Another twenty-something is vying for the most coveted job in town: Bushwick’s vacant state assembly seat.
Former Assemblyman Darryl Towns resigned three months ago to take a commissioner’s position in the Cuomo administration, and last week Governor Cuomo called for the special election to take place on Sept. 13.
So far, there are three declared candidates to replace Towns, including Council Member Erik Dilan’s chief of staff, Rafael Espinal, and Towns’ own sister, Deidra Towns, in the district that includes a southern section of Bushwick, a northeastern part of Bed-Stuy, and a large part of East New York (a fourth candidate, John Rodriguez, is mulling his candidacy).
1. Why did you decide to run for State Assembly?
I have lived in this community my whole life. I have seen how folks in our community don’t have access to good jobs, to good schools, to affordable and decent housing. And I have seen the high cost of inequality and injustice on our families. I have been confronting this injustice for the last 13 years as a community organizer at Make the Road NY.
I know that we can do better, but we need elected officials who understand the realities of working families in our community, and who are willing to stand up for what is right. I have had enough of the backroom dealing and the power elite not being accountable to regular people. I have been to too many important community events over the past decade – about crucial education, housing, or racial justice issues – that no elected officials bothered to come to.
Politics-as-usual is failing the people of our community. And I want to help change that. I want to help community members to feel our power, and our responsibility, to work together for justice.
2. Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and raised in Bushwick. My parents started as laborers in Puerto Rico and my father worked in the sugar cane fields. Here in Brooklyn, we were raised on welfare. My parents worked hard to make ends meet. I’ve witnessed my father sweeping the streets of Union Square in order to receive those welfare checks. I went with my mother, door to door, selling Avon beauty products. Later my father was the neighborhood Icee man. Growing up we went to every park and schoolyard, talking to families, selling Icees.
I grew up in this community, and I’ve stayed in this community. My father is now a maintenance worker in Bed-Stuy at Tompkins Daycare Center, across from Sumner Projects. He’s a proud union member of DC 1707.
I was an altar boy at St. Barbara’s Church. I went to PS 299 on Evergreen and Madison. I graduated from Bushwick Community High School.
This is my home. This is the place I love.
3. What platform will you run on? And what goals and committee memberships do you hope to have?
In Albany I hope to continue to stand up for the things that matter for our community: access to good jobs and economic opportunity, safe and affordable housing, high quality schools, racial justice and respectful policing.
I would love to serve on the housing, education, children and families, social services, or labor committees.
4. What kind of support do you anticipate or have been promised from Make the Road and the Working Families Party?
Make the Road NY is a non-profit organization, so it cannot support political candidates. But many of the people I have worked with over the past decade have been working hard to support this campaign.
My work over the past decade has been about standing up for working families, and I am committed to the core values of the Working Families Party. I hope to have their support in this election.
5. What are your qualifications and what kind of work have you done with Make the Road that has prepared you for public office?
My work has been about bringing our community to work for justice. I think that that work of engaging community members to identify priorities and creating ways to expand opportunities for people in our community is what elected officials should be doing.
When the city wanted to limit high quality educational opportunities for our community by closing down my high school, the Bushwick Community High School, I helped lead an organizing campaign to save the school. Teachers, students and community members worked together, fought hard and won. Today, the Bushwick Community High School is still educating hundreds of dynamic young people in our community and giving them the tools they need to achieve their dreams.
When the city wanted to spend more than $60 million to to expand Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center and lock our kids up, instead of putting that money into schools, I helped lead a campaign to stop it, and we won.
A few years ago, when police wrongly arrested 32 young people, including honor roll high school students, who were walking to a friend’s wake, I helped organize a community campaign that got the charges dropped and helped them win justice for their unlawful arrest.
6. What are your constituents’ (and the district’s) most significant needs and how will you address them?
Our community’s most pressing need is for fairness and opportunity. Our young people need high quality schools and after-school programs to help them dream big and realize their dreams. We need good paying jobs. We need access to safe and affordable housing.
I will work hard in Albany to promote tax fairness to make sure that working families are not left alone to bear the burden of our state’s budget problems. I will work hard to make sure that the millionaire’s tax is renewed so that we have adequate resources for education, job training and affordable housing.