It’s a classic New York story. Extended relatives arrive on Ellis Island to begin a new life in a new country. They work and establish themselves so their children can reap the benefits. With the lessons passed down to future generations, the value of hard work and perseverance remains imperative from day one.
New York City Public Advocate candidate Daniel Squadron is a product of this environment. With a maternal grandfather who was a World War II veteran and a mother who volunteered during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 and worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, Squadron has witnessed people who fought for the rights of others. Nonetheless, some see the public advocate position as unnecessary and bureaucratic nonsense. Not Squadron.
“It’s part of the city government, and it has a real ability to stand up and say, ‘Look, the city and state government is either missing the needs of a community or is failing them because of bad policies,’” Squadron told the AmNews. “And with bureaucracy in a city as big as ours, you need someone who’s a real partner, who respects and advocates for you in city government and also get results. It’s about those sometimes individual and local issues that are actually citywide issues.”
Currently serving in the New York state Senate, Squadron was elected there five years ago at the age of 28. His 26th Senate District encompasses neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, the East Village, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Tribeca, Brooklyn Heights and Soho. Squadron serves a variety of constituents from various economic backgrounds well as a senator and as a potential public advocate. He touted his alliance with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a bill to end the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” tactics, which many feel target young Black and Latino men. Squadron also spoke about his assistance in getting bills passed that directed federal funding to an almost bankrupt NYCHA and pushing the MTA to increase service and on-time performance at certain stations.
With neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, the East Village and Williamsburg in his constituency as a senator, housing is a major issue for Squadron. He spoke with the AmNews about how New York is becoming more unaffordable for working-class and middle-class residents daily.
“We can’t just be a city where only two or three professions are able to make a life [here],” said Squadron. “We need to be a city that’s really diverse.”
And Squadron understands that the issues are connected. Lack of affordability leads to a family’s decrease in resources and time to a child’s education, which leads to underperformance in class and the oft-discussed “achievement gap.” Squadron feels that the city needs to work on being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to education.
“When you look at the achievement gap and graduation rates and kids with special needs … when you look at economics and the way they drive a lot of these decisions, it’s not acceptable. And it’s something that we should be screaming out about every day,” said Squadron. “When you look at the effects on specialized high schools, the truth is, some of this has to get dealt with by empowering parents, and some of it has to be dealt with increased resources.
“Early childhood, after-school programs, summer programs, health clinics—we know that these things have a real effect on education, and they don’t get attention.”
Squadron’s banking on his ability to connect the dots to lead to him to the position of “the people’s watchdog” come November.