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Jumaane Williams focuses on affordable housing, NYPD accountability

Williams, who was privately sworn-in as public advocate, said he will push for bills he has already introduced in City Council.

Jumaane Williams holds his first solo news conference

Jumaane Williams holds his first solo news conference as NYC Public Advocate in lower Manhattan on Thursday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

As Jumaane Williams begins his job as public advocate, he plans to prioritize making housing more affordable and increasing transparency and the accountability of the NYPD, he said at his first solo news conference in the role Thursday. 

Williams was sworn in as public advocate at a private ceremony Wednesday after beating 16 other candidates in a special election at the end of February.

While it was unclear if the swearing-in was official, as the election results still need to be certified and he has to resign from City Council, Williams was moved into his new office at 1 Centre St. across from City Hall. As he hires a new team and gets "used to the (security) detail," the former City Council member is reviewing bills he had already introduced in the council to see what he can push for first as public advocate. 

"The bills that I had as a council member will come with me as public advocate," he said. "We're going over the bills now ... The issues around housing might be one of the bills that we push first. Transparency and accountability around the NYPD are high, as well."

Williams has been a vocal opponent of the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy (where developers set aside parts of their buildings as affordable units), arguing that it doesn't provide enough affordable housing. He also said he will work to put pressure on the state to approve universal rent control legislation.

On the city's beleaguered housing authority, which will be overseen by a federal monitor, Williams said the city and state have failed, "but it's hard to trust the federal government."

He plans to advocate for more funding from the state and federal governments, while ensuring the city is being honest about its management. 

"We need money, management and lastly, any plan that comes out about NYCHA has to include NYCHA residents," he said.

Since being elected, Williams has hired enough staff to keep the office of the public advocate running, but he's in the process of hiring a full transition team. He also will schedule a public swearing-in, he said, but a date has not been set. New Yorkers can reach the office of the public advocate by phone at 212-669-7250, by email at gethelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov or at publicadvocate.nyc.gov.

Williams will run again in a primary in June and a general election in November to complete the term of former public advocate Letitia James. If he wins both, he will serve through the end of 2021. 

William's City Council seat, representing Brooklyn's 45th District, is expected to be filled by another special election once he officially resigns from City Council. The date of his resignation was not immediately clear.

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