Roosevelt House is pleased to present the first in a series of 2021 Zoom election forums, designed to give young and first-time voters the opportunity to explore policy issues with those running for office in the June primaries. We begin with the six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Manhattan Borough President. Primary Day is June 22.

With incumbent Gale Brewer term-limited from seeking re-election, Manhattan will be led by a new borough president for the first time in eight years. To help guide our community in choosing her successor, student representatives will pose to each of the six candidates their most burning questions on the issues they believe will most greatly impact the future of New York.

As the borough’s top office, the borough president is endowed with both the budget and the bullhorn to help address and amplify residents’ most pressing needs. Steering resources to schools, community-based organizations, transportation projects, and hospitals, calling public hearings so citizens can be heard on the land use projects that affect them most directly, the borough president has the power to sway decision-makers at the highest levels of city and state government.

Rachel Holliday Smith, moderator, has covered New York news for more than a decade and is currently the Manhattan reporter at The City. Previously she worked at WNYC, DNAinfo and NY1 News. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesCrain’s New YorkNew York PostCurbed New YorkGotham Gazette, and City Limits.

Participating Candidates:

Kimberly Watkins is president of Community Education Council District 3, covering the Upper West Side. Describing herself as “the public school candidate,” she is advocating for a major overhaul of the education system. She supports abolishing mayoral control, including the heads of Community Education Councils on the Borough Board, and reducing the school nurse shortfall. Watkins also has voiced opposition to the privatization of public housing, pushed for community boards to be able to approve pop-up stores in empty storefronts, and supports Manhattan becoming a more car-free borough under a 10-year green plan.

Mark Levine is the City Council Member for District 7 in Northern Manhattan, serving as Chair of the Council Committee on Health. He has been outspoken on issues such as affordable housing, education, economic justice, transportation, and environmentalism. A critic of the citywide response to the pandemic, he has sponsored bills to provide stipends to low-income New Yorkers who quarantine, create memorial for New Yorkers who have died from the virus, and suspend licensing fees for businesses impacted by the lockdown. Before winning a seat on the Council, Levine was a bilingual math and science teacher in Brooklyn.

Ben Kallos is City Council Member for District 5, representing the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island, and East Harlem, and serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions. Kallos has focused on such issues as education, affordable housing, public health, sustainable development, and transportation improvements and safety. Among the bills he has proposed are those that would make Council Membership a full-time job, eliminate extra pay through so-called “lulus,” and restrict supertall structures. Previously, he worked as chief of staff to Assembly Member Jonathan Bing and as policy director for former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green.

Brad Hoylman is New York State Senator for Manhattan’s 27th District, covering much of lower and midtown Manhattan. He has passed over 100 bills in Albany, including the Child’s Victim Act, expanding the statute of limitations on sex abuse allegations, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, protecting transgender and non-binary New Yorkers. If elected, Hoylman plans a to create a Public School Parent Advocacy and Resource Center and increased power for community boards over the borough president’s budget. Previously he served as the three-term chair of Community Board 2. Hoylman would become the first openly LGBTQ Borough President.

Elizabeth Caputo is the former Chair of Manhattan Community Board 7 on the Upper West Side, where she served as its longest-serving chair from 2013 to 2016. During her tenure, Caputo pushed for the installation of a bike lane along Amsterdam Avenue, advocated for bringing Citi Bike to Manhattan, and held hearings to examine the De Blasio administration’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program. She has championed a loan forgiveness program for laid-off Broadway actors and has proposed temporarily hiring them at New York City public schools, and providing more Select Bus Service, and an expansion of the Open Streets program.

Lindsey Boylan is a former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Housing under Governor Andrew Cuomo, and was a 2020 Democratic primary challenger to Representative Jerry Nadler in New York’s 10th Congressional District. She has advocated on issues including affordable housing, climate justice, accessibility, green spaces, and post-pandemic economic recovery; and she has been outspoken on zoning and re-zonings impacting Manhattan communities of color. Previously, she held leadership positions at the Bryant Park Corporation, 34th Street Partnership, and the Chelsea Improvement Company.


Dear Friend of Roosevelt House:

Thank you for attending our public programs in such great numbers during these fraught eight months of lockdown and social distancing. Since March, when the pandemic first struck New York and the house closed its doors, we have welcomed more than 10,000 attendees to Roosevelt House Zoom events. Our priority has been, and remains, assembling the best thinkers and authors we can bring before you, in both new and encore programming, to help us both to remember past crises and challenges, and navigate the challenges of the current crisis. Even though we very much miss welcoming you to Roosevelt House in person, we pledge to you that, as long as we must, we will continue featuring opportunities for civic engagement online.

To fulfill these goals we look to you, more than ever, for your crucially needed financial support. We ask that you help us navigate these unprecedented times—and opportunities—by contributing to Roosevelt House so that our programming can continue robustly.


Many thanks—and thank you, as always, for your loyalty and generosity.

For information on all upcoming Hunter@Home events and to watch past events, visit


2021 Election Season At Roosevelt House — Choosing A Leader For The Future Of Manhattan: A Borough President Candidate Forum | Posted on March 26th, 2021 | Public Programs