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On BPR: Bklyn advocate candidates stump for seat

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They’re their own best advocates!

Two Brooklynites running in the 17-person race to fill the city’s vacant public advocate seat campaigned for their candidacy on Brooklyn Paper Radio this week, ahead of the Feb. 26 election to fill the office.

Bushwick Councilman Rafael Espinal and civil servant turned community activist Tony Herbert, who grew up in Prospect Heights, pitched themselves for the citywide watchdog position to co-hosts Anthony Rotunno and Johnny Kunen, and Brooklyn Paper political columnist Kevin Duggan, who is keeping a close watch on the race and joined the special show.

Both Espinal, who is running on the Liveable City party line in the city’s first nonpartisan election, and Herbert, who is running on the Residents First party line, blasted those pols and critics who claim the seat should be abolished because it is a waste of taxpayer dollars, with the councilman dismissing legislation introduced by a colleague — which if passed would create a ballot referendum to let voters decide whether or not to axe the office — as nothing but funny business.

“I thought it was a joke,” Espinal said of the bill introduced by Councilman Kalman Yeger (D–Midwood). “From the moment it was introduced, I didn’t believe it was a viable bill.”

The two also explained how they, as public advocate, would have worked to bring more transparency to the controversial — and now kaput — deal to bring tech behemoth Amazon to Queens, a courtship Espinal noted he opposed from the get-go.

“If you look at the impact Amazon has had on Seattle, just on the overall livability of the city, when it comes to the cost of living and the infrastructure, it has been a big problem,” he said.

Both men positioned themselves as fighters for whom they called real New Yorkers, with Herbert — whose resume includes administrative positions in Council, state government, and at city do-good groups and private companies — recalling his family’s own experience with gentrification amid the redevelopment of his native Prospect Heights over the last decades.

And the activist — who will not participate in the final public advocate debate on Wednesday — fired back at Rotunno when he questioned whether he had the name recognition to land a victory.

“For the last ten years, I’ve been in peoples households utilizing the tool that has made me the advocate that I am — media — thus making myself somewhat of a household name,” Herbert said.

The episode wasn’t all politics, however. National treasure and Arts Editor Bill Roundy again joined the show to share his picks of where to go and what to do in Kings County in the coming days.

But for those picks, and to learn more about Espinal and Herbert’s campaigns, you’ll have to listen to the full episode — which you can do right now! And don’t forget to check out the latest episode of our sister podcast Power Women when you’re done.

Brooklyn Paper Radio is recorded at our studio in America’s Downtown, debuts new episodes every Tuesday, and can be found, as always, right here on BrooklynPaper.com, on iTunes, and of course, on Stitcher.

Updated 12:49 pm, February 20, 2019
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