Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders toured a Brooklyn public housing project Sunday to roll out his affordable housing agenda and later drew a record crowd his campaign estimated at more than 28,000 to a rally at the borough’s Prospect Park.
“We’re going to rebuild our inner cities in this country rather than spend billions on wars we should’ve never ever gotten into,” Sanders told thousands of supporters crammed into an open field at the Brooklyn park.
Sanders’ campaign billed the event as the largest turnout of all his campaign rallies in the U.S., touting an attendance of 28,300 people, exceeding the 27,000 people who showed up for a rally in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park Wednesday. NYPD officials could not independently confirm Sunday’s crowd estimates of the Sanders campaign.
Sanders, a U.S. Senator from Vermont with Brooklyn roots, delivered his appeal for votes to the massive crowd ahead of Tuesday’s state primary where state polls show him trailing rival Hillary Clinton.
“This campaign is going to win because we are talking about a rigged economy,” Sanders said to the sea of supporters waving blue campaign signs with his name.
Sanders’ celebrity surrogates looked to galvanize support for his bid — actor Danny DeVito led the crowd in chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” and actor Justin Long made the pitch that “there is no one challenging the status quo more than Bernie Sanders.”
Hours before the 4 p.m. rally, Sanders toured the New York City Housing Authority’s Howard Houses in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, where he was joined by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and New York city ccouncil members Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, who later announced his endorsement of Sanders at the rally.
“This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. People should not be forced to live in dilapidated housing,” Sanders said, in a campaign news release issued after the event that was closed-off to local media.
Following the tour, Sanders’ campaign released his affordable housing agenda that looks to increase federal spending on repairing aging public housing units and expanding counseling programs for first-time homebuyers and those facing foreclosure.
Sanders’ plan calls for increasing the National Affordable Housing Trust fund to at least $5 billion a year “to construct, preserve and rehabilitate at least 3.5 million affordable housing units over the next decade.”
The plan also calls for increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 to help families deal with rising housing costs, and for Congress to “reinvigorate” funding for federal housing programs that have had their budgets cut in recent years.
“Nobody disagrees that we need to address the deficit, but it is absurd to balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the disabled and the poor,” Sanders said in a summary of the plan. “We must return to pre-2010 funding levels . . . and invest more, not less, in affordable housing.”
Sanders also called on local governments to “demand more” from developers who receive government subsidies, saying affordable housing units should not return to market value rents after 10 to 20 years as is often done.
“In my state of Vermont, we require affordable housing to remain affordable permanently,” Sanders said. “In my view, once we subsidize rental housing, we shouldn’t have to pay again and again simply to ‘preserve’ it.”