A Few Words About State Sen. Daniel Squadron

Sen. Squadron at Rivington House in the spring of 2016.

Sen. Squadron at Rivington House in the spring of 2016.

After his surprising announcement earlier this week, Daniel Squadron is spending his last day in office representing the 26th Senate District in Albany. There will be plenty of time in the weeks ahead to discuss the flawed process to replace him and to speculate about who will likely succeed Squadron at the state capitol. Today, though, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge his service to this community.

No matter what you thought of him, it was impossible to deny that Squadron worked incredibly hard for the neighborhoods he served in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. In almost a decade in office, he was the driving influence behind many Lower East Side initiatives.

A few examples:

The partial funding of Pier 42, which will one day become an expansive recreational area.

–Enactment of legislation to regulate intercity buses in Chinatown (yes, it remains a highly controversial topic to this day; in spite of many efforts by the senator to fully implement the law, the issue is far from resolved).

–A sustained campaign to improve MTA service and facilities, including small-scale improvements in the East Broadway subway station.

Squadron with Council member Margaret Chin during a cooking competition at a Chinatown senior center.

Squadron with Council member Margaret Chin during a cooking competition at a Chinatown senior center.

Squadron and other elected officials celebrated a deal on Chinatown bus legislation in 2012.

Squadron and other elected officials celebrated a deal on Chinatown bus legislation in 2012.

Squadron looked on in 2011 as U.S. Chuck Schumer, his political mentor, spoke at Pier 42.

Squadron looked on in 2011 as U.S. Chuck Schumer, his political mentor, spoke at Pier 42.

After announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Squadron spent most of the day on the phone, talking with constituents and supporters about his decision to walk away from the dysfunction and political corruption that plagues state politics. In an interview with The Lo-Down, he said, “It was an emotional decision because I have had the privilege of being part of all sorts of communities (throughout the 26th Senatorial District).”

Squadron noted that he first ran for office in 2008 promising, “active representation” in the district. The senator, who’s going on to help elect Democrats at the national level, said, “I truly believe that allowing your constituents to drive what you do in office and to really listen to their concerns is critical in making people believe in government again.”

Looking back on his time in office, Squadron said he’s especially proud of his work during Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene, both during those natural disasters but also afterward when the conversation shifted to protecting low-lying communities from future storms. As for Pier 42, he said, “We’re not there yet” (the project requires about $70 million in additional funding), “but we’re getting there, and it’s really important that advocacy for Pier 42 continues.”

In the short term, many of Squadron’s legislative projects will fall to Yuh-Line Niou, who was elected last year to replace Sheldon Silver in the state Assembly. In a statement released this week, Niou said she’s up to the challenge. At the same time, she said, Squadron will be missed: “I want to thank Sen. Daniel Squadron for his service as a progressive champion in Albany, as well as in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. I could not have asked for a better partner in the legislature.”

In spite of his resignation, Squadron’s office will remain open and his staff will continue dealing with constituent issues. Click here for contact information.

Followup: Here’s How Squadron’s Senate Seat Will Likely Be Filled

State Sen. Daniel Squadron on the Lower East Side this past spring.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron on the Lower East Side this past spring.

That did not take long. Just hours after State Sen. Daniel Squadron announced his resignation, there are already concerns about the process for selecting his successor. One of those raising concerns is Squadron himself.

The Democratic Party will choose a nominee, not in an open primary, but through its county committees in Manhattan and Brooklyn (Squadron’s 26th Senate District snakes through parts of both boroughs). There will then be a general election in November. According to the rules, Brooklyn could be excluded altogether. Today Squadron sent a letter to Keith Wright, chair of the New York County Democratic Committee, and Frank Seddio, chair of the Kings County Democratic Committee.

“Unfortunately, the process for filling a state legislative seat in this case is not what it should be: a nonpartisan special election…,” wrote Squadron. The senator has proposed legislation along these lines, but the bill has not become law. In the interest of fairness, he urged the chairs to, “make this process as democratic as possible” and “to allow a full vote of the County Committee across both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and to be bound by its result.”

Earlier in the day, NY1 reporter Zack Fink says he was told by Wright that he intended to speak with Seddio this evening about coordinating the vote. So Squadron may get his wish.

