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Jumaane Williams Sounds Off On His Priorities As Public Advocate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - After a citywide special election, a new public advocate has been chosen.

Jumaane Williams has been a New York City councilman for the 45th district in Brooklyn, but will now finish out the term of public advocate for the remainder of the year.

So what is he hoping to accomplish?

Williams stopped by the CBSN New York studios to talk with Alex Denis.

Watch: Extended Interview With Jumaane Williams

Denis started by asking Williams why he thinks the public advocate position, created in 1993, is needed.

"I actually believe it's a critically important position, and I think a lot of New Yorkers do as well," Williams said. "It is the ombudsman, the watchdog, over the city and government. And I think if we ever did need that, it's absolutely needed right now."

Williams said the office could be strengthened by giving it subpoena power and an independent budget.

As for his agenda?

"We want to make sure that there is a better way for communities to have a discussion with government, or at least feel they're a part of it," Williams said. "What it seems now that happens, in this administration in particular, and administrations in general, have a tendency to do things to communities. But we want to do things and we think government should do things with communities. So very often issues come up, from Rikers to rezonings, where people feel like things are imposed. The public advocate's office can be where the community's voice is actually heard and we are the go between between the city of New York and the city government."

Williams said housing is his "number one issue." Williams said "the federal government and state have failed us on a regular basis" when it comes to NYCHA.

"NYCHA residents are closest to the problem and so they are also closest to the solution. We have a tendency to just leave them out and from a bird's eye view impose things on them," Williams said.

Williams called the issue over diversity of admission at the city's specialized high schools "abysmal."

"It's been abysmal for a very long time. We keep focusing on the test as if a change to the test will change the diversity problem in the city. It won't. The [Department of Education] is a system that's made up of more than these eight schools, and what I try to remind people is that even the best schools now that have multiple criteria, their diversity is poor," Williams said. "My thing is maybe we can provide access points for everyone. Some people can show what they can do on the test. Some people can show what they can do on multiple criteria. What we can't do is pit communities against each other, which is what has happened now."

You can see more of the interview in the video above.

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