[EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the latest updates surrounding the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn’s mayoral endorsement vote.]
Members of Lambda Independent Democrats (LID) voted to endorse Comptroller Scott Stringer for Mayor after he squared off in a runoff with non-profit leader Dianne Morales.
The club’s endorsement was in limbo ever since Stringer and Morales each scored the most votes following a three-day, four-part virtual mayoral forum hosted by LID. A whopping 14 candidates appeared at the forum, which included discussions surrounding housing, policing, the coronavirus pandemic, LGBTQ issues, and other topics.
“I do really think it speaks to the nature of this race given the number of candidates and difference of opinions,” Arader told Gay City News after the first vote took place on February 26.
LGBTQ candidates who joined the forum, which took place from February 23 through February 25, were Carlos Menchaca, who is Brooklyn’s first out gay lawmaker, former Department of Veterans’ Services commissioner Loree Sutton, and non-binary rapper Paperboy Prince.
Housing was among the top issues discussed throughout the course of the forum. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan boiled down his housing approach to preserving both NYCHA and affordable housing, while also aiming to expand it, while Stringer stressed the importance of gathering more data to pinpoint issues and craft housing solutions for LGBTQ seniors. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Carlos Menchaca reiterated their joint calls to convert outer-borough hotels into affordable housing — an approach also backed by Sutton — and Garcia said she would commit to building 50,000 “deeply affordable” units and stabilize NYCHA.
While Adams also sought to remind club members that he allocated funds towards SAGE’s Stonewall House, an LGBTQ-friendly senior living environment in Fort Greene, he was asked by moderator Crystal Hudson — who hopes to succeed term-limited lawmaker Laurie Cumbo in that district — to clarify the controversial comments he made about that development in 2019.
When Stonewall House opened, 77 percent of residents were people of color and all residents had incomes below 50 percent of the area’s median household income. Adams, however, said at that building’s opening event that he was “concerned about the diversity” there, describing it as a “pretty building on NYCHA property.”
“At the opening of Stonewall House, you made remarks that were considered to be controversial and seemed to pit the LGBTQ community against the Black community at Ingersoll Houses,” Hudson said. “I wanted to give you a moment to clarify those comments.”
In response, Adams said, “You can’t pit against a community that is the same community. When you look at the number of African-Americans that identify as being LGBTQ, so when I raised my concerns about making sure that people living in NYCHA — where this great project is located — for people to say ‘Eric, you’re pitting the communities,’ that is not the historical reality.”
On the issue of police reform, candidates offered varying perspectives. Menchaca, Wiley, and Stringer were among those who voiced desire to get rid of the NYPD’s vice squad, which has been sharply criticized for an aggressive and targeted approach towards sex workers, while Stringer and Donovan explicitly mentioned the need to decriminalize sex work. Other candidates, including Menchaca and Morales, previously elaborated on their support for sex work decriminalization at a Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club mayoral forum.
Adams vowed to appoint the first woman as police commissioner and said he would aim to rebuild the culture of the police department, while Wiley said the city’s top cop must be someone who did not rise through the ranks of the NYPD. Sutton called for increased coordination between the future mayor’s administration and other city agencies, community advocates, unions, and police.
Morales expressed support for defunding the police — a position that she attributes to the criminalization of communities of color, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups.
“Last year in June I stood and literally used my body as a marcher at the Queer Liberation March to stand between rows of police and the participants in the Parade,” Morales said. “That is a symbol of what I’m willing to do in order to protect our communities.
Menchaca, who stressed that homeless New Yorkers have been negatively impacted by overnight subway closures during the pandemic, said he believes social workers must be responding to homeless individuals rather than police officers. On a broader level, he also voiced his desire to defund the NYPD and crack down on bad cops.
“We need a mayor that is going to be an activist mayor around police accountability,” Menchaca said.
The non-LGBTQ candidates also spent significant chunks of time reflecting on their past contributions to the LGBTQ community.
Morales recalled an outreach program she started 16 years ago for LGBTQ homeless and runaway youth at Christopher Street piers; Stringer remembered friends he lost to AIDS and looked back on his efforts to help pass marriage equality in the State Legislature; and Wiley, who worked to help provide legal assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, explained that she grew up in an inclusive environment with out LGBTQ people, but she realized once she got to college that the world was not as friendly as she thought it was.
Others who participated in the forum included former Sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, tech entrepreneur Edward Cullen, attorney Aaron Foldenauer, Sykes Capital Management president Quanda Francis, banking executive Art Chang, and Joycelyn Taylor.
Former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire filled out the club’s questionnaire and was slated to attend the second part of the forum, but did not appear. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang did not fill out a questionnaire or attend the forum. A Yang campaign spokesperson cited scheduling conflicts.
Visit LID’s Facebook page to watch all four parts of the forum.
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