This afternoon, Crain’s reported the following:

The process to replace (Squadron) involves obscure mechanisms that could empower old allies of Sheldon Silver, whose corruption scandal cost him the Assembly speakership two years ago… Voters do not decide who runs on each political party’s ballot line in such an election. That determination is made by each party’s county committee, a panel of insiders typically elected unopposed and unseen—and in the case of Democrats usually affiliated with a local Democratic club. Their pick will essentially determine Squadron’s successor because the district is heavily Democratic… County committee members from Silver’s Harry Truman Democratic Club will have a say in filling Squadron’s post. However, because the Senate district is larger than the Assembly turf and incorporates parts of Brooklyn, they will not be the only voice.

We’ll be waiting for a formal announcement from the county chairs. One key issue: when the county committees will meet. If they gather before the Democratic Primary on Sept. 12, the makeup of the electors will obviously be different than it would be following the primary.

As we reported earlier, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh has already announced he’s running for Squadron’s seat. This afternoon, we asked Squadron whether he would be making an endorsement. The senator responded by saying that today he is only focused on speaking with constituents throughout his district and explaining his decision to step down.

We’ll have more from our interview with Sen. Squadron tomorrow on The Lo-Down.

UPDATE 8/10: We spoke last night with Paul Newell, a local district leader who ran unsuccessfully for the Lower East Side assembly seat last year. Newell says he’s considering running for state senator, but he will wait to make a formal decision until after party leaders have decided how the selection process will be handled. Newell said he’s confident of support from two political clubs — Downtown Independent Democrats and Lower East Side Democrats. That support will be critical at the county committee.

Squadron Letter: County Committee Process by The Lo-Down on Scribd

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh Announces Candidacy For Squadron’s Senate Seat

State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.

State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.

Early this morning, State Sen. Daniel Squadron went public with his resignation. Now local Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh has announced he’s running for Squadron’s seat in the 26th Senate District.

Kavanagh currently represents the 74th Assembly District, which includes small sections of the Lower East Side, and extends up to East Midtown. In a press release, he said, “I am running for State Senate to fight for our communities in Manhattan and Brooklyn and create the progressive, reform-minded Senate that New Yorkers deserve.”

Kavanagh has been in the Assembly for 11 years. “As a State Senator,” he explained, “I will fight for the things that matter to New Yorkers: strengthening rent laws and preserving affordable housing, increasing access to quality schools, safeguarding the environment, promoting economic and social justice, preventing violence in our communities, and creating a fairer and more accessible political process.”

Squadron says he’s quitting to focus his energies on electing progressive candidates at the national level. In his announcement, he was critical of Albany as a cesspool of corruption.

A special election will most likely take place in November when regular city elections are scheduled. The Democratic county committees in Brooklyn and Manhattan will choose a nominee to run in the general election. Same goes for the Republican Party in the heavily Democratic district. This afternoon, Zack Fink of NY1 reported that Keith Wright, head of the New York County Committee, would like Brooklyn democrats to be part of selecting a nominee.

The 26th Senate District includes Lower Manhattan and sections of Brooklyn along the waterfront.

Besides Kavanagh, other names being mentioned for the job: local District leader Paul Newell, former District leader Jenifer Rajkumar (who works for the New York Department of State) and Lincoln Restler, a Brooklyn activist.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron Announces His Resignation

State Sen. Daniel Squadron.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents the Lower East Side, announced this morning that he’s stepping down. Here’s the email blast that went out to constituents a short time ago:

For years, we’ve fought together for a better Albany and a stronger district. From the beginning, your support, advice, energy — and, yes, criticism — have been an enormous inspiration. That’s why I wanted to let you know directly why I have decided to resign from the Senate this Friday.

Like many across the country, since November, I’ve thought a lot about how best to change the direction of our country, and stand up for core values that are under threat. After much reflection, I have decided to lend my hand to make a difference in states across the country, pushing policies and candidates that will create a fairer and more democratic future. It’s not possible to take on this challenge and continue to be a full-time legislator, which is what I always promised I would be.

When I was first elected in 2008 in a season of hope and change, I hoped to bring enthusiasm for government to the district, and a government to be more proud of to Albany. Though progress has sometimes been slow — and there is much more to do in this much less hopeful time — the many constituents, colleagues, and staff with whom I’ve partnered have kept that enthusiasm, and pride in public service, alive.

Together, we’ve secured millions for public housing, storm resiliency, and waterfront parks. We’ve won a Lunar New Year school holiday, and a more equitable parks system. We’ve fought to hold Albany accountable, cut through red tape, advocated for subways, and tried (and tried, and tried) to fix a corrupt campaign finance system. I’ve been grateful for every chance to support a local school, make an intersection safer, or stand up to a bad landlord. It has truly been an honor to serve the people of the 26th District.

