By SAMANTHA CASTRO

A group of influential African-American New Yorkers on Thursday voiced strong opposition to Mike Bloomberg’s presidential candidacy, contending that his policies as mayor for three terms had been harmful to people of color.

“Many of us,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams standing outside Bloomberg’s East Side campaign headquarters, “who had to fight tooth and nail with him, want to make sure that folks who might get suckered by those very beautiful ads that are there understand that is not the real Michael Bloomberg.”

To ram home the point, Williams was joined at the press conference by Kevin Richardson, one of the so-called “Exonerated Five”, black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman jogger in Central Park in 1989. Richardson said he was directly affected by Bloomberg’s actions since he and his four co-defendants filed a lawsuit against the city that his administration countered for 11 years until the city and the plaintiffs reached a $40 million settlement after Bloomberg left office.

Richardson asserted that “no amount of money can equal what we endured.” adding, “It wasn’t about the lawsuit. It was about getting our life back.”

Williams highlighted two controversial policies during Bloomberg’s 12-year run as mayor, including “the abuses” of stop and frisk, and the cutting of the Advantage program resulting in an “exponential” increase of homelessness. He pointed out that these policies did anything but hurt the people that he’s claiming he will help as president.

“The Michael Bloomberg that we knew and have fought with…” said Williams. “… did not have a priority on black, brown, and working class people in the City of New York…We say ‘please no.’ Of all the people who are running, he is the least best person to run for President of the United States of America.”

Photo of Jumaane Williams by Samantha Castro