BY HEATHER DUBIN| State Senator Daniel Squadron hopes to empower the underserved residents of New York if elected in his current bid for public advocate in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
In 2008, Squadron, at age 28, was elected, unseating Martin Connor, who had represented the 26th State Senate District for 30 years. The district includes the Lower East Side, Soho, Chinatown and all of Lower Manhattan, plus parts of Brooklyn, including Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
Now Squadron wants to apply what he’s learned in office as a state senator to the public advocate’s job, which is a citywide office.
In a recent telephone interview, Squadron spoke briefly about the changes he would bring to the position, if elected.
“This is a job that has the potential to take on issues and communities that are not well enough served outside of this office,” he said.
Squadron feels some people don’t have a strong enough voice in the political system, and he plans to give them one. When people have nowhere else to turn, Squadron wants the public advocate’s office to be an actual resource for them.
If elected, Squadron would transform the public advocate’s office into four separate bureaus to address a total of 20 issues for people in need. The “accountability advocate” would focus on making city government more transparent. The “housing advocate” would be a voice for tenants. The “advocate for the most vulnerable” would defend human rights. And the “children’s advocate” would monitor city services to at-risk youth. Each bureau would have its own staff and an external advisory board.
Together, these bureaus would create an institutional role for the public advocate’s office, and make a difference in people’s lives, Squadron believes.
Squadron’s sprawling district stretches from the Carroll Gardens subway station to the W. Fourth St. subway station on the F train line. In fact, one of his issues has been to focus on improving subway service on the F and L lines, since there is so much traffic back and forth between the Brooklyn and Lower East Side parts of his district, especially on weekends.
He has also worked to end the city’s policy of charging rent to families in homeless shelters, and worked with community stakeholders to help transform Pier 42 into a future waterfront park space. Working with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, he’s secured significant funding to fix up the dilapidated former Lower East Side banana pier.
Squadron credits collaboration with partnerships, local Democratic district leaders and other groups to helping him reach his goals. He has worked extensively on issues involving New York City Housing Authority developments, and in the state Senate sponsored the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a bill to close loopholes in the state’s assault weapons ban. Squadron was also proud of his role during and after Hurricane Sandy last fall, and claimed it was an important one because of the gaps in the city’s emergency-response plans.
If elected, Squadron said he would continue working collaboratively to make the public advocate’s office a go-to place for New Yorkers in need.
Defining the way he said the advocate’s job, he said, “The core goal is to start gathering information, use the bully pulpit and figure out creative solutions that you’re willing to stand for to push a change and get results.”
Originally from the Bronx, Squadron currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and young son.