Jumaane Williams Holds “State of the People” Address at Brooklyn College

Jumaane Williams speaking at Brooklyn College
Jumaane Williams speaking at Brooklyn College

  Brooklyn College alum Jumaane Williams gave the first-ever “State of the People” address after he was sworn in as the 6th Public Advocate of New York City in Ingersoll Hall last Wednesday, Jan. 22.

    Williams was elected in November after running unopposed, having previously won a 19-candidate special election in March 2019, with 33% of the vote after his predecessor Letitia James left to become the state Attorney General. 

Williams was officially sworn into office in March after the special election (something about noncompetitive election here?)

   Williams has long been “one of our [college’s] favorite sons,” as BC President Michelle Anderson put it. As the event’s first speaker, she talked about Williams’s activity on campus as an activist and student government member in the early 2000s.

   “He is a staunch supporter of CUNY,” said Anderson.

   He also previously served as City Councilman for NYC’s 45th District (which includes Brooklyn College) from 2010 to 2019.

   Williams was sworn in by his mother Patricia, as well as Mark J. Green, who was elected NYC’s first Public Advocate back in 1993.

  During the first “State of the People” address, which he hopes can become a tradition for the office going forward, Williams discussed his plans for 2020 and beyond, as well as touting his accomplishments in his first ten months in office.

   “The people are the core of New York City,” Williams told the crowd. As if to demonstrate, he was flanked on either side by screens which played videos of New Yorkers voicing their grievances (several of whom were in attendance and called out). Williams talked about his priorities for the future regarding housing, safety, education, and overall equality.

   “We are going to help New Yorkers go home,” Williams said, as he discussed low-income housing, rent control, and making it harder for landlords to evict their tenants. He says in the coming months he plans to introduce the “Worst Landlord Accountability Act” to control the actions of landlords facing violations.

   Williams specifically called out the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which just last month topped the Public Advocate’s list of the worst landlords in New York City. He called for increased funding and better management of that funding for what he called “the most culpable, least responsive developments in the city.”

   Another sticking point for Williams was one of his major issues – education.

   “I am a public school baby from preschool through college, and it is from preschool to college we are failing our students,” said Williams. In addition to addressing the “chronic underfunding,” affecting Brooklyn College and CUNY. Williams also specifically spoke about the segregation of New York City schools, which he called the most segregated in the country.

   “We not only live in a tale of two cities, but in a tale of two school systems,” said a Brooklyn College sophomore who spoke in one of the videos. “We are pushing the mayor and the governor to commit to students with real sustainable funding and we plan on holding to that commitment,” said Williams.

   Pushing through technical difficulties with the videos stopping before they were supposed to end, Williams spoke about workers’ rights, specifically mentioning paid time off and his proposed “Right to Relax” legislation, which would institute paid time off.

   “Over the next two years, we are going to continue our work to reshape this city,” he said, concluding his nearly 40-minute address in room 148 of Ingersoll Hall. “The state of the people is strong and with that strength we are going to push forward to new heights in New York City. […] Let’s get moving.”