The two candidates discussed hot-button issues in Brooklyn’s 33rd District like affordable housing, charter schools, transportation and, of course, former Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
"I don't wish to even have this debate," Levin said when asked about his affiliation with his former boss. "Again, I don't think that Vito Lopez should even run for City Council at all."
An issue that resurfaced throughout the debate, Pierson attacked Levin by adding that he has continued to fund Lopez affiliates like the Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.
The Brown University graduates answered questions from the audience about their position on street vendors, trash pickup and the effects of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning of 2005.
“I am committed to working with the community board, and right now they are looking to make recommendations on those proposals,” Levin said, assuring that he would work with the community on protecting their neighborhood from overdevelopment.
Pierson followed up, claiming that it is in fact not too late to stop the effects of the rezoning.
“It is absolutely not too late,” Pierson said.
Co-founder of Canteen magazine and non-profit tutoring program, Stephen Pierson, 37, joined Community Board 2 and took a more active role in the community after his daughter was born a little over two years ago.
When asked about the recent spike in crime and graffiti in the area, some of the first attacks of the evening came to fruition.
“We need better bonds between the precinct and the community,” said Pierson, a 15-year Brooklyn resident. “I will fight to make sure these meetings happen. I know there was a meeting rescheduled for Monday, and it was canceled. I don’t know why, but maybe Levin had a fundraiser appointment in Brooklyn Heights, but I would fight for greater community input.”
While assuring his community ties and importance of focusing on crime reduction, Levin, 32, responded to the accusation about skipping out on a precinct meeting by telling his opponent that the captain was out of town, and invited the challenger to their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Polish-Slavic Center.
“I have the local police commander on speed dial,” Levin said.
In response to questions about the current state of city education, both candidates called for additional funding, and while Pierson said there was a need for additional charter schools in Downtown Brooklyn, Levin said he called for, “a total moratorium on charter schools.”
“It’s time for leadership to say we have enough right now,” he added.
Both candidates applauded participatory budgeting, and said they would fully implement the process over the next four years.
“I think this year we’re going to do better in participatory budgeting and how we get people to participate,” Levin said.
Pierson took a jab at Levin, stating that he would be actively involved in participatory budgeting all four years of his tenure, and said that he, “was glad that the councilman changed his mind and supported it the second year that he could after declining to do so in the first year.”
Alex Zucker, a local freelance translator, said after the debate he is interested in doing some research into whether Levin has truly broken his ties with Lopez. He is still not sure who he is going to vote for.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Zucker said. “Levin comes out of this machine that has been tainted by corruption and horrific sexual harassment, which is absolutely uncool, and on the other hand it appears to me Levin has made a break with that, so I’m more concerned with what he’s able to do going forward.”
Marisa Bowe, a freelance writer living in Greenpoint, said she is leaning towards voting for Pierson because he lacks the political undertones, which she said is an untrustworthy attribute.
“Mike Bloomberg had never been in politics and it was refreshing to know someone wasn’t lying to you and wasn’t a politician,” Bowe said. “I feel the same way about Pierson. I think he is saying what he really thinks, (and) I don’t think that Levin is doing that and it would be interesting to see if Pierson could do that after winning a term.”