When I ran for the State Senate I promised to fight to fix our broken criminal justice system. In our first session in the majority, we've ended cash bail, reformed discovery and the trial process, and set up a system for the expungement of marijuana records, but there is still more to do. I want to build on my success in divesting New York State's public pensions from private prisons by ensuring public banks in New York are also not investing in these engines of mass incarceration, and I am working to reform our parole system.
FIXING OUR BROKEN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
FIGHTING FOR TENANTS AND NEIGHBORHOODS
Before I was elected, I built affordable housing in New York City because I recognized the affordable housing crisis that was disproportionately affecting residents of Harlem, East Harlem, and the Upper West Side. Together, we passed the strongest package of pro-tenant reforms the state has seen in decades, including by legislation to protect rent controlled apartments. We must continue to fight to ensure that New Yorkers can stay in their neighborhoods and live well in their neighborhoods.
ENSURING QUALITY EDUCATION
After graduating from high school in New York City, Senator Benjamin sought the quality education that his parents knew he would need to succeed. At Harvard and Brown he learned the skills to run a successful small business in Harlem, build affordable housing, and contribute to President Obama’s 2008 campaign for president. Senator Benjamin wants every child to have the education opportunities he did, and to have the skills they need to live up to their potential in school.
EMPOWERING SMALL BUSINESSES
Before I was elected to the Senate, I was a leader at a local small business. This business, which was a certified M/WBE (Minority or Women Owned Business Enterprise) worked with the community to build the affordable housing they needed. Therefore, I know first hand how important it is that that local businesses are given the tools they need to survive and thrive. That way people can shop in their neighborhoods, work in their neighborhoods, and live well in their neighborhoods.
BRIAN A. BENJAMIN
Brian A. Benjamin is the New York State Senator for District 30, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem, and the Upper West Side. He was born in Harlem to a Caribbean mother who came to this country seeking new opportunities. Though they didn’t have a college education, his parents were fortunate enough to find well-paying union jobs, which allowed them to provide Brian and his siblings with a middle class upbringing. After graduating from high school in New York City, Brian sought the quality education his parents had dreamed of providing him with, earning his undergraduate degree in Public Policy from Brown University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Brian spent three years working in investment banking at Morgan Stanley. There he worked in financial management, advising nonprofit and for profit organizations and individuals on how best to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars, exercising and honing his skills as an investment and financial adviser. Additionally, he worked in the division that issued and underwrote bonds, which is similar to the work he had done in the treasury department of manufacturing conglomerate after college.
Brian returned to Harlem to build affordable housing, creating over a thousand units of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing at an M/WBE while helping young people develop work skills and secure good construction jobs through community youth programs.
Brian is heavily involved in his community, having served as Chair of Community Board 10 and the Land Use Committee, a position he used to preserve the character of our community (such as his successful “Harlem not SOHA” campaign), and help keep Harlem affordable. He helped countless young people at Harlem’s Wadleigh High School achieve a brighter future since launching a mentoring program in 2013, and he is honored to serve as an alumni-elected trustee of Brown University. In addition to his work in the community, Brian has long been active in progressive politics, serving as a 2012 delegate for President Barack Obama and as a member of President Obama’s National Finance Committee. He also worked in finance, electoral politics, and interned in the office of Bill Lynch & Associates. Brian is an active member of Harlem’s historic First Corinthian Baptist Church.
In the New York State Senate, Brian has distinguished himself as a leader in criminal justice reform and affordable housing. In 2018 he successfully pushed for the divestment of the state public pension funds from private prisons, and the following year he introduced a bill to forbid state-chartered banks from such investments as well, which helped pressure Bank of America to end their relationship with Geo Group and Core Civic. Brian’s proposal to keep rent controlled apartments affordable was a part of the history-making Tenant Protection Act of 2019, the largest expansion of tenant’s rights in decades. In his first term, he served as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Pensions, where he looked to defend the public pensions of hard working public servants like his parents while ensuring the pension money was invested in a manner that reflected New York’s values. He currently serves as the chair of the Budget and Revenue committee, and as Senior Assistant Majority Leader.
After graduating from business school, Brian wanted to return to the neighborhood that gave his family a start in life over 40 years ago. It was Harlem Hospital that opened its doors to his pregnant mother without health insurance years ago, and while it’s a coincidence that Brian can see that same hospital from his office window in Harlem, it is purposeful that Brian looks to give back to New York as much as it has given to him.