New York City Council Speaker Candidates Debate Security, Legislative Process at Crain's New York Business Breakfast, Sponsored by Berkeley College

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The safety of New Yorkers and the Council’s ability to democratically introduce and advance legislation were the topics of the New York City Council Speaker Debate, hosted by Crain’s New York Business and sponsored by Berkeley College on November 1, 2017.

Manhattan Councilmen Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez, Queens Councilmen Donovan Richards and James Van Bramer, Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, and Brooklyn Councilmen Robert Cornegy Jr. and Jumaane Williams, took to the stage to address a crowd of 300 during a panel moderated by Erik Engquist, Assistant Managing Editor, Crain’s New York Business.

“We are at a time where we need leadership that will be bold,” said Councilman Williams, referencing the attack that killed eight pedestrians and cyclists in Manhattan last week.

Councilman Van Bramer vowed to fight the reduction of federal funding to the New York Police Department and agencies that fight terrorism, without infringing on residents’ rights.

“I know we can keep the city safe while still protecting the rights of New Yorkers,” he said.

Mr. Engquist asked the candidates whether as Council Speaker they would be less deferential to the mayor, noting that Mayor Bill de Blasio has not vetoed a single bill in his four years in office.

“We need to structurally change some of the rules of the council to empower individual Council members to have more of a say,” Councilman Johnson said. “It’s OK to push forward issues where there is not total agreement. There is a give and take here. We can disagree and still have good, functioning government in New York City.”

Councilman Torres agreed. “The role of the Speaker’s office is not to rubber stamp,” he said. “It is to provide some degree of quality control.”

The candidates also spoke about their humble beginnings and the challenges they overcame to become contenders for public office.

“Only in New York City can someone be washing dishes in 1983 and today be ready to be the next Speaker,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic more than 30 years ago.

Students from Berkeley College attended the debate and networked with the candidates following the event.

“Attending the event made me realize that there are people in our society who really care about the implementation of change and justice,” said Sadreana Williams a Berkeley College student who works with the YMCA Teens Take the City program. “Our city and country need a strong team of individuals who want to have an impact on the citizens and who can motivate them. Change starts with caring people who have a voice.”

Edgardo Marimon, a Business Administration – Management student at Berkeley College, spoke with Councilman Cornegy following the program.

“It was an amazing opportunity to be in the same space as these men, who have overcome the struggles of their childhoods and become icons of hope for society,” Mr. Marimon said. “It was a personal honor to chat with Councilman Cornegy about growing up in a big family and enduring a struggle to reach your best.”

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A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls more than 7,100 students – including more than 440 international students – in its Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers an MBA in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.


Berkeley College has three New York campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. In New Jersey there are five campuses – Dover, Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. For four consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. The website address is


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Photo Captions: (Top, L to R) Erik Engquist, Assistant Managing Editor, Crain’s New York Business; and New York City Council Speaker candidates Robert Cornegy Jr., Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Donovan Richards, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres, Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams debate at a Crain’s New York Business event on November 1, 2017. (Above, L to R) Edgardo Marimon of Manhattan, NY, a Business Administration – Management student at Berkeley College, networks with Councilman Cornegy following the Crain’s New York Business event. (Below, L to R) Angela Harrington, Vice President, Communications and External Relations, Berkeley College; Councilman Johnson; Councilman Torres; Dori Rubin, Senior Director, Career Services; Mr. Marimon; Sadreana Williams, Berkeley College student; and Elana Zolfo, EdD, Dean, Berkeley College Larry L. Luing School of Business®.

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