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Brian Benjamin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brian A. Benjamin
Member of the New York Senate
from the 30th district
Assumed office
June 5, 2017
Preceded byBill Perkins
Personal details
Political partyDemocratic
ResidenceHarlem, New York
Alma materBrown University
Harvard Business School

Brian A. Benjamin is the Senator for the 30th District of the New York Senate. He serves as the Senior Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate.[1] He is a Democrat. The district Benjamin represents includes parts of the neighborhoods of East Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Harlem, Morningside Heights, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Washington Heights and Yorkville in Manhattan.

Life and career

Brian was born at Harlem Hospital in 1976.[2] Benjamin was born to Caribbean immigrant parents before attending Brown University and later Harvard Business School. He later went on to work in finance, serve as the Richmond Field Director in Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign and interned in the office of Bill Lynch & Associates. In 2012, he served as a delegate for President Barack Obama and as a member of President Obama’s National Finance Committee.

Formerly, he served as the Chair of Community Board #10 in Manhattan, where he fought alongside residents of Lenox Terrace against a redevelopment plan.[3] He is an alumni-elected trustee of Brown. Benjamin attends First Corinthian Baptist Church.[4]

In 2010, Brian Benjamin became a managing partner at Genesis, a Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise building affordable housing in Harlem.[5][6] Heavily involved in the purchase and redevelopment of deteriorating buildings from Abyssinian Development Corporation, Benjamin helped ensure that redevelopment and repair would be done with as many M/WBE partners and vendors as possible.[7] Of the 100% affordable and environmentally sustainable apartments that resulted from the project, 20% where put aside for the homeless, and 5% for disabled New Yorkers. He was also heavily involved with partnerships with First Corinthians Baptist Church, which he is an active member of, in creating the Dream Center on 119th and the Hope Center on 114th.[8][9]

Support for Barack Obama

Having been an admirer of Barack Obama since hearing the then senator speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Benjamin became an early supporter of Obama when he announced his presidential campaign in 2007.[10] He was a co-founder of “Harlem4Obama” which helped encourage Harlem support for the Senator and hosted a large fundraiser for the Obama in 2008. After Obama's election, the infrastructure of “Harlem4Obama” contributed to Benjamin's organization “Young Professionals United for Change (YP4C),” which instituted a mentoring program at Wadleigh School and organized young people.[11][12][13]

In 2012, Benjamin was an Obama Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and raised money for Obama's reelection as a member of his Young Professionals Finance Committee.[14]

New York Senate

In 2017, Senator Bill Perkins announced that he would run for a vacant seat on the New York City Council, that had become vacant when Inez Dickens resigned to take a seat in the New York Assembly. Following Perkins' subsequent victory for the vacant Council seat, Benjamin announced that he would run to succeed Perkins in the Senate.[15]

Because New York Law provides that Democratic Nominee in certain special elections is determined by the County Committee instead of a primary election, Benjamin was elected with 63% of the votes at a convention in March.[16] Critics alleged that the process was controlled by Benjamin's allies, including Manhattan Democratic Party chairman and political insiders as the Democratic candidate, though Benjamin's principal opponent, Rev. Al Taylor, was endorsed by the incumbent Senator and senior members of the legislature.[17][18]

Benjamin's candidacy was endorsed by numerous elected officials including, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Former Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, New York City Councilman Mark Levine, Assemblyman Denny Farrell, Former Assemblyman Keith Wright, Former New York City Councilman Robert Jackson, Hazel Dukes, Rev. Calvin Butts, and labor unions including 1199SEIU, 32BJ, and his mother's union, Local 372 of DC37.[19][20]

With the seat being overwhelmingly Democratic, Benjamin defeated Republican Dawn Simmons and Reform candidate Ruben Dario Vargas with over 91% of the vote, which had a very low turnout of 4%.[21][22] He was sworn into the seat on June 5, 2017.[23]

In the New York State Senate, Benjamin sponsored a bill to close Rikers Island,[24] called the New York State Public Pension Common Fund to divest from private prisons,[25] and introduced a bill to equalize maximum rent increases in rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments.[26] He serves as the ranking member of the Civil Service & Pensions Committee.[27][28]

