June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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SAR Hosts NYC District 11 Special Election Candidates

On February 17, SAR High School hosted a virtual town hall, with New York City Council District 11’s special election candidates: Carlton Berkley, Eric Dinowitz, Jessica Haller, Mino Lora, Dan Padernacht and Kevin Pazmino. Students Eytan Saenger and Tyler Fishman, co-founders of the elections, politics and government club, moderated the evening.

Saenger explained that the purpose of the club is to hear from people from different backgrounds and perspectives in the political arena. He added that while club members are not yet old enough to vote, “the debated issues affect us now, and will affect us for decades to come.”

Fishman added that the city encountered “great financial stress from the COVID-19 pandemic; the budget has been significantly reduced,” causing greater challenges overall.

The candidates were largely in agreement about the economy, public school funding, the environment, small business relief, policing and state-local government relationships. Constituent services were noted as a priority for all.

Dinowitz said: “My life, career and community service are rooted in the Bronx, teaching children with special needs, advocating for colleagues as UFT chapter-leader, bringing an elevator to the Mosholu stop of the 4 Train, fighting cuts to bus service, and rallying with local union grocery workers.

“That work,” he added, “rooted in our community, my vision and my proven ability to assemble a broad, diverse coalition of support, demonstrates that I’m the candidate who’s going to make your voice heard at City Hall.”

Said Haller: “I am running because the earth is on fire … The Riverdale Jewish community has nurtured me, my husband, and my four children for 20-plus years. That has allowed me to thrive, and sustained me while I transitioned from a career in the corporate world into one dealing with public policy.”

She added: “I’m building a diverse coalition who know that looking into the future and thinking about how it is that we’re going to create an equitable community, where everyone has what they need to thrive; a resilient community, where we can withstand what’s coming no matter what’s on the horizon; and a sustainable one satisfying our needs today without compromising the future.”

Lora remarked: “I’m an immigrant who built an organization … The city’s recovery is our chance to tackle racial, economic, health and environmental injustice, but we need the courage to do it. Our legislation and budgets must put people first.”

Lora, an advocate for the New York Immigration Coalition, is also executive director of People’s Theatre Project. “I’ve brought students to Albany to fight for school funding,” she added. “I’ve partnered with the governor to make sure that vaccinations didn’t include invasions of privacy by ICE. As an organizer and activist, running for office was not part of my plan. But I kept seeing the same injustices over and over. So here I am.”

Berkley is a 17-year retired detective who was raised in Harlem and has lived in the Wakefield section for almost 25 years. He discovered a lot of racism in the NYPD, and joined 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the National Latino Officers Association. “I’m running because people in my area asked me to run, “he said. “I’m not a career politician; I’m the guy who will help you shovel your driveway, walk down the street with you and have a conversation.” Berkley described himself as a person who can make good, hard, honest judgments and decisions.

Pazmino said: “I got involved because I was really unhappy with the supermajority in charge of the state and local governments. I want to bring accountability back. My business is in a very high accountability industry, with 17 years in film and TV production.”

Pazmino described himself as a first-generation American. His mother, from Colombia, raised him in low-income housing. “Seven years ago, I joined the Director’s Guild. I could have joined faster by using affirmative action, but I did not want to be considered a ‘good Latino director.’ I want to be considered just a straight-up director.”

Padernacht detailed his unique credentials in this race, as an attorney who ran a city agency (Bronx Community Board 8). “I’m running because I love community service. I’m a third-generation Bronxite. My parents instilled in me the value of community service … I’ve been on the Community Board for 12 years, working with different organizations, government agencies and elected officials. I’ve established relationships over the years.”

Dinowitz raised concerns about school funding. “The council will hold this city and the mayor accountable. One of the problems I saw was the lack of planning and communication for our children, families and teachers.”

Haller noted: “We need to make sure that every kid has access to technology … We need Wi-Fi in places where it isn’t; shelters and transition situations; and we need to teach parents to help their children and understand how to use the technology provided.” Climate equity, resilience and sustainability are first in her platform. She maintains that 2050 is too late, adding, “We need more accountability from the police.” Regarding NYPD’s $900 million in overtime, she said, “Anyone needing $900 million in overtime has a management issue.”

Lora explained that we need to talk to teachers, principals and parent-coordinators, as “they know what families need.” She agreed that we need to protect small businesses, giving them power to negotiate their rent, while creating municipal jobs, from the fossil-fuel industry to the green. “That will tackle two things at the same time.”

Berkley added that his small business is open so young people in the area can come and talk. “We don’t want to see our kids out in the street and have a bad encounter with the police.” His ideas include partnering with the cable companies “because they can provide proper Wi-Fi.” Berkley pointed out that “this whole pandemic caught us by surprise. I don’t want to blame everything on the mayor, but it’s a shame that our kids are falling behind.”

“Before we reopen,” Berkley added, “we have to make sure that we have PPE and that everything is safe before we let our kids go back.”

Pazmino commented: “I do not believe in political dynasties; I want to bring back what it means to be a public servant.” On education, he advocated school choice. “The mayor has mismanaged our public school system,” he said. “I want to initiate community-based solutions like getting tax breaks for volunteerism. I do believe there are other solutions than tax dollars. Taxpayer-funded subsidies must go directly to our local businesses.” Pazmino suggested holding festivals and Restaurant Week-style events, allowing people in the district to patronize local businesses.

Padernacht supports a real-estate tax abatement. “I would give DEP water discounts to small businesses. Many small-business owners are struggling and going into their own savings just to stay open.” On climate change, Padernacht stated: “We need Local Law 79, an aggressive attack on climate change. We’ll see proper implementation that will generate income for the city to move into other areas.”

This election will be held on March 23 to complete the term ending on December 31.

Ex-Councilman Andy Cohen vacated the seat upon his recent election as a New York Supreme Court judge. These candidates may face off again in a June primary for a November general election.

By Judy Berger


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