Monday, December 22, 2014

Debate questions Riverdale’s privilege

By Sarina Trangle
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
City Council District 11 candidate Cliff Stanton, right, explains his position as Shelley Keeling and Andrew Cohen listen during the Democratic primary debate moderated by radio host Michael Serrano.

Michael Serrano, The Bronx Journal Radio host, organized a July 11 debate among contenders for City Council District 11, planning to ask Andrew Cohen, Shelley Keeling and Cliff Stanton about everything from their need to spur communities’ clean up efforts to their opinions on stop and frisk.

But he opened the discussion by couching the conversation in the idea that nobody outside of Riverdale realizes “that there’s a campaign season” and opened one of his early questions by saying the debate over paving the Putnam Trail seemed flippant. 

The candidates seized on this and began debating whether Riverdale receives more attention or funding,  with Mr. Stanton’s supporters in the audience insisting it did. Ms. Keeling agreed.

By the end of the evening, Councilman Oliver Koppell stood among 60 attendees in Lovinger Theatre and demanded that candidates backup their claims of favoritism with an example.

The crowd of about 60 — many of whom were campaign workers — was orderly at the beginning. The candidates, none of whom have held an elected office before, introduced themselves. Mr. Cohen, an attorney, adjunct professor at John Jay College and Community Board 8 member, touted the union and politicians’ endorsements he’s received, arguing that he’s capable of coalescing support for the district.

Ms. Keeling, stood and spoke in Spanish as well as English, arguing that her ascent from living in public housing to owning a real estate company coupled with her experience as an educator and coach would help her understand the district’s diverse demographics.

And Mr. Stanton, who owns a food business and has served in parent-teacher organizations at schools, rehashed his childhood in Van Cortlandt Village and suggested the district needed new leaders.

Mr. Serrano asked about public safety tactics, concerns in schools and neighborhood upkeep without getting much disagreement among the candidates. All three criticized police stop and frisk tactics that infringes on the rights of minorities and youth. 

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