By David Brand
Two candidates for public advocate have proposed restructuring the office to better engage with the community, though they differ on the extent of the outreach.
Councilmember Jumaane Williams and investigative reporter Nomiki Konst said they would establish additional deputy bureaus of the public advocate’s office if elected on Feb. 26. The two candidates spoke Tuesday night at the Western Queens Public Advocate Forum hosted by Hearts Across Queens and PrimedOut NYC.
Konst, who lives in Astoria, said she would “decentralize” the public advocate’s office, which she said has become “too bureaucratic.” She would set up a public advocate’s office in all 59 community districts to provide additional oversight and solicit feedback from everyday New Yorkers.
“You’ll have someone trained in the neighborhood to respond to community needs besides the community board,” she said. “The public advocate needs decentralization.”
Williams, a Brooklyn councilmember who narrowly lost the 2018 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, said he would establish deputy public advocate offices in all five boroughs.
He said he would locate the deputy public advocates in communities with the highest concentration of Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints. The CCRB complaints reflect over-policing and a lack of proactive engagement in the community, he said.
The proposal builds on Williams’ demand for more oversight of police and city agencies in underserved neighborhoods.
“Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant,” Williams wrote on his campaign website.
“Just like the worst landlord lists that the Public Advocate’s office currently prints, I will use my office to call attention to the ten precincts with the highest number of complaints against officers filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) annually,’ Williams said in a section on justice reform. “The Public Advocate’s office will be a partner with the CCRB to call attention to the worst complaints filed by members of our community and work with the NYPD to both hold officers accountable and reduce the harm caused.
“As Public Advocate, I will open satellite offices in those boroughs with the highest number of complaints to give members of our community a more local place to go for help related to these precincts and to give CCRB office space outside of Manhattan to send staff to meet directly with community members in their borough,” he continued.