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North Brooklyn is home to thousands of Black and Brown families, tenants, parents, working class homeowners of color, and immigrants who are suffering, especially after three years of a deadly pandemic. Meanwhile, the assemblyman representing Bushwick in