Public service is hard work, especially in areas like the 18th Senate District which takes in Bushwick and Cypress Hills, and parts of East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. I have been a steadfast supporter of progressive issues in the Senate, a stalwart opponent of the so-called Independent Democratic Caucus and brought my communities’ concerns to the Capitol. It is work I have loved, and which I hope to continue when Democrats retake the State Senate this year.
I’m not surprised that candidates with no record of involvement in community affairs are parachuting into districts where they have never lived, and where they are claiming a progressive mantle to protect against gentrifiers when they themselves are part of that gentrifying wave. I am surprised, however, that my opponent was until last year a Republican registered to vote from a gated waterfront community 1,200 miles away in Jupiter, Florida, just up the Gold Coast from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
What I ask her, what I ask all would-be candidates, is before you tell me what you want to do, tell me what you have done.
I am proud of my long record fighting to maintain and expand rent protections, holding the MTA’s feet to the fire as it prepares to close the L train tunnel, mandating lead testing of drinking water in public schools, fighting for the Women’s Equality Agenda, criminal justice reform including ending stop-and-frisk and Raise the Age to keep juvenile offenders out of adult jails, and expanding protections under the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program.
I have worked with my colleagues in Albany to fully fund the MTA Capital Plans and the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, establish the $15 minimum wage, implement marriage equality, paid family leave and universal pre-K, opposing fossil fuel plant bail-outs and banning hydrofracking, and using my role as ranking member of the Transportation Committee to push for road redesign for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.
And when Democrats retake the State Senate this year, as we are poised to do, I am in line to chair the Transportation Committee which will put me in a position to champion further improvements and reforms in the MTA that are critical to our neighborhood, our city and our region. With progressive values – and communities in need – under attack across this state and country, it is not time for on-the-job training.
You can go block by block to see some of the fruits of the advocacy I have brought to that service – the Bushwick Inlet Park, the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, Knickerbocker Commons affordable housing going up on what was a vacant lot, the first new school – PS 65 – to be constructed in Cypress Hills in decades, increased maintenance funding for Bushwick Houses and other NYCHA developments, health centers for uninsured and undocumented residents and protecting our schools.
Part of me is encouraged that my opponent has chosen to get involved in politics, since it is critical to engage younger and newer voters in the political process to fight against the forces that have always tried to marginalize and exploit poorer and minority communities like ours. I have faced challenges in almost every primary over the last decade, and the voters have entrusted me to go back to Albany to represent their interests and their values.
I have devoted more than three decades to public service, starting with the Community school board and continuing in the City Council and the State Senate, walking and working the streets where I have always lived and raised my family.
I am proud of the work we have done, and look forward to continuing it.
Martin Malavé Dilan has represented the 18th District in the New York State Senate since 2002, and is running for re-nomination in the Democratic Primary on September 13th.