Bid to be first South Asian city councilman 1

Dilip Nath hopes to become the first South Asian city councilmember by winning the special election seat for District 24.

Dilip Nath wears many hats — New American Voter Association Political Action Committee president, Community Board 8 member, SUNY Downstate interim vice president and chief information officer and more — and is looking to add another: to become the first South Asian to serve on the City Council.

The Democrat, who immigrated to Queens from Bangladesh at age 16, is running in the Feb. 2 special election for the 24th District seat. The position became vacant after former Councilmember Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) formally resigned to begin a new post as special counsel for ratepayer protection with the Governor’s Office. The winning candidate will serve in the role until Dec. 31, 2021.

The election bid is the second for Nath, who lost to then-incumbent James Gennaro in 2005. The two will face off once again — Gennaro, who was succeeded by Lancman in 2014, has filed with the city Campaign Finance Board to run for his old seat.

Here is where Nath stands on three key issues.

Education

“At the end of the day, it’s about educating our children ... that’s my No. 1 priority,” said Nath, a Community Education Council District 26 member and former PTA president. He was one of the many CEC 26 parents to pass a “vote of no confidence” in the Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza” resolution on Nov. 20 [see separate story in some editions or online at qchron.com].

“This chancellor has failed 1.1 million children. He has not provided consistent leadership. His message has been inconsistent from day one in the pandemic,” Nath said. “Why are we going back and forth and creating extra anxiety for our children and our parents?”

The solution, Nath said, should begin by equipping school children with the technology they need to succeed. Remote learning is not a sustainable alternative as cases rise for those who don’t have access to iPads, computers or even internet access, he said — “They’re not luxuries, they are a necessity.”

The candidate suggested working in better coordination with teachers and parents most affected by the constant changes in approach. Transparency, he said, is vital for families who often feel left in the dark by the choices the Department of Education makes.

Additionally, Nath wants to work toward building more specialized high schools throughout the boroughs, especially in Queens. Parents in Nath’s education district rallied against the testing and information session delays Nov. 12, and he agreed with their suspicions that the city is using the pandemic as an excuse to scrap the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test.

“If anything we should expand and create more competition ... 40 percent of the [specialized school students] come from Queens, so why not build additional seats in Queens?” he said, arguing that some students spend as much as five hours commuting to specialized schools in the Bronx or Manhattan.

Building additional specialized schools in the borough would create additional opportunities for all city students, thus solving the lack of diversity issue Carranza and Mayor de Blasio had raised as a reason for eliminating the test, Nath said.

Transportation

Buses and subways in Queens are limited, prompting users to rely more heavily on cars, which causes traffic at all hours of the day and leads to pollution. Nath’s solution? Make all public transportation free.

“It only makes sense. It will incentivize the people to take public transportation and it not only helps traffic but the environment,” he said.

Nath supports plans like the Main Street busway proposal, which, though delayed by six months, would prohibit cars from using a 0.3-mile stretch of the road. Portions of Queens have been referred to as “transit deserts” and are in need of additional routes, which would also incentivize higher ridership, Nath said. He is not in favor of the MTA Queens Bus Redesign Plan, but is eager to work with the agency to produce one that would better accommodate the community.

Expanding protected bike lanes is also important to Nath. While the Department of Transportation has been painting new lanes throughout the city, Nath said they’re not what cyclists need.

“There are too many accidents — they’re not well thought out. They need to be shifted and we need to be connecting them to colleges, shopping centers and train stations so it makes more sense,” he said.

Healthcare

Nath has spent his entire career working in the health system, most recently for SUNY Downstate, and said the issue is “paramount” in his candidacy.

Bringing care to patients is the quickest way to transform the system, he said.

“With Covid, we have seen people who haven’t seen their doctor — they had absolutely no care because the doctor was busy. Young children could not go to the hospital to get treated,” he said, referring to the time when Covid testing was more limited and how, even now, it can take hours of waiting on a line to get a test.

The process would not be sufficient, he said, even if there wasn’t a pandemic.

“We are not doing enough and using tools and technology to deliver the healthcare,” he said, suggesting increasing the number of telehealth clinics so New Yorkers don’t have to worry about missing work or finding childcare in order to be seen by a doctor. Additionally, being treated immediately would reduce chances of growing increasingly ill, such as untreated Covid patients developing pneumonia in addition to the novel virus.

Nath’s healthcare priority includes care for senior citizens, whom he said have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.

“Many of the seniors have died alone and the family could not be with them,” he said.

In addition to providing seniors with technology to connect with families outside of hospitals and nursing homes, Nath hopes to provide access to estate planning services for everyone after retirement and create intergenerational programs to promote learning and community.

“We are in dire need of leadership ...We need a leader who is going to move things forward,” Nath said.

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