At a recent debate for the public advocate’s race, state Sen. Dan Squadron (D-Brooklyn) was told by one of his opponents that she “won’t be lectured on ethics by an Albany politician.”
But Squadron — the only state legislator in the race for public advocate, and the only male among the four main candidates — is quick to dispel the notion that he is part of a historically unpopular, corrosive Albany club, noting that he has been a champion of reform from the moment he ran for his state Senate seat in 2008.
In that year, Squadron defeated a 30-year Democratic incumbent and has proposed and passed ethics reform legislation, while in his five years in Albany, and he called himself “one of the most vocal critics” of the State Legislature. He has also had a number of other successes in the Senate, noting his legislation on homeless policy and helping enact full-line subway reviews at the MTA.
As for the job he’s seeking, Squadron said he has a “very special vision” for the public advocate’s office and says his experience in Albany getting results makes him the best-qualified candidate for the job.
He sees the office as a place “to play an essential role for those communities and issues who have no where else to turn and for whom results really make a difference in their ability to make a decent life in the city.”
Among those communities and issues: day laborers, small business owners, homeowners and residents of public housing projects.
“It’s partnering with groups and communities that don’t have City Hall on speed dial or high-powered lobbyists and taking on a bureaucracy that impacts every New Yorker,” he said.
Squadron would divide the office into four bureaus: The office of the accountability advocate, which would report on public information, disaster-preparedness and 311; advocate for the most vulnerable, which will oversee healthcare, and employment issues for the poorest and “most vulnerable” city residents; the children’s advocate, which will report on issues concerning city children including the foster care system, juvenile justice parks and education; and the housing advocate, which will report on public housing, renting and homeownership.
And he says he’ll do it without asking for an increase in the public advocate’s budget, which has been drastically cut due to spending constraints since the office was created in the early 1990s.
“Each of the ideas are within the scope of the public advocate’s office and I believe I can get results on them,” Squadron said. “It is possible to get results by using the bully pulpit and building public support, understanding where the stakeholders are on an issue and having a strong position and being willing to be for something in order to get change to happen.”
Among the changes he’d like to see is directing conservancies for specific parks to transfer money to other parks that are in need and end the $70 million price tag the New York City Housing Authority pays to the police department for policing. Squadron also said he wanted to strengthen parent groups at schools.
Squadron said he would be ready to take over as mayor if the office is vacated and noted that he has experience bringing people together and that would be key for an administration following a vacancy.
“It’s a transitional period,” he said. “You need to work with the current administration and leaders in all levels of government to communicate that the government is in good hands while the transition is in place.”
A native of the Bronx, Squadron now lives with his young family in Brooklyn and represents a district that includes the Brooklyn waterfront from Carroll Gardens to Greenpoint, spans the East River and includes Lower Manhattan.
Squadron said he is enjoying the campaign and learning about the entire city and it’s 8 million people.
“To be going around the city and peeling the onion deeper and deeper and trying to ever increase your understanding of the infinite city is an incredible thing,” he said.
Although the Queens Democratic Party has thrown its support behind Reshma Saujani in the race for public advocate, Squadron boasts a modest entourage of Queens political figures backing him; his allies in Albany such as state Sens. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), as well as two of the newest members of the borough’s Albany delegation; Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park)