In New York State, Brian Benjamin, 44, who previously served as a state senator for District 30 which includes Harlem, East Harlem, and Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was sworn in as New York’s new Lieutenant Governor. Less than a month ago, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that he had been selected for the post. Benjamin, the son of a Jamaican father and a Guyanese mother, promised to do everything he can to ensure that struggling and overlooked people who live at the margins of society will be represented in government and that “fairness, accountability, and good practical decision-making” govern government’s actions. He thanked the Governor for placing her trust in him and for the chance to serve the state.
At Benjamin’s swearing-in ceremony, Governor Hochul said that he understands what it is like to work hard and struggle to succeed in life and who now returns to his community to help it move forward. The Governor added that Benjamin’s story is the American dream, which involves how a person who begins with little rises achieves success. She also noted that his service will help some 20 million New Yorkers, which she called “an extraordinary responsibility” that Benjamin is well-suited to take on.
Benjamin and Governor Hochul have a history of working together on key issues, including the battle against the opioid epidemic, enhancing addiction recovery programs, support for businesses owned by minorities and women, and making it easier for New Yorkers to vote. Hochul has asked Benjamin to help address the COVID-19 epidemic as well, especially in regard to ensuring that renters, small landlords, and workers have the help they need to overcome the struggles imposed by the coronavirus.
As the child of Caribbean immigrants, Benjamin plans to rely on his heritage along with his experience in investment banking and politics, to help the people of New York. He was born in Harlem, and while his parents did not have college educations, they found good-paying union jobs that made it possible for them to support Benjamin and his siblings in a middle-class environment. He graduated from high school in New York City and then earned an undergraduate degree in public policy from Brown University. He also has an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
Benjamin worked for three years at Morgan Stanley in investment banking and financial management, serving as an advisor to both nonprofits and for-profit organizations. He also worked in the division that issued and underwrote bonds. He returned to Harlem to build affordable housing and successfully created more than 1,000 units of affordable and environmentally sustainable housing while also helping young people develop skills and obtain good construction jobs via community youth programs. He was chair of Community Board 10 and the Land Use Committee, where he worked to preserve the character and affordability of the Harlem community.
Benjamin won a seat on the New York City Council in 2017 and then ran for and won a seat to represent District 30 in the state senate. In the Senate, he became a leader in criminal justice reform and affordable housing efforts, and in 2018 he successfully convinced the state’s public pension funds to divest from private prisons. In 2019, he introduced legislation to prohibit state-chartered banks from such investments, helping to pressure Bank of America to end their relationship with Geo Group and Core Civic. He has also been instrumental in the fight for police reform in New York.
Photo New York State