Greenpoint Gazette
L-R State Senator Martin Dilan and Debbie Medina

Senate Primary Pits Six-Term Incumbent with Housing Activist

BY Tanay Warerkar

The race for the 18th State Senatorial District, which includes parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Cypress Hills, City-Line, East New York, Bed-Stuy, and Brownsville, pits six-term incumbent Martin Dilan, a Bushwick native and former City Councilman, against political newcomer, Debbie Medina, a long-term activist for the tenants rights group, Los Sures.

We asked each candidate five questions for their upcoming primary race on September 9. The questions and their responses are printed below.

State Senator Martin Dilan

1) What are the three most important issues facing this community and how do you plan to address them?

1. Affordable Housing/Infrastructure: Invest budget surpluses in infrastructure improvements, jobs. Re-define affordable. Expand higher-wage opportunities in Brooklyn; put money back in pockets of Brooklynites. Explore new partners in affordable housing.

2. Jobs: Raising minimum wage. New incentives for North Brooklyn development. A broader economic vision and goal.

3. Education: Ensuring UPK success. Protecting the teacher’s role in education. Improving parent engagement. Invest budget surplus in school aid, programs.

2) What would you say are three of your biggest achievements in office so far?

1. Safer Streets: As former chair, and current ranker on the Senate Transportation Committee I’ve worked closely with many state and local organizations and stakeholders to make our streets safer for pedestrians, passengers and drivers alike. From the passage of Leandra’s Law in 2009 to the recent push to include more arterial slow zones throughout the district, our view of what makes our streets safer, and the tools to make them safer, has improved immensely. I’m proud to be a part of that. And as I make my way around the district, I’m happy to see once problematic areas being addressed accordingly and it’s comforting to know that if these and additional areas pose greater risks to pedestrians or cyclists we have the tools at our disposal to remedy them.

2. Remediation of Newtown Creek: As a co-plaintiff in the 2007 lawsuit against ExxonMobil it gives me great pleasure to watch real progress being made towards a cleanup on Newtown Creek. Furthermore, from the day we filed, to the subsequent settlement, Superfund status and establishment of the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, it has been truly inspiring to work alongside some of the most dedicated citizens, advocates and community groups I’ve ever known. The work they have done has been outstanding and I am certain the Greenpoint community’s effort to reclaim the creek is in the best possible hands.

3. My record on housing and tenant protections: From day one, my tenure in the State Senate has been marked by advocating for expanding housing opportunities and tenant protections in the district. I have supported or sponsored nearly 50 bills, many now law, that sought to bring fairness and equity to Brooklyn’s and New York State’s affordable housing stock and stronger protections for its residents. From 2003, when an emergency extension of rent regulations spared 1.1 million apartments facing deregulation, to 2014 and the introduction of legislation making it a felony to sabotage a rent regulated unit to drive tenants out, I have been among the Senate’s most active and outspoken when it comes to protecting tenants. I will continue to advocate for adequate and affordable housing and see that every effort is made to preserve and protect Brooklyn’s housing stock.

3) What is your take on the housing boom in North Brooklyn and how do you reconcile a growing number of residents with a lack of infrastructure improvements?

North Brooklyn is a great place to live, work and raise a family; it’s no surprise so many are moving into the area. However, we have to make efforts to preserve what it is that makes our borough attractive. To live and work in a borough is a growing rarity in New York City and in North Brooklyn we are dangerously close to losing that quality. As more move east to seek affordable housing, life-long Brooklynites are being pushed and priced out of their homes. But a reasonable rent is only a small portion of this unfortunate trend.

To keep North Brooklyn sustainable, to make rents and home purchases reasonable and possible, we also need to seek better pay, new jobs and reliable infrastructure. The affordable housing crisis never seems to make it past a “make it more affordable mentality.” The discussion should also be what is “affordable” and how can we make more people afford it. That’s why I have advocated strongly for an increase in the minimum wage and as talks of what the state can do with record windfall profits or gains from the state’s new casinos, I’ve called for greater investments in our community and infrastructure.

