Since I was a kid, I’ve been a product and beneficiary of New York’s diversity, vibrancy, honesty and hopefulness.
Growing up in Westchester, the son of a librarian and a NYC public school teacher, I was given the opportunity to study at the best schools and meet all types of people – liberals and conservatives, working-class and progressive, people of all races. As a high schooler, I was the captain of my high school football team, as well as a lover of politics, rap and film.
When I got to college I studied government, and then after college I set my sights on economics and writing. While doing a master’s degree at the London School of Economics, I drafted a novel.
After graduation I came home and worked at a local moving company for six months before landing a job as a reporter for the Financial Times. I moved to Brooklyn and lived the life of a renter and commuter in the age of unpredictable rent costs and a slowing, increasingly less reliable (and usable) Subway. I still live through that anxiety every day – not being able to get to work on time, not knowing if and when I’ll save money, not knowing where I will live, where I can live.
When I moved to Greenpoint, I found myself two miles from the place I had spent my entire life visiting: my grandfather’s small two-bedroom apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, the place that had taught me more than anywhere else about what it meant to be a working, commuting, surviving person in the eastern boroughs – what it meant to be a New Yorker in the spiritual sense.
More importantly, I saw in this district what I loved so much about my grandpa, and what I love so much about this state: a love for that which is different from you (I remember when I went to fetch him milk from the corner convenient store; the Korean owners knew him by name; they would ask about him, tell me to tell him they said hi), a no-nonsense attitude that seeks to accomplish what needs to get done and a desire to live life in its most vibrant form.
It is my goal, more importantly, to take that energy that exists in the parks of Greenpoint, in the tenant cooperatives of South Williamsburg, in the merchant associations and pizza places of Bushwick, and make politics in our district work – to make local politics meaningful.
Senator Dilan has presided over a district of over 300,000 people where less than 10% of those people vote, and a mere 3% votes in primaries. This is not a sustainable political culture.
But I believe a broader, stronger coalition exists in this community – mixed-race, multi-ethnic, multi-faith – and that together, with that common local bond, we can demand that Albany properly funds the Subway, cedes the power of formulating housing policy back to the city, makes the criminal justice system fairer, passes universal pubic healthcare, gets more serious about our public schools and creates a new culture of tolerance, transparency, respect toward women and democratic vibrancy in Albany.
I see a more energetic, youthful and effective politics on our horizon if we want it. We just have to see it through. We have to register, unite around what we all agree on and aspire to and do what we, as New Yorkers, have always done – care.