Brian Benjamin’s remarks at the ceremony swearing him in as New York state’s new lieutenant governor spoke volumes about his character.
“And for too long, people have not felt included that they have a seat at the table, that their issues would be brought to the forefront,” Benjamin said Thursday. “And I’m proud to say that you are creating an administration that will do so.”
Benjamin, the former state senator from New York City, talked about a leadership team that would listen instead of spout rhetoric and describe the executive branch as a collective, rather than as a fiefdom of one.
His first assignment is daunting. Gov. Kathy Hochul has asked Benjamin to help ensure New Yorkers are educated about the coronavirus vaccine. He will also play a role in the ongoing hot-button issue of renters and small landlords who have been affected by the pandemic. He will work to ensure funding designated to help with rental assistance gets in the hands of the people who need it. Related to that, he will lead the New York City Housing Authority.
These are not some minor tasks to give the state’s second-in-command busywork. As the senator who represented Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side in Manhattan, Benjamin knows clearly issues that must be addressed and that are growing quickly.
We’re glad to see Gov. Hochul wants her new lieutenant governor to take an active leadership role instead of serving in a ceremonial, figurehead role, playing second fiddle to the boss and fading into obscurity.
“We can and must do better as New York state,” Benjamin said Thursday in his acceptance speech.
The state is on its way to fulfilling that pledge.