Public enemies! Squadron and James square off at public advocate debate

Democratic Primary for New York City Public Advocate
Daniel Squadron

I know you are but what am I?

That is the question each of the two Brooklynite Democratic candidates for public advocate furiously posed at a debate last night as they tried to frame each other as loyal to developers in the final days before a run-off election.

“When any developer walks through my door, the first thing I demand is affordable housing — or I show them the door,” Fort Greene Councilwoman and candidate Letitia James said, criticizing opponent and Carroll Gardens state Sen. Daniel Squadron for backing the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park despite the project being tied to the construction of luxury condominiums.

Squadron countered that he did not support luxury housing in the park and that he attempted to minimize it during the park planning process. He struck back with a similar jab, pointing out that James took money from developers at the same time as she was making decisions about their projects. But James was not having it.

“Any contribution I receive is not going to change my policy one iota,” James said.

The accusations are not the only shared ideas the two public advocate hopefuls aired during the debate. Both inveighed against the policies of departing Mayor Bloomberg and promised to focus on affordable housing and civil liberties if elected.

The two candidates barely looked at each other during the heated back-and-forth. The only time James glanced Squadron’s way was when he admitted he had tried pot.

“Really?” she asked.

James edged out Squadron in the Sept. 12 primary but not by a large enough margin to avoid a run-off. The Democratic run-off election will happen on Oct. 1.

The position of public advocate has been in the spotlight this year as current Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio fought Brooklyn hospital closures during his campaign for mayor, ultimately clinching the Democratic nomination. The job pays well — $165,000 a year — but the office’s budget has shrunk in recent years and many have called to abolish the post altogether.

The general election is Nov. 5 and the deadline to register to vote in that election is

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.