The timing of my decision means the 26th District Senate seat will be filled in this November’s election — and I remain committed to continuing to fight for an empowered Democratic majority.

Thank you again to the many people with whom I’ve worked. Your faith in a better Albany and a stronger district continues to inspire me. And thank you especially to the constituents who hired me over these last nine years. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to serve.

In today’s Daily News, Squadron goes into more detail about his future. “In the coming months, along with entrepreneur Adam Pritzker and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University,” he wrote, “I will launch a national effort focused on addressing (the) crisis (facing the national Democratic Party) — joining others already doing important work toward 2018 and beyond.”

In the opinion piece, Squadron also made reference to the demise of Sheldon Silver, his former counterpart in the State Assembly. Upon winning the seat in 2008, he noted:

I believed in state government’s potential. I still do. But over the years I have seen it thwarted by a sliver of heavily invested special interests. In the state Senate, for example, Democrats have repeatedly been denied control of the chamber by cynical political deals, despite winning an electoral majority — including in 2016. And the status quo has proven extraordinarily durable: It barely shuddered when the leaders of both legislative chambers were convicted of corruption.

Squadron represents the 26th District Senate seat, which includes all of Lower Manhattan and sections of Brooklyn. There’s not much time before November, so there’s sure to be a mad scramble by candidates interested in succeeding Squadron in Albany. More to come about that as details become available.

UPDATE 10:31 a.m. If Squadron’s seat will be filled in November, Governor Cuomo must call a special election. Members of the Democratic County Committee would select a nominee at a meeting sometime in the fall.

Senator Squadron Holds Community Convention on Sunday

State Sen. Daniel Squadron at a bike lane unveiling in Chinatown, December 2016.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron at a bike lane unveiling in Chinatown, December 2016.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron will be hosting his annual Community Convention on Sunday afternoon.

In reference to the many challenges posed by Trumpism, this year’s theme is, “Make the National Fight Local.” The event will take place from 2-5 p.m. at Stuyvesant High School, 345 Chambers St.

The keynote speech will be delivered by Akeem Browder, who became a criminal justice reform advocate after the tragic suicide of his brother, Kalief Browder, at Rikers Island. Constituents will be able to attend sessions on a wide variety of topics, including affordable housing, transportation, education, defending civil rights, senior services and the environment. Squadron uses feedback from his conventions to decide what issues to emphasize in the coming year.

You can RSVP for the convention here. Squadron represents the 26th Senate District, which includes the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

State Budget Restores Senior Center, NORC Funding

Squadron and Niou visited the Good Companions Senior Center, Madison Street.

Squadron and Niou visited the Good Companions Senior Center, Madison Street.

It’s been a week to assess the impact following the passage in Albany of a $151 billion state budget. One bright spot: funding for senior centers and NORC’s (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) was restored.

Back in February, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou toured local senior centers to advocate for funding. The governor was proposing a shift of $17 million from the Department of Aging to childcare services. That would have threatened 65 NYC senior facilities. NORC Programs could have faced a $700,000 shortfall.

In the end, the money was restored to both programs by the Legislature.

“Senior centers and NORCs are more than social services — they create the kinds of communities that make aging in place possible,” said Squadron. “It’s great news that Albany has heard the call of hundreds of community members to save our senior services.”

Niou added,  “…I spearheaded efforts in the Assembly to restore funding to our neighborhood NORCs, NNORCs and settlement houses, which provide all-encompassing social services to our most vulnerable, and I am glad that our budget did not leave our seniors behind. I thank all the seniors who organized against these cuts, Senator Squadron, and my colleagues and advocates for supporting this important campaign.”

 

Squadron, Niou Push to Restore Senior Center, NORC Funding

Good Companions Senior Center, Madison Street.

Good Companions Senior Center, Madison Street.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron and State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou visited a Lower East Side senior center yesterday as part of a campaign to restore funding for NYC senior programs.

They made a stop at the Good Companions Senior Center, located at 334 Madison St. It’s a facility within the Vladeck Houses run by Henry Street Settlement. Also yesterday, Squadron stopped by a center on Bayard Street run by the Chinese American Planning Council.

In Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal, he calls for shifting federal funds from the city’s Department of Aging to child care services. In the past, the city had flexibility in how it allocated those funds. City officials have estimated that the shift could result in a $17 million shortfall in the Department of Aging and force the closure of 65 senior facilities.