One of Benjamin's first campaign promises was to fight for the closure of Rikers Island, and his bill to close Rikers in three years was one of the first he introduced.[29][30][31] After violence on Rikers on Thanksgiving Day 2017, Benjamin sent a letter to the State Commission of Correction requesting a report on the state of the facility, a report which found that the City's inaction and protracted ten year proposal might require the Commission to examine steps to close Rikers faster to ensure that the constitutional rights of inmates and staff are protected.[32][33] Benjamin is also a co-sponsor of bills to reform discovery, end cash bail, restore the voting rights of parolees, and end solitary confinement.[34]

During his campaign for the State Senate, Benjamin mounted a campaign against the disrespectful rebranding of Harlem as SOHA by real estate forms.[35][36] After his election, he sponsored a bill, the Neighborhood Integrity Act, to prohibit renaming neighborhoods or redefining traditional boundaries without community input.[37] With pressure from the community rising, the real estate company dropped the SoHa rebranding effort.[38][39] During his campaign, Benjamin accepted $2,500 in campaign contributions from a real estate company that owned a South Harlem condominium called “SoHa 118.” Once he learned they used the term “SoHa” he returned the donation and asked that they change the name.[40]

Benjamin, formerly served ranking member of the Civil Service and Pensions Committee [28] is the sponsor of a bill to divest New York's Public Pension fund from private prisons.[41] With the Democrats retaking the majority in 2018, Benjamin was named Chairman of Committee on Revenue and Budget.


After Success Academy Charter School chairman Dan Loeb said that State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins had done "more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood," Senator Benjamin said that the lack of serious response from founder Eva Moskowitz was not enough.[42]

In 2017, when Benjamin was a managing partner of a real estate firm and on the verge of becoming the New York State Senate Democratic nominee, his firm was involved in a legal dispute over an alleged scheme to divert revenue from a fire sale initiated by the real estate firm. The affordable-housing firm that specializes in preserving low-income housing denied all of the allegations and the case went to arbitration.[43]

After his election to New York State Senate, reports claimed that his former real estate company allegedly retained Benjamin as an advisor for $60,000 a year in addition to his annual $75,000 as a New York State Senator. Senator Benjamin has repeatedly denied receiving any outside income since his election, which was supported by 2018 filings with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.[44][45][46][47][48][49]

In 2018, Benjamin urged constituents to keep warm during cold months while serving on the advisory board of his former real estate company which accrued hundreds of violations, though the company and city officials maintain the issues existed prior to the company's involvement. He directed tenants to “contact his office about heat-related issues,” and “bragged about holding landlords accountable.”[50]

A grassroots non-profit organization that actively solicited public donations was allegedly reported to have been a front for a group of Harlem elected officials. A flyer organizing a free bus trip to a conference organized by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican legislators with the organization's name on it featured a picture of four Harlem Black and Puerto Rican legislators including Benjamin.[51][52][53]

