BID event includes online questioners
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sunset Park residents had a chance to meet the two men vying for the Democratic Party nomination for the state senate seat left vacant by Borough President Eric Adams at a candidates’ night forum that included questions asked by viewers who were streaming the proceedings live online.
The Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) sponsored the forum which took place at the Sunset Park Library on Aug. 14.
The event was moderated by Sunset Park BID President Llamil Núñez, whose family owns the International Restaurant on Fifth Avenue and 44th Street. The BID represents property owners, merchants and residents on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 64th streets.
The two candidates, Jesse Hamilton and Rubain Dorancy, addressed the full audience with opening statements and then were provided questions from both the audience seated in the library and the "audience" on Sunset Parker, a page on Facebook started by local residents. The questions, read aloud by Sunset Park BID Executive Director Renée Giordano, included basic queries such as “What can the state senate do for Sunset Park?" One person asked, "What can you do to address school overcrowding that has left children without seats in their own neighborhood?"
Hamilton, the Democratic Party district leader in the 43rd Assembly District, and Dorancy, an education advocate, are running for the seat in the 20th state senate district in the Sept. 9 Democratic Primary. The district is considered a shoo-in for a Democrat, meaning that the candidate who wins the primary will almost certainly be the next state senator.
Will Bredderman reported in the New York Observer on July 18 that Adams has endorsed Hamilton. U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Central Brooklyn) and her mother, former councilmember Una Clarke, are backing Dorency, according to the Observer report.
Adams vacated the seat when he became borough president in January.
Giordano said the Sunset Park community petitioned Governor Andrew Cuomo to hold a special election but the governor decided to leave the seat empty. Local residents complained that this meant 300,000 New Yorkers had no vote on the state budget this year and no voice in Albany debates.
The district takes in parts of several neighborhoods including Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Gowanus, Green-Wood Heights and Sunset Park.
"We've hosted numerous candidate's nights and debates in the past, but we wanted to do something more meaningful this time. We wanted to reach more people," Giordano said. The BID was approached by the administrators of Sunset Parker about the idea of presenting the political forum on social media.
Sunset Parker has over 2,200 members from four continents, according to Giordano. Most of the members currently reside in Sunset Park, but many have moved away and still have cherished memories of the neighborhood where they grew up. They maintain a strong interest in the community, she said.
"Our mission is simple; to create a community or town square for anyone who loves Sunset Park. What started with the posting of a series of ‘Then & Now’ photos has blossomed into a true civic center," Sunset Parker spokeswoman Evelyn Ruiz said.
"This was a very important moment in our community's life,” said Giordano, referring to the online participation of the candidates’ night. “We now have a means of reaching residents who cannot physically show up at a meeting. They can participate on their smart phone while riding the bus home, or from their car using Bluetooth or from the comfort of their home while preparing dinner or playing with their children."
Ruiz said the global reach was astounding. “A Sunset Parker member in Kenya was able to participate in real time although it was now the next day where she was online,” she said.