Election 2013 profiles: Brooklyn D.A. and Borough President
COMPILED BY DENISE ROMANO AND HELEN KLEIN
Charles Hynes – Republican
Charles J. Hynes, Brooklyn’s district attorney for 23 years, is running for re-election on the Republican and Conservative lines after having been defeated by Ken Thompson in the Democratic primary in September.
In an interview with this newspaper, Hynes said that, his campaign notwithstanding, he is and “has always been a Democrat,” and had decided to campaign actively in large part because he believed that the many Democrats who did not vote in the primary as well as voters who could not vote in it (such as Republicans, Conservatives and independents) deserved to have a choice in the D.A. election.
“It gives people the opportunity to choose,” Hynes stressed.
Hynes said that, if re-elected, he would expand upon his office’s successful programs, many of which he piloted, and which are designed to keep people out of the criminal justice system in the first place, or, if they do get a record, to help them break the cycle of recidivism and turn their lives around. In addition, Hynes would also continue his signature domestic violence program which provides victims with “one-stop shopping” as they work to break the cycle of abuse in which they have been enmeshed.
Specifically, Hynes said, he wanted to “expand the community court system.” Recalling that, when the community court opened in Red Hook, it was “one of the most dangerous places in New York City,” Hynes said that the neighborhood has subsequently “been transformed,” and is now “one of the safest places in New York City.”
With that in mind, Hynes said he wanted to “establish a similar court in Brownsville,” which he described as “still one of the more dangerous places in Brooklyn. We will have the Brownsville court open and running in two years. We already have a youth court there. Then, if it works out the way we believe, we will make the case to reverse the decision made six decades ago when they shut down the local court system. We believe with a success in Brownsville, we will be able to make the case that local courts should be restored, at least on a model basis.”
In addition, Hynes said that, if reelected, he would like to expand the anti-recidivism program that approximately one third of returning Brooklyn former prisoners now take part in. One two of 10 people in the program are rearrested within three years of release, compared to the U.S. average of six in 10. “My goal,” said Hynes, “is to expand these services to everyone returning to Brooklyn from prison.”
In conclusion, Hynes told this paper, “The issues here are very well-defined. Nothing has changed me since I lost the primary by such a small margin. The fact that I am running on the Republican and Conservative lines has nothing to do with my political philosophy, nothing to do with me as a person. It’s about people and public safety, not about politics and party labels.”
Ken Thompson – Democrat
Ken Thompson, who won the Democratic primary for Brooklyn D.A. in an upset victory over incumbent Charles J. Hynes, contends it is time for fresh blood and a fresh vision in the Kings County D.A.’s office.
In an interview with this paper, Thompson said that the “Brooklyn D.A.’s office is in crisis because of the failed leadership of Joe Hynes,” and cited what he said was “the lowest felony conviction rate in the entire city” as well as what he called “a pattern of wrongful convictions under his watch,” as he asserted, “It’s not justice when an innocent person goes to jail for a crime he or she didn’t commit.
The people of Brooklyn deserve better.”
Among the things that Thompson said he would do, if elected, would be to develop “a real labor unit that will protect the rights of workers in Brooklyn. I want to champion the cause of the people who have been discriminated against in the workplace, and to investigate allegations of labor crimes. I believe there are many honest employers, but unfortunately there are unscrupulous employers who steal employees’ wages or have them work in dangerous conditions.”
In addition, said Thompson, he would launch a “gun unit. I believe we have got to do what we can to get guns off the street. I want to create a close working relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms because the guns being used in Brooklyn to terrorize everyone are coming into Brooklyn [from other places].”
Thompson also said he would build bridges with groups currently working in the borough that are “dedicated to preventing gun violence,” such as Man Up and SOS, which are operated by “young men out there who know there is a problem and are trying to resolve it before it escalates. I believe the D.A. should place a role in that.”
In addition, Thompson said he wants to develop programs “to reach young men to convince them not to carry guns in the first place.” In a gun buy-back that he organized, through the private sector, Thompson said “the goal was to target young men who haven’t been responsive to other gun buy-back programs.
“I want to encourage these young men to put down their guns and pick up their future,” he went on. “I want to develop cradle to career strategies, which is why I support the concept of community schools which become the centers of communities.”
While he said he supports many of Hynes’ signature programs, many, he said, are targeted at people after they have gone into the criminal justice system. “I also believe,” Thompson said, “That we need to develop new programs that will prevent people from coming into the criminal justice system in the first place.”
To that end, Thompson said that, as D.A., he would not prosecute young men who were stopped and frisked and determined to “have a small amount of marijuana and arrested.” If stop and frisk “is done the right way it can save lives,” he noted, adding, “If done in the wrong way, it can only deteriorate the relationship between police and community.”
A state senator representing central Brooklyn since 2007, Adams is an ex-NYPD captain who was a founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.
Moving into Borough Hall, he would, as he noted “have to fill the shoes of Marty Markowitz. He really has personified the role of being chief executive of the borough,” Adams remarked. “My goal is not to fill his shoes, but bring my own pair.”
To that end, he said, he would both evaluate the many programs that Markowitz initiated, “to make a determination as to which should continue starting 2014,” and “also look at some new ideas.”
Among these is a borough-wide effort to promote financial literacy. “One of the most important things that impacts Brooklynites is how well they’re doing financially and we don’t teach it to adults or children,” Adams explained during a meeting with this paper.
In addition, Adams said, he “wants to be more active around healthy eating habits. We have a lot of food deserts [in the borough]. I want to team up with upstate to allow farmers to bring their products here.”
One possible destination for that would be the Terminal Market in Canarsie. “There’s no reason,” Adams stressed, “that restaurants and other business have to travel to the Bronx to buy fresh apples.”
Adams said he would also look toward 21st century technologies, such as rooftop gardens, to help increase the amount of healthful produce in the borough. “We may not have a lot of land but we have a lot of roofs,” he noted. “From them, we could supply local markets.”
On another front, Adams said he also wants to increase recreational opportunities for Brooklyn youngsters. “Children shouldn’t have to use curbs and gates to skateboard,” he contended, saying that, instead, there should be an effort to develop kid-friendly recreational environments where parents, too, “can spend time and socialize together. I want to build on what we have accomplished and at the same time find places where we can reconnect as families again and experience some of the beautiful outdoor spaces that Brooklyn has.”
With respect to education, Adams stressed that society needs to be proactive with respect to making sure that kids get their best possible start. “I want a pipeline for parents. As soon as they know they are pregnant, they should look at schools in the area, start building the schools from the ground up. Doing that will turn around a school. My goal is to partner potential parents with the school they are looking to bring their children to.”
In the arena of business, Adams said, he would work to help the borough’s small businesses take advantage of 21st century technologies. “I want our small businesses to be the most tech-savvy in the city.,” he remarked. He also said he would advocate on behalf of keeping government from issuing fines just to raise money, and he also said he would help small businesses take advantage of programs that could be useful for them, for example assisting women and minority-owned businesses in registering as such, so they could access resources and get contracts.
He would also work to bring manufacturing jobs into Brooklyn. “Children walk around unemployed or underemployed, using devices [Apple, Samsung] they aren’t making,” he pointed out.
Ultimately, Adams said, “The voice of the borough president must be as an advocate for issues important to the entire borough.”
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