When there were four serious contenders in the race for public advocate, the Queens Democratic Party was split. The establishment endorsed longshot Reshma Saujani, a candidate with a compelling biography and some good ideas but very little experience in government. Yet a small but influential group of state lawmakers, among them some of the borough’s most productive and ethical, bucked the establishment by publicly endorsing one of their colleagues, state Sen. Dan Squadron of Brooklyn.
That group of lawmakers — which includes Senate Democratic Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris, Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., Sen. Jose Peralta, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic — knew that Squadron is a reformer with common-sense ideas for how government can best serve the people it represents. He’s got a concrete plan for how to arrange the Public Advocate’s Office so it can effectively serve the city’s most vulnerable populations. And his record in Albany, where he successfully took on entities such as the MTA, shows that he’s serious about it.
Now, since none of the candidates won 40 percent of the vote in last week’s primary, Squadron is facing City Councilwoman Letitia James, also from Brooklyn, in a runoff election on Oct. 1. The two were the top vote-getters in the primary, each winning more than 30 percent of the ballots cast. And whichever of them wins the runoff wins the seat, because there is no Republican running for it.
We endorse Dan Squadron.
The senator, who represents a part of Brooklyn that includes Greenpoint, just across Newtown Creek from Queens — making him a neighbor — and Lower Manhattan, defines the amorphous job of the public advocate in a sensible way. He says the advocate should “adopt those causes and concerns that are not served by existing political structures [to] become a vehicle that delivers meaningful results for the families, communities and even businesses that get left out by powerful interests and bureaucracy.”
To achieve that, Squadron wants to divide the Public Advocate’s Office into four distinct sections.
The Advocate for the Most Vulnerable would work on projects such as establishing more worker centers for day laborers, making sure human rights are not violated in city jails and helping to implement the new healthcare law.
The Children’s Advocate would protect the interests of youngsters by making sure they’re not unfairly punished in school, examining the impact Family Court cases have on them and working to reform the city’s Community Education Councils so they can be more effective and independent from the Department of Education.
It’s also under the Children’s Advocate that Squadron would look to implement one of his most promising ideas, getting relatively wealthy park conservancies like the one for Central Park to share 20 percent of their funding with poorer conservancies, like the one for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, reducing another bit of inequality in the city.
The Accountability Advocate would grade city agencies on how well they provide data to the public, monitor government performance, press for more disaster preparedness and examine 311 complaints to identify patterns and address the underlying issues driving them.
Lastly, the Housing Advocate would work to save money in the Housing Authority’s budget, find places where more housing can be built and maintain but improve upon Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s “Worst Landlords List,” which has proven effective in getting neglected buildings repaired.
Squadron’s plans for the office he seeks sound good, and we hope you’ll join us in supporting him on Oct. 1.