On the Lower East Side, 13 centers could be impacted. They include facilities such as the BRC Neighborhood Senior Center at 30 Delancey St., the Grand Street Settlement Senior Center at 80 Pitt St. and the Weinberg Center for Balanced Living at the Educational Alliance.

In a statement, Squadron said, “New York’s senior centers do more than provide food and resources — they create community. Forcing centers to close or cut services would essentially leave seniors out in the cold, plain and simple… I urge Senate Leadership and my Assembly colleagues to ensure funding is protected.”

Squadron, who’s in the middle of a district-wide tour of senior centers, has started an online petition in support of his campaign.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Niou is taking up the fight to restore state funding to Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). The governor is proposing a cut of $700,000 in the the program, which offers services to people who wish to stay in their communities as they grow older. Several NORCs are located on the Lower East Side. She’s also calling on the state to add $5 million to the budget for the expansion of the program across the state.

Finally, Niou is asking legislative leaders to fund settlement houses, which are currently not included in the budget. She wants $4 million to support community-based social services offered by the not-for-profit organizations. There are six major settlement houses on the Lower East Side.

Squadron Quizzes Mayor About City’s Unwillingness to Sue Former Rivington House Owner

deblasio-squadron

During a budget hearing in Albany yesterday, State Sen. Daniel Squadron questioned Mayor de Blasio about the Rivington House fiasco. Specifically, the senator wanted to know why no one on the mayor’s team had responded to a letter he sent in December calling on the city to sue Rivington House’s former owner.

The mayor has personally blamed the real estate developers at the center of the scandal — accusing them of hoodwinking the city administration into dropping deed restrictions on the former nursing home. Based on the mayor’s public statements, Squadron said the former owner, the Allure Group, should be sued under the False Claims Act.

Mayor de Blasio was asked about the senator’s letter during a news conference in late December. He shrugged off the request from the local lawmaker, saying, “It’s easy to put out a press release.” The jab did not sit well with Sen. Squadron.

“Unfortunately, since I’ve sent the letter on the False Claims Act,” said Squadron, “the only comment and response from the administration, and this is unfortunately sometimes a pattern, was at a press conference where you dismissed the entire thing out of hand as a simple press release.” He went on to ask why the city isn’t pursuing legal action.

Referring to his dismissive remarks on Dec. 29, de Blasio told the senator, “I may have been speaking out of frustration. I didn’t mean to make it too personal. I apologize for that.”

As for the mayor’s many public statements assigning blame to the developers, he said they were, “based on a very heartfelt anger at what the developer did and a sense that the people were cheated.”

“I would love nothing more than to find a way to recoup what has been done to the community,” added the mayor. “But respectfully, long before your letter, I had asked this question probably two dozen times of my corporation counsel (and they could not find a legal avenue to pursue). “We’re not going to bring an action that we believe is susceptible to immediate defeat. So if you know something we don’t know (and)… you’ve found a path we haven’t, I will thank you publicly and we will implement it.”

In response, Squadron said, “Frankly it leads to questions when (officials) at the highest levels of the administration (are) accusing (the developers) of misleading (the city). “To just be told, ‘we agree but we can’t,’ is not sufficient for a community that is still smarting from the loss of a healthcare facility.”

The mayor agreed to set up a meeting between the city’s top lawyers and Squadron. He also pointed to new city laws, sponsored by local City Council member Margaret Chin, meant to prevent future Rivington House-like fiascos. And he said, “We committed to a nursing facility as part of our Health & Hospitals system that will help low-income seniors in your community as one way to give back some of what was lost. That is a good faith effort.”

Squadron said of the new project, located at 30 Pike St., “We appreciate the moderate investment to replace what happened at Rivington House from the city, but it is moderate. It does not replace Rivington House.”

You can see the full exchange from yesterday’s hearing below. The section having to do with Rivington House starts after about one minute.

New Security Cameras Installed at Grand Street Settlement

squadron/grand street settlement

On Friday, State Sen. Daniel Squadron went to Grand Street Settlement to help the 100-year-old social service agency celebrate the installation of a new security system.

He allocated $40,000 in state funding for 25 cameras, an upgraded monitoring system and new lighting. The installation was handled by the New York City Housing Authority, which oversees the settlement house’s building at 80 Pitt St.

Grand Street Settlement just kicked off a capital campaign, which will support a full renovation of its Lower East Side headquarters.

Sen. Squadron Asks For Full Review of 14a and 14d Bus Lines

14a bus on Grand Street. File photo.

