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Keeping ‘Em Honest: Questions for the Mayoral Candidates

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Last night's public safety mayoral forum featured citizen questions from six leaders with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, who were picked to represent the views of New Yorkers. After the program, we asked each questioner whether the candidates addressed their concerns and whether one of the mayoral hopefuls stood out on the crowded stage.

Blanche Romey

Member, Duncan Genns Senior Center, Brooklyn

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QUESTION:  New York is a much safer city than it was more than 20 years ago. In the last two years, I’ve worked with local precinct commanders to shut down two drug dens on my block. But there are still parts of the city that remain unsafe. My question is will you drive crime lower than it is  today and what would be your three most important strategies?

Did the candidates answer your question? Well I give them a “fair” because we’re going to keep our eyes on them. This is our city and not theirs. They could do better.

Which candidate gave the best answer? Quinn. I like her. She understands what we are going through and that the main thing is sitting down with police to stop crime in our communities.

Brandon Gibson

Member, Hope Christian Center, Brooklyn

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QUESTION: I have a question for all of you. Just out of a show of hands, how many of you have been stopped and frisked? Well I have, at least 20 times. What is your best estimate for how important stop, question and frisk has been in reducing crime?

Did the candidates answer your question? They’re politicians so they emotionalize things to get a response out of the crowd. But I appreciate those candidates who got to the core of the issue.

Which candidate answered your question best? Honestly I liked Joe Lhota and I liked Bill Thompson. I liked Lhota because his answer was measured and there was no pandering. Although Thompson emotionalized his answer, he also raised a good point in talking about his son.

David Haberer

Pastor, Church For All Nations, Manhattan

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QUESTION: There’s no question that the city is safer now than when Commissioner Kelly came in. My question is simple. If you were elected mayor, would you keep Commissioner Kelly, yes or no?

Did the candidates answer your question? Some people did well. De Blasio had a point — do you teach an old dog new tricks? When do you bring in someone new to shake things up a bit? This question about an inspector general is a real question. This is New York City, it’s a mayor-centric town. That person has to be responsible for all things that happen to the city.

Which candidate answered your question best? I don’t know if there’s a best answer. At this point, it’s not an either/or, it’s you revealed your position, so how are you going to translate that into good government?

Kadeem Mullings

Sophomore, Andrew Jackson High School, Queens

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QUESTION: Two months ago, I was heading from school to a church program when I was mugged. Too many students are victims, and that has to stop. My question is will you commit to providing more safe corridors for students, and, if more control is needed, how will you do it?

Did the candidates answer your question? They did, I thought. John Liu answered my question and so did Bill Thompson.

Which candidate answered your question best? Thompson. When he had referred to history, I felt he knows how hard it is.

Maribel Baez

Tenant, Melrose Houses, Bronx

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QUESTION: These days crime is often indoors. It’s in the hallways, elevators and stairwells of NYCHA where 600,000 New Yorkers live. I’m tired of risking my safety and life when I go home. In your first year as mayor, will you make safety in NYCHA a priority and what are two or three specific things you will do?

Did the candidates answer your question? A little, not much. When one of them becomes mayor, we’ll see what happens.

Which candidate answered your question best? Thompson. He came straight out. But, then again, all of them said the same thing. I’m looking for someone that’s going to bring down crime in our buildings.

Richard Gibbs

Former police officer, Queens

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QUESTION: The NYPD is one of the largest purchasers of guns. As mayor, will you lead the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies to push firearm manufacturers to end sales to dealers whose guns are frequently used in crimes in New York City?

Did the candidates answer your question? They all want to do something about it, although nobody gave me an exact plan. There’ll be more interviews and open discussions like this, so if we don’t see that in their rhetoric then there’s a problem somewhere.

Which candidate answered your question best? They all basically commented that they would do something. I didn’t hear something specific, but they all agreed that it’s a concern. 



John Liu Is Favored At Mayoral Forum On Public Safety


NEW YORK — Comptroller John Liu appeared to win the popular vote for mayor at a candidate forum on public safety in Queens last night.