In 2014, Benjamin appeared in Oprah Winfrey Network's television show “Love in the City” as a devoted boyfriend of breast-cancer victim and entrepreneur Tiffany Jones.[54]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "About Brian A. Benjamin". NY State Senate. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  3. ^ "Community Board 10 Sides With Tenants in Lenox Terrace Rezoning FIght". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on 2018-03-29. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  4. ^ "Brian Benjamin Wins Special Election for Upper Manhattan State Senate Seat". Archived from the original on 2017-05-24. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  5. ^ "Brian Benjamin: Doing Business in Black Communities for the Benefit of Black People". Black Enterprise. 2014-09-19. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  6. ^ "Brian Benjamin - Meet Crain's New York Business Class of 2016 40 Under 40". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  7. ^ Elstein, Aaron. "Rev. Calvin Butts seeks salvation for the church-based organization that resurrected Harlem". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  8. ^ "H.O.P.E. Center (Counseling) | First Corinthian Baptist Church". First Corinthian Baptist Church. First Corinthian Baptist Church. 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-28.CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ "Early Harlem Obama Backer Seeks Open Senate Seat - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  11. ^ "Brian Benjamin Launches 'Young Professionals United For Change' To Increase African American Political Engagement". MadameNoire. 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  12. ^ "Wadleigh Secondary School getting new life with mentoring initiative". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  13. ^ "#GETCOVERED: Juelz Santana & Friends Encourage Youth To Sign Up For Affordable Care Act (PHOTOS)". Global Grind. 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  14. ^ "Obama coming to the Apollo; fundraiser 'more accessible'". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  15. ^ "Brian Benjamin Wins Special Election for Harlem State Senate Seat - Central Harlem - New York - DNAinfo". Archived from the original on 2017-08-29. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  16. ^ "County Committee FAQ | Manhattan Young Democrats". Manhattan Young Democrats. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  17. ^ "Machine-Backed Candidate Wins Battle Over Vacant Harlem Seat". Observer. 2017-03-11. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  18. ^ Vilensky, Mike. "Real-Estate Developer Brian Benjamin Wins New York State Senate Seat - WSJ". Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  19. ^ "Endorsements". Brian A. Benjamin. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  20. ^ "1199SEIU endorses Brian Benjamin for State Senate". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY State Senate 30 - Special Race - May 23, 2017". Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Civil Service and Pensions". NY State Senate. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  28. ^ a b "Civil Service and Pensions". NY State Senate. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  29. ^ "State Sen. Brian Benjamin moves forward with campaign promise to close Rikers". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  30. ^ "N.Y. senator pushes bill to shut down Rikers Island in 3 years". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  31. ^ "NY State Senate Bill S6747". NY State Senate. 2017-06-15. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  32. ^ "N.Y. senator calls for state probe of ongoing Rikers violence". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  33. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. (2018-02-14). "New York State May Move to Close Rikers Ahead of City's 10-Year Timeline". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  34. ^ "State Senator Brian A. Benjamin to Outline 2018 Criminal Justice Priorities". NY State Senate. 2017-12-27. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  35. ^ "Push to discontinue use of 'SoHa' presses on". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  36. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (2017-07-06). "SoHa in Harlem? The Misguided Madness of Neighborhood Rebranding". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  37. ^ "NY State Senate Bill S6616". NY State Senate. 2017-06-07. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  38. ^ "Real Estate Company Drops 'SoHa' Branding Amid Backlash". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  39. ^ "People's Victory: Activists stop effort to rename Harlem south of 125th Street 'SoHa'". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  40. ^ "'SoHa' foe got campaign gift from firm that renames neighborhoods". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  41. ^ "N.Y. pol to pension fund: Pull out of private prison companies". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  42. ^ "Protesters outside charter school call for Dan Loeb's resignation". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  43. ^ "Struggling firm's property fire sale triggers legal tug-of-war". New York Post. 2017-03-11. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  44. ^ "State senator candidate is exec at company that owns problem properties". New York Post. 2017-03-27. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  45. ^ "State senator has consulting job with controversial landlord in his home district". New York Post. 2017-10-21. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  46. ^ "New state senator collects consulting cash for former RE firm: report". The Real Deal New York. 2017-10-24. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  47. ^ "After slamming GOP, Senate Democrats quiet on new colleague's pay". Times Union. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  48. ^ "New questions on Sen. Brian Benjamin's income arrangement". Capitol Confidential. 2017-10-27. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  49. ^ "State senator's bill restricts pols from accepting outside income". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  50. ^ "'Keep warm' pol worked for firm hit with heating complaints". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  51. ^ "'Grassroots' nonprofit group has ties to powerful politicians". New York Post. 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  52. ^ "Harlem 'Grassroots' Nonprofit Has Ties To Powerful Politicians Reports NY Post". Harlem World Magazine. 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  53. ^ "Harlem Non-Profit Accused Of Secretly Working For Local Politicians - NYC Inquirer". NYC Inquirer. 2018-02-20. Archived from the original on 2018-02-21. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  54. ^ "State Senate candidate's reality show stint bites back". New York Post. 2017-04-17. Retrieved 2018-02-28.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Perkins
New York State Senate, 30th District
This page was last edited on 22 October 2019, at 20:53
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