By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN – Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez has been representing New York’s Seventh Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, in the House of Representatives since 1992.
Within the past month, however, the boundaries for the district have been redrawn as a result of the 2010 Census.
It still includes Downtown Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and Manhattan’s Chinatown. But now it also includes Boerum Hill and part of Park Slope. And it no longer includes parts of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Western Queens -- these now belong to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s neighboring 14th District.
Such changes often bring new political factors and actors to the fore. In this year’s Democratic Primary, Velázquez now has two challengers, economist/businessman Dan O'Connor and Councilman Erik Dilan.
O’Connor is definitely the more atypical of the two. The Sheepshead Bay-born candidate works at a Manhattan firm called Green Energy and has never held political office.
The most unusual feature of his background is that he lived in China for six years. He studied Chinese and worked for an economic think tank in Hong Kong, and speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese fluently. “About 20 percent of the district is now Chinese,” he says, not only in the traditional Chinatown in Manhattan but also in Sunset Park.
“Most people agree that the longer politicians stay in office, the more distant they become,” he said. “That’s why I will be supportive of term limits for Congress people.
“The district is not being represented properly,” he adds. “I am running on an anti-corporatist platform against large bailouts. [Velázquez] supported these bailouts, and she gets much of her money from the same institutions that are now foreclosing on many homes in the district.”
On other issues, he said, “I’m one of the few Democratic candidates who acknowledges that the national debt is a severe problem. It’s the largest in world history.” He also wants to see more transparency and public accountability for the Federal Reserve system.
Asked about endorsements, he said, “The political process tends to support the incumbents. I’ve not pursued that route a lot.”
Dilan, the other challenger, who is a councilman from Eastern Brooklyn, did not return phone calls to the Eagle by press time. However, his website, dilanforcongress.com, stresses his service in the City Council.
It notes that Dilan has supported affordable housing, worked to create housing laws and policies “that benefit both owners and tenants,” sought successfully to restore senior citizens' programs that had been cut out of the city budget, created more day care slots in established programs, and consistently votes in favor of rent regulations. Many of these are mainstream Democratic positions that are also supported by Velázquez.
According to opensecrets.com, a campaign contributions website, Velázquez’ top five donors were the American Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, Property Casualty Insurers of America, American Express and American Crystal Sugar.
All in all, she has raised $248,716. By contrast, as of early March, O’Connor had raised slightly more than $30,000, according to his website.