Liu, the latest Democratic candidate to officially announce his candidacy, got some of the loudest applause from the crowd as he reaffirmed his opposition to the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk crime reduction strategy.

Liu has said he would end the policy on day one, if elected mayor.

Stop-and-frisk is the focus of a federal trial that got underway earlier this week. In the class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs have argued that the NYPD unlawfully targets blacks and Hispanics with its policy of stopping, questioning and frisking people on the street.

Liu said stop-and-frisk should be abolished.

“There’s a cost in the humiliation that young black and brown men have to suffer,” he said at one point during the forum. “And, of course, there is a cost to taxpayers. We can do better and we will do better.”

Raheem Harley, 54, a local barber who works across the street from the church in Jamaica where the forum was held said he agreed with Liu. “You get much more in life by using honey rather than vinegar,” he said.

Sherri Kaughman, 49, who works for the Department of Social Services, also spoke well of Liu. “He’s on the line with the people in the community,” she said.

The latest in a round of mayoral forums, hundreds of New Yorkers packed First Presbyterian Church to hear seven top candidates including Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Republican nominee Joe Lhota discuss crime and public safety. But it was stop-and-frisk that got most of the attention.

While Liu took the most aggressive stance on stop-and-frisk, rival candidates stressed the importance that a good relationship between police and the community can have on improving policing tactics and lowering crime rates overall.

Though the majority of the audience Tuesday night appeared to favorite Liu, some still weren’t 100 percent sold on the candidate but said that the event helped move them closer towards a decision.

John Rodriguez, 49, said he cut his list down to four candidates — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Quinn and Liu — after attending the forum.

“These events are great because they give you an opportunity to actually see the candidates in person, candidates that you might have only heard or read about in the newspaper,” Rodriguez said.

Liu, who currently ranks last out of the four Democratic candidates, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, needs every vote he can get. A federal investigation into his campaign’s fundraising, including the arrest of two aides, may also have hobbled his prospects.

But Liu was the by-and-large the audience favorite of the night, and even some of the youngsters in the audience were cheering him on.

“I think tonight was a big deal at refreshing our mind of what’s going on in our community, but also all over the city,” said Jahkai Smith, 11, a fifth grader at P.S. 13 in Brooklyn who recently participated in a stop-and-frisk panel at his school with the Amsterdam News.

Sharron Kennedy Frost, a teacher at P.S. 13, said that even some of her fifth graders have been stopped and frisked. She brought Smith and two of her fellow fifth graders — Reinaldo Bermudez and Kayla Smith — to the forum “to be aware of the candidates and their positions.”

“These kids are going to make decisions for me later on in life so I want them to be in tune,” Frost said. “They wanted to speak and ask questions, too.”


Image of John Liu by Emily Field/CUNY. 

The Future Of Stop-And-Frisk Debated At Mayoral Forum


NEW YORK — Whoever takes the reins from Mayor Michael Bloomberg will have to reconcile the city’s historically low crime rates under Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and his department’s aggressive, often divisive tactics.

At a mayoral forum on public safety in Queens last night, seven candidates wrestled with the legacy of Kelly's department, answering questions from the public about stop-and-frisk tactics, the surveillance of Muslims and the creation of an inspector general to independently monitor the police.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only candidate to raise her hand when the moderator, Errrol Louis of NY1, asked if anyone would keep Kelly in his job. 

“I have often said Ray Kelly has been an outstanding police commissioner. He’s taken crimes to lower rates than we ever imagined possible,” she explained as the crowd booed her. She later added: “I don’t think for people to work together you have to agree on everything.”

Quinn said that she supported legislation before the City Council to create an inspector general who would monitor the NYPD and have subpoena power — a proposal that the police have flatly rejected as unnecessary because of various levels of oversight already in place.

Related: Questions For the Candidates

She said she is confident the Council will approve the measure, co-sponsored by Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander of Brooklyn, next month.

“You can have a lot of entities, and if they’re not getting it done, then we need more agencies,” she said, emphasizing that “systemic change” at the NYPD is necessary.

