NEW YORK — New York’s new Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was sworn in at a ceremony Thursday.
Benjamin, the state Senator for District 30, which includes Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side, had served as chairman of the senate Committee on Revenue and Budget and senior Assistant Majority Leader.
He took the oath of office to formally succeed Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“I think that you asking me to join the administration has made it abundantly clear that you want upstate and downstate, every ethnicity, every culture to feel included,” Benjamin said. “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. And I’m proud to say that you are creating an administration that will do so.”
The governor has asked Benjamin to focus on a few things to start. The first is in helping in relation to COVID-19, and working to ensure people are educated about the vaccine
Benjamin said he will also play a role in the ongoing issue of renters and small landlords who have been affected by COVID. He will be working to ensure the funding that has been designated to helping with rental assistance get in the hands of the people who need it. He also said Hochul has tasked him with leading the New York City Housing Authority.
“As the senator representing Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side, I know very clearly the issues around the $40 billion-plus-dollars of capital needs that are there and growing quickly. The amount of issues that relates to elevators, repairs, people having to wait over 200 days to get their issues addressed at their homes. We can and must do better as New York State.”
Hochul introduced and welcomed Benjamin at the ceremony on Third Street in New York City on Thursday morning. She had announced him as her choice for lieutenant governor Aug. 26. Benjamin and Hochul previously worked together on a number of issues such as the fight against the opioid epidemic and boosting addiction recovery programs, supporting MWBE business owners and working to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote.
“I found a person who knows what it’s like to struggle, to work hard to make something of his life and to now return his service to the community,” Hochul said. “That, my friends, is the American dream, how someone who started out with little, rose to where he is today but now turns back, and doesn’t think about himself, he thinks about how he can serve not just his senatorial district, now he will be helping me serve 20 million New Yorkers.”
Benjamin was born in Harlem. After graduating from high school in New York City, Benjamin went on to earn his undergraduate degree in public policy from Brown University and his master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School. Benjamin later returned to Harlem to build affordable housing, creating more than 1,000 units of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing at an MWBE while helping young people develop work skills and secure construction jobs through community youth programs. Benjamin helped young people at Harlem’s Wadleigh High School since launching a mentoring program in 2013. He has also served as an alumni-elected trustee of Brown University. He is also an active member of Harlem’s historic First Corinthian Baptist Church.
It’s an extraordinary responsibility,” Hochul said. “I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t think you’re up for the task. And I know you are. And I have every confidence in you that we’ll be sending to higher positions and higher levels of accomplishment because that’s who we are. We’ll never rest on our laurels. We will have a good day, but tomorrow better be a great day, and I’m going to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. Anyone who’s ever worked with me knows I’m that focused.
During his time in the state Senate, Benjamin successfully pushed for the divestment of the state public pension funds from private prisons in 2018, and the following year he introduced a bill to forbid state-chartered banks from such investments.
As senator, Benjamin’s proposal to keep rent controlled apartments affordable was a part of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, the largest expansion of tenants’ rights in decades. In his first term, he served as ranking member of the senate Committee on Civil Service and Pensions, where he looked to defend the public pensions of hard working public servants like his parents while ensuring the pension money was invested in a manner that reflected New York’s values.