14a bus on Grand Street. File photo.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron is taking another run at improving service on the 14a and 14d bus routes.

In response to persistent complaints from constituents, he has written a letter to the MTA asking for a “full line review” of the routes and ridership information.  In the past, Squadron has requested full reviews of subway lines as a way of focusing the transit authority on critical service issues.

In the letter to Veronique Hakim, president of New York City Transit, he explained, “M14A and M14D bus service is critical to the Lower East Side community. These lines provide much needed public transportation to a transit-starved area. My office receives complaints about long wait times for buses, bus bunching, and unexpected scheduling of the two lines.”

In 2014, the MTA rejected pleas from residents for more frequent 14A service. A transit official said that regular ridership surveys are conducted and schedules adjusted as needed.

After Many Delays, Security Door Finally Installed at “Baruch Addition” Building

72 Columbia St.

72 Columbia St.

The seniors at the Baruch Addition public housing complex bundled up this afternoon and joined State Sen. Daniel Squadron to celebrate a victory years in the making. A long-delayed security door has finally been installed at the NYCHA development.

Back in May of 2015, Squadron came to the building at 72 Columbia St. to announce he’d allocated $240,000 for the project. It included a new automatic front door, intercom system and keyless fob entry. The installation was supposed to be complete this past September. But this is NYCHA, meaning almost nothing happens when it’s promised. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony today, the residents went inside for a training session on using the new security system.

Squadron said security issues are the number one concern he hears across the community, so he was happy to fund the project. But he added, “The job isn’t done.” While NYCHA is getting better at handling maintenance issues, the senator said, public housing residents still must wait too long for critical repairs and upgrades. Squadron called on the state to devote more money for public housing in the budget.

security door

After Lower East Side Death, A New Push For Elevator Safety Legislation

elevator safety1

State elected officials are hoping some good can come from the death of 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown, who was crushed New Year’s Eve in an elevator accident on the Lower East Side.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Keith Wright renewed a push earlier today for passage of elevator safety legislation. The bill, which would mandate proper training for elevator repairman and require licensing, has been passed by the Assembly four times. Even though it has 40 sponsors, the Senate Majority Leader has blocked a vote.

Last Thursday night’s accident happened at 131 Broome St., part of the Grand Street Guild apartment complex. Brown had just pushed a resident of the building to safety on the third floor when the cab slammed down and trapped the aspiring musician from the Bronx. Residents of the complex have been complaining for years about safety problems with the elevators.

elevator safety2

Squadron, who represents, the Lower East Side, and Wright were joined by members of the tenant association, community leaders, representatives of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1 and other labor groups.

In the wake of the recent tragedy, said Squadron, there’s an urgent need for action on the legislation. “The death of Stephen Hewett-Brown is a reminder of the need for common-sense standards for elevator work,” he added. Wright (a Harlem Democrat) sponsored the Elevator safety Act with Republican Sen. John Bonacic. Squadron is a co-sponsor. “It is shocking and unthinkable that New York State doesn’t do everything possible to protect the safety of its residents,” said Wright. “To think that the tragic death of Mr. Hewitt-Brown could have been avoided with proper elevator upkeep by licensed professionals is more than enough reason to take action today and pass (the legislation).”

In November, the Post reported that the de Blasio administration opposes the state bill:

Administration officials said a state law is unnecessary because the city’s Buildings Department already has strong elevator- licensing regulations and oversight, and data show elevator use has become safer. There were 50 mostly minor elevator accidents last year, down from 105 accidents in 2007 — a 52 percent reduction, city officials said. Under city rules, building owners are required to hire a Buildings Department-licensed “elevator agency director” with 10 years of experience handling elevators. Elevator inspectors working under the director are also licensed. “Creating another layer of regulation through a state license issued by an agency [the state Labor Department] with no experience regulating the elevator industry is duplicative, serves only to confuse, and does not constitute sound public policy,” said the mayor’s Albany legislative director, Sherif Soliman.

Earlier this week, Grand Street Guild Management told The Lo-Down that a 2012 modernization of the elevators was “overseen by an independent elevator consultant and licensed architectural firm.” Jay Yablonsky of Wavecrest Management added that the work was “signed off by both HUD (which funded building renovations) and the New York City Department of Buildings.” Alexander Schnell, Buildings Department spokesperson, told us, “Accidents like this are extremely rare. The city’s elevators make billions of passenger trips every year without incident.”

An investigation into what caused the accident is ongoing.

 

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