Rival candidates Bill De Blasio, a Democrat, and Joe Lhota, a Republican, disagreed that the solution to policy challenges at the NYPD, particularly stop-and-frisk, was the creation of a new office.

“I think building another bureaucracy on top of this problem of stop-and-frisk is not the right answer,” said Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani who quit as chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to run for office.

De Blasio said that stop-and-frisk could be reformed and that police shouldn't be making stops based on a quota system, which has been one allegation surrounding the policy.

"We need to send a message to every young man of color that they are beloved, they are valuable, they are our future," he said. "You can't do that if you're constantly treating people as suspects." 

The crowd at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, seemed to cheer loudest when candidate John Liu, the city’s comptroller, spoke out against the practice.

"This is the largest system of racial profiling going on anywhere in America," said Liu, the most recent Democrat to officially announce he’s running. He was the only candidate to say he would abolish stop-and-frisk if he were elected.

NYPD data shows that nine out of 10 people stopped in 2012 were black or Hispanic men, and that the vast majority — 89 percent — were innocent. A federal judge began hearing a case Monday that could lead to the reform of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and the appointment of a monitor to oversee changes. The NYPD has argued that the strategy saves lives and reduces crime.

Related: Liu The Most Popular At Forum?

Last night’s forum was the last of three mayoral forums hosted by the New York Daily News and Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of religious institutions, schools, senior centers and homeowners assocations. 

Voters asked tough questions and said they would hold the eventual mayor accountable.

Moderators selected eight local voters to ask the candidates about their thoughts on crime and safety.

Brandon Gibson, 27, a leader with the Hope Christian Center of Brooklyn , claimed he had been stopped and frisked by police more than 20 times and asked the candidates if they had ever been stopped-and-frisked. The answer was a unanimous no.

Bill Thompson, the city’s former comptroller and one of the four Democratic candidates for mayor, told a story of how he explained stop-and-frisk to his 15-year-old son, but when Liu asked Thompson to join him in calling for an end to the practice, Thompson grew animated and pounded his fists on the table.

Thompson said he would be the one to worry about parenting his son.

Republican hopeful John Catsimatidis, a billionaire supermarket magnate, said he would keep stop-and-frisk as is, though the crowd snickered as he floundered on the topic. After the debate, he said an imaging device would help police tell if a person is carrying a gun, and stop-and-frisk will eventually be unnecessary.

Most of the candidates discussed a proactive strategy that changes the relationship between the police and the community.

“We need to restore a community policing model that gets police officers out of the SWAT cars and walking the residential streets in our city,” said Adolfo Carrion, the Independent Party candidate and former Bronx borough president. “That requires more police officers.”

Thompson suggested the city would be able to afford to hire more police officers if the NYPD would staff precinct desks with civilians.

Maribel Baez, a tenant of Melrose Houses in the Bronx, said she wanted more security in New York City Housing Authority buildings.

“These days, crime is often indoors,” Baez said. “I’m tired of risking my safety and life when I go home.”

Baez explained that elevators, lobbies and dark stairwells are common places for crimes now. The candidates said improving safety at public housing would need to be a priority of the next mayor.

“When something is broken and not working, like our education system, you need to turn it upside down and fix it,” Carrion said. “The New York City Housing Authority needs a makeover and I intend to do it.”

Quinn also promised a shakeup in the leadership of NYCHA.

Kadeem Mullings, a sophomore at Andrew Jackson High School, said he was mugged recently on his walk home from school. He asked if candidates had plans to increase safety along the routes kids walk to and from schools.

The candidates were short on specific tactics, but said again that they would hire more police officers. De Blasio said children should have access to safe after-school programs.

“We should tax the wealthiest New Yorkers so we can have after-school programs for every middle school student who needs it,” he said.  

While the candidates disagreed on policy, they were unanimous in their commitment to reducing citywide crime.

“We can and must continue to drive crime down,” de Blasio said. “As we’ve gotten safer and safer, no one in this room, no one in the media, can pretend that that was evenly distributed.”


Image of candidates at debate by Emily Field/CUNY. 

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