By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“When you call 311 and they can’t assist you, you need someone to turn to who can help you,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron said, as he talked about his reasons for running for public advocate.
Squadron said he sees the public advocate’s office as that of being a voice for average New Yorkers who feel the city bureaucracy has failed them and who believe they have nowhere to turn.
“The public advocate can’t do everything, but the office can do a lot to improve the lives of New Yorkers,” Squadron told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in a phone interview on Aug. 31.
Squadron, one of the five candidates running in the Democratic Primary for public advocate on Sept. 10, said his experience in government has given him a record of accomplishment that sets him apart from his competitors.
City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill), college professor Cathy Guerriero, former deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani, and Sidique Wai, a community outreach specialist for the New York Police Department, are all running in the Sept. 10 primary, hoping to become the city’s next public advocate.
Bill de Blasio, the man who currently holds the job, is running for mayor.
Squadron cited his legislation banning assault weapons, his work helping create Brooklyn Bridge Park, and his work to find a permanent funding stream for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as examples of his ability to get things done.
In the wake Superstorm Sandy, Squadron, whose senate district includes lower Manhattan, organized 1,000 volunteers to go door to door there to see if tenants needed assistance.
He is seeking to appeal to voters by offering a detailed plan on what he would do as public advocate if elected.
He has broken down the role into four components, promising to work on these four areas; to be the advocate for the most vulnerable New Yorkers; an advocate for children; an advocate for housing; and an advocate for government accountability.
“The public advocate can be a bridge between New Yorkers and their government, but particularly for those who believe government is not helping them,” Squadron said.
Other areas Squadron said he would focus on: improving public housing and disaster preparedness. The latter is important, he said, “not just for the purpose of rebuilding from Sandy, but to prepare for the next storm.”
Squadron has served in the state senate for three terms, representing a district that includes Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, downtown Brooklyn, and several communities in lower Manhattan. He first ran for the senate seat in 2007, beating out Martin Connor, a 30-year incumbent.
“I ran for the senate as an outsider,” Squadron said. “I’ve never accepted corporate or political action committee support,” he said. His independence from political interests will continue if he wins the public advocate’s race, he said.
A hallmark of Squadron’s tenure in the state senate has been his efforts toward ethics reform. He fought to change the way Albany does business and was a leading proponent of a comprehensive ethics reform package that passed both houses of the legislature in 2010 and paved the way to new ethics laws in 2011. He also wrote a law that prohibits public officials from using government resources for their own for-profit business.
Prior to serving as a state senator, Squadron worked behind the scenes in congress, serving as a top aide to US Senator Charles Schumer. He and Schumer co-wrote a book, "Positively American: Winning Back the Middle Class Majority One Family at a Time."
Schumer has endorsed him. Squadron has also been endorsed by Borough President Marty Markowitz and by former public advocates Betsy Gotbaum and Mark Green.
“I’m a lifelong New Yorker. My grandfather came to the United States through Ellis Island. My wife and I are raising our son in Carroll Gardens. I am committed to this city,” he said.
“My parents had a strong commitment to public,” he said, adding that they handed that sense of commitment down to him. “I believe in the power of government to help people,” he said.