenda, to develop affordable housing in the city of New York. And so I think we need two approaches: 1. to fight for protocols that would not allow the city to come in and to allow speculative developers to use housing to place children in transitional housing at a cost of $3000-5000 per unit. We need to fight that immediately, but in the long run we need to fight the city administration, fight in Albany and fight in the federal government to have a comprehensive proactive agenda to develop affordable housing for children and families within the city of New York. The city of New York failed to do it under the previous administration, we need to do that now.
Moderator: Mr Jeffries.
Jeffriers: I agree, first, that we need to continue to fight against the transition of housing as being proposed in the Prospect Heights communities... This very community board where this housing is being proposed, you have an excess of 30 similar type of housing. 30! And that was happening not under my watch but under my opponent's watch, and so we have to ask: where was the passion? Where was the fight? Where was the vision? Where was the awareness when our community was being inundated with this housing that you're now a plaintiff in the law suit that we're fighting. It's important that we're fighting, but we have to look at the history. You're an historian, and that is the history that has taken place in our community. What has to happen is two-fold. First, we have to make sure that every community in New York city bears its proportionate share of the burden. And the communities in central Brooklyn are right now disproportionately bearing the burden. As I mentioned, community board aid, an excess of 30 types of transitional houses - the same situation where we stand right now on community board 3. There are some community boards in New York city, because we've looked into this, that don't have one single unit of such housing. And so there's inequitable burden that's being borne. Second, we need to fight, to be vigilant, to make sure that these low real estate developers don't evade the laws that are in place and make sure that the law enforcement entities are vigilant, ensuring that the laws that are on the books are being enforced.
Moderator: Thank you very much. This has been wonderful. I am glad to see each of you here tonight....
Audience member: can I just ask a final question of the candidates - it's a yes or no question. Would each candidate if elected be a full-time assembly person or would they hold their current position?
Jeffries: full time
Green: full time
Moderator: At this point I would just like to give a wrap up so each candidate can have one minute to say for one minute why they think they are the best person for the job, and we'll wrap up with that.
Green: I think mostly when I'm going to talk about whether I'm the best person for the job, I'm going to talk about what I think we need to do together. Because one of the things that I would offer as a critique is that all the problems that we have heard that exist in our community cannot be solved by one single elected official. It's going to take collective leadership on the part of everyone. The only thing that I'll offer is that I will do my best, I will work hard, and I will also be honest enough to say that I've made mistakes. I won't stand in front of you saying that I'm all perfect; I don't stand before you and say that I am not given to certain human frailties like everyone else in this room. But I will say this, that when I make a mistake, I'll be prepared to change and grow as a result of that. And so that's what I'm saying. And I look forward to working with you in the days ahead, as I hope I will be reelected to ensure that we work together to improve conditions for our community, and most importantly, as you know, since I've said this before, that we leave this world more beautiful and more beneficial for our children than that which we ourselves have inherited.
Jeffries: there's a famous political historian who once said, "you shouldn't use the inconvenience of democracy as an excuse for inaction." Of course, we have to work together in a democratic body, but we also should remember that Adam Clayton Powell, whom we cited earlier, was one man in a hostile congress of 435 people and a senate that wasn't with him, with a president who wasn't with him, yet he was one of the most prolific legislators in the history of the republic, passing many laws that benefit the community to this very day. And so, I don't look at things as the glass as half empty, I look at things as the glass is half full. And I believe that together, if we apply the level of energy, the level of excitement, the level of engagement that we apply when we're campaigning for government, that we can solve some of our most difficult problems. That we can reverse the failure of the public schools to educate our children. We can begin to stabilize the housing situation in central Brooklyn. We can begin to make sure that everybody n our community who wants a job has a job that can put food on the table, clothing on the back and happiness in the household. That's my vision, and I believe that if we work together we can make that vision a reality. Thank you very much.