By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club voted to endorse Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for re-election after a forum featuring the current representative and four of her Democratic opponents on Tuesday evening at the New York New Church on East 35th Street.
Stuy Town resident Peter Harrison, Upper East Side resident Erica Vladimer, Long Island City resident Lauren Ashcraft and Lower East Side resident Suraj Patel made their case in their campaigns against the longtime incumbent at the event co-organized by the Tilden Democrats, Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, Four Freedoms, Coalition of a District Alternative (CODA), East River Democratic Club and Lexington Democrats. Tilden previously endorsed Maloney for re-election in November.
Members of the various Democratic clubs that were in attendance submitted questions for each of the candidates, focusing on topics such as housing, transportation, education and infrastructure. ERDC District Leader Mike Corbett lead the forum last Tuesday.
All of the candidates said that they are supportive of protecting and expanding affordable housing as well as protecting public housing, although Congresswoman Maloney was the only candidate who specified where she believes the district needs more affordable housing.
“Long Island City is the fastest-growing area in the district,” Maloney said. “That’s a prime place to start. Greenpoint and Williamsburg also need it, and we have to preserve what we have.”
Maloney added that the low-income housing credit has also been successful but needs to be expanded.
Peter Harrison, a Democratic Socialist and housing activist, said that there is no “silver bullet” to solve the affordable housing crisis, and that changing zoning regulations at the local level is one of the possible solutions, in addition to protecting and building more public housing.
Erica Vladimer, a former staffer for State Senator Jeff Klein, said that her platform examines most issues from a climate change perspective, including housing.
“We need to retrofit all housing and make sure that it’s insulated with energy-efficient appliances,” she said. “The Green New Deal is a framework rather than just a policy.”
Vladimer also admitted that she didn’t know exact locations in the district that specifically need more affordable housing but that she would be working with experts who would.
“Where I think we should put it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s where the experts say we need it.”
Ashcraft, a former JP Morgan/Chase employee who said that working at the company “radicalized” her to change her thinking about deregulation, said that she also has prior experience working at a nonprofit and would prioritize a homes guarantee.
Harrison and Patel both argued that education and housing are linked.
“We need to change our land-use policy [to fix education segregation],” Harrison said. “We can talk about [solutions] through a housing guarantee. It has to come through housing policy.”
Patel said that school segregation is also a housing problem.
“We have spent most of our efforts to gentrify and develop [the district],” he said. “We do live in one of the most unequal districts. If elected, I would use every means to desegregate schools through education funding and grants.
Patel was the only candidate that was asked about and who addressed charter schools, which he called a “tool in the tool kit” for desegregating schools in the city.
“Charter schools are public schools,” he said. “They are one of our best tools to desegregate our schools.”
Patel is the only candidate who has previously run against Maloney and one question during the forum was about why he decided to run against. He argued that “not much has changed” since the election in 2018, but voter turnout tripled during that primary with high millennial turnout.
“People responded and have the right to a choice,” he said.