Benjamin & Hochul share history of working together on key issues, including ending opioid epidemic, supporting MWBEs, voting reforms
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday announced the selection of Brian Benjamin for lieutenant governor.
A press release stated, “Benjamin and Hochul have previously worked together on several key issues, including fighting the opioid epidemic and boosting addiction recovery programs, supporting MWBE business owners and making it easier for New Yorkers to vote.”
Benjamin previously served as New York state senator for District 30 – which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side – chairman of the Senate Committee on Revenue and Budget, and senior assistant majority leader, where he distinguished himself as a leader in criminal justice reform and affordable housing. Benjamin remains heavily involved in his community in Harlem.
"I believe that governing is about working together. Teamwork is the essence of effective leadership, and it is more important than ever as we confront the urgent problems facing the state," Hochul said. "My administration is going to attract the best and the brightest – people who share my values of working hard for the people of this state and who will get the job done – and that includes the newest member, Sen. Brian Benjamin, who has agreed to serve as my lieutenant governor. There is so much work to do, and I am grateful to have him by my side as we implement our vision for a safer, healthier and fairer New York."
Benjamin said, "I want to thank Gov. Hochul for trusting me with the incredible honor of serving alongside her as lieutenant governor. Gov. Hochul is a collaborator who makes sure everyone has a seat at the table, and, like me, is laser-focused on listening to the needs of New Yorkers and empowering local leaders. We have a strong history of collaboration that will help us to hit the ground running immediately as we help guide New York through this challenging moment in history."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, said, "Whether it's life experience, race, background or otherwise, New York was built on a foundation of diversity and, thanks to Gov. Hochul's leadership, that foundation has already become a pillar of her administration with the selection of Brian Benjamin as our state's next lieutenant governor. From his early work to build affordable housing in Harlem as a community leader, to his advocacy as a longtime member of NAN, to his efforts as a senator to solve the issues threatening the health and well-being of New Yorkers like the opioid crisis, Sen. Benjamin has made a career of tackling the problems that have prevented far too many working families from lifting themselves up. This is a fantastic choice and I look forward to helping both Gov. Hochul and Sen. Benjamin begin this next chapter in New York's history."
Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, said, "From his work helping fight the opioid crisis to his work to help minority and women-owned businesses thrive, Brian Benjamin has spent his career focused on the issues that impact everyday New Yorkers; and I am so excited to see him continue that work as our state's lieutenant governor. In just a few days, Gov. Hochul has already set New York on a path for success, and this selection only further solidifies that point. I am so excited to begin working with the governor's administration to move New York forward and extend my sincerest congratulations to Sen. Benjamin."
New York State Sen. Sean Ryan said, “I would like to extend my congratulations to my colleague in the State Senate, Sen. Brian Benjamin, on being selected as New York’s next lieutenant governor. He is highly qualified for this role, due in part to his diverse mix of government and private-sector experience. He has accomplished important things for the people of New York during his time in the Senate, and I am confident that he will continue to do so working alongside Gov. Hochul. I look forward to welcoming him to Western New York soon and working with him in his new role as we continue to fight to improve the lives of people in every part of our state.”
Benjamin was born in Harlem to a Caribbean mother who came to this country seeking new opportunities. Though they didn't have a college education, his parents were fortunate enough to find well-paying union jobs, which allowed them to provide Benjamin and his siblings with a middle-class upbringing. After graduating from high school in New York City, Benjamin sought the quality education his parents had dreamed of providing him with, earning his undergraduate degree in public policy from Brown University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.
After school, Benjamin returned to Harlem to build affordable housing, creating over a thousand units of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing at an MWBE while helping young people develop work skills and secure good construction jobs through community youth programs.
In his community, Benjamin worked to preserve the character of Harlem and help keep the community affordable. He helped countless young people at Harlem's Wadleigh High School achieve a brighter future since launching a mentoring program in 2013, and he is honored to serve as an alumni-elected trustee of Brown University. Benjamin is also an active member of Harlem's historic First Corinthian Baptist Church.
During his time in the New York 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 well, which helped pressure Bank of America to end its relationship with Geo Group and Core Civic. Benjamin's proposal to keep rent-controlled apartments affordable was a part of the history-making Tenant Protection Act of 2019, the largest expansion of tenant's rights in decades. In his first term, he served as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Pensions, where, Hochul’s team said, “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.”