We need more affordable homes and we need to preserve what we have, that’s a given. We should also be looking to add new incentives for start-ups in North Brooklyn and provide new economic opportunities for industry. We should be focusing on bringing jobs back to Brooklyn, for the people of Brooklyn. Supplemented by additional investments in our infrastructure we can provide even more jobs and improve service from people’s apartments and homes in Brooklyn, to their jobs in Brooklyn.

4) What recommendations would you advocate for to improve local schools?

Improving schools is a matter of investment, but not in terms of money alone. We must work to provide additional resources for our schools, expand after school programs and work to ensure that Universal Pre Kindergarten is a success. However, we also have to improve the educational experience for both students and parents. We must improve upon and build new opportunities for parents to get involved and stay involved in their children’s education.

We also have to support and stand by our teachers. It’s a tough job and our focus as legislators shouldn’t be to make it tougher. Just as a child needs the support of their family to succeed, we need our teachers if we are to improve our schools through new standards and policies. The parents know best on how effective education standards are, and teachers know how best to make those standards work. Their respective roles in delivering the best education experience for our communities shouldn’t be overlooked.

5) If re-elected, what realistic goals do you hope to achieve next term?

Improvements and investments in infrastructure. Raising the minimum wage. A broader economic plan for North Brooklyn. Exploring new housing opportunities and developing stronger partnerships to deliver on them.

Debbie Medina

1) What are the three most important issues facing this community and how do you plan to address them?

I believe the number one issue in this community is affordable housing. Families are being squeezed out and rents are climbing in favor of putting in more luxury condos. As a housing advocate, I have worked to keep families in their homes and I know what it takes to keep communities from crumbling due to rapidly changing demographics. I plan on working to change harmful policies that allow landlords and developers to raise the price of rent far beyond affordable rates for those who have been in this community for years.

Asthma due to vehicle emissions is a huge problem in North Brooklyn. A recent SUNY study found that our community has some of the highest numbers of adult asthma cases in the city. We can do better in the 21st century by redirecting truck traffic, increasing access to public transportation, and increasing bikeable streets in the area.

North Brooklyn has been fighting drug and gang violence for a long time. Communities have improved since the 80s but we still need to increase police presence, while at the same time, holding the NYPD accountable to safe policing. I propose an increase in police officers walking the beat and a stronger structure for holding police officers accountable to those they are sworn to protect and serve.

2) What made you decide to run for office?

I have been working in this community and fighting for families here for 28 years and I have seen how important it is to have people representing us who have the best interest for working families and seniors at heart. For too long, many of our representatives have been working hard for the wealthy developers on Wall Street and not for the hard working people in the communities they are supposed to represent. I never set out to be a politician, but I saw a need in my community for someone who will stand up to big developers and represent working families who need the help. I am running because I know I can be the fighter who truly and fairly represents North Brooklyn.

3) What is your take on the housing boom in North Brooklyn and how do you reconcile a growing number of residents with a lack of infrastructure improvements?

North Brooklyn’s housing boom has dramatically increased the cost of rent and has pushed many long term residents out of the neighborhoods they have called home for so long. I understand why so many people want to make North Brooklyn their home, as I have all my life. However, we need to ensure that we are protecting existing units of affordable housing for middle- and low-income families and expanding rent protections.

With an influx of thousands of new residents we need to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure for students, including new classroom space, improvements to mass transit and increases to funding for public safety so we have adequate levels of police and fire fighters.

4) What recommendations would you advocate for to improve local schools?

Our schools are underfunded and lacking in extra-curricular programming. It is a top priority of mine to ensure that our schools are properly funded, and I plan to fund this by ending tax breaks on the wealthiest 1% of New Yorkers and allocating those resources to public services like schools, libraries, and after-school programming.

5) If elected, what realistic goals do you hope to achieve next term?

I will fight to ensure that we pass the full Women’s Equality Act and strengthen and expand rent regulations that are up for renewal this year.


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