By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY., Weds. Sept. 1, 2021: The Big Apple now has a Caribbean Americanlieutenant governor, thanks to its newly-installed female governor, Kathy Hochul.
Hochul selected Caribbean American New York State Sen. Brian Benjamin, 44, for the post.
Benjamin is the son of a Guyanese mother and Jamaican father. He had represented the New York State Senate District 30, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
He also was the chairman of the New York Senate Committee on Revenue and Budget, and Senior Assistant Majority Leader, where he distinguished himself as a leader in criminal justice reform and affordable housing.
Benjamin and Hochul, 62, previously worked together on several key issues, including fighting the opioid epidemic and boosting addiction recovery programs, supporting Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) and making it easier for New Yorkers to vote.
Hochul, the former lieutenant governor, succeeded former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned after the state’s Attorney General Letitia James issued a blistering investigative report allegedly accusing Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women and creating a toxic work environment.
“I want to thank Governor Hochul for trusting me with the incredible honor of serving alongside her as lieutenant governor. “Gov. Hochul is a collaborator, who makes sure everyone has a seat at the table, and, like me, is laser-focused on listening to the needs of New Yorkers and empowering local leaders,” Benjamin said in accepting the post. “We have a strong history of collaboration that will help us to hit the ground running immediately, as we help guide New York through this challenging moment in history.”
Benjamin had unsuccessfully run for New York City Comptroller in June’s Democratic primary in a field that included Corey Johnson, the speaker of the City Council, and Councilman Brad Lander, who emerged triumphant. He placed fourth, behind Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC television anchor.
Hochul has, however, made a sharp break from Benjamin, rejecting the “defund the police” movement he has embraced.
“Governor Hochul does not support defunding the police,” Hazel Crampton-Hays, her press secretary, told The Post. “In the Hochul Administration, public safety and justice and accountability in policing are not mutually exclusive, and we are glad to partner with soon-to-be Lieutenant Governor Benjamin on these priorities to keep our communities safe.”
Though they didn’t have a college education, his parents found well-paying union jobs, which allowed them to provide Brian and his siblings with a middle-class upbringing. After graduating from high school in New York City, Benjamin sought the quality education his parents had dreamed of providing him with, earning his undergraduate degree in Public Policy from Brown University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.
He then spent three years working in investment banking at Morgan Stanley, working in financial management, advising non-profit and for profit organizations and individuals on how best to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars, exercising and honing his skills as an investment and financial adviser.
Additionally, Benjamin worked in the division that issued and underwrote bonds, which is similar to the work he had done in the treasury department of manufacturing conglomerate after college.
This Caribbean American New Yorker then returned to Harlem to build affordable housing, creating over a thousand units of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing at an M/WBE while helping young people develop work skills and secure good construction jobs through community youth programs.
He then served as Chair of Community Board 10 and the Land Use Committee, a position he used to preserve the character of our community (such as his successful “Harlem not SOHA” campaign), and help keep Harlem affordable.
In 2017, Benjamin ran for and won a vacant seat on the New York City Council. Benjamin then ran to succeed Senator Bill Perkins in Harlem’s district 30 in the NY State Senate.
In the New York State Senate, he has distinguished himself as a leader in criminal justice reform and affordable housing. In 2018 he successfully pushed for the divestment of the state public pension funds from private prisons, and the following year he introduced a bill to forbid state-chartered banks from such investments as well, which helped pressure Bank of America to end their relationship with Geo Group and Core Civic. He currently serves as the chair of the Budget and Revenue committee, and as Senior Assistant Majority Leader.
Benjamin has also been on the frontlines of police reform. On the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, he highlighted some of the bills he helped introduced or advocate for including the Disclosure of Police Settlements bill (which makes police settlements publicly available), the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act (which makes it a felony in New York for police officers to use chokeholds), Repeal of 50-a (which makes police disciplinary records public) and the Wandering Officers Act (which prevents officers who have been fired or resigned in other states from being re-hired as police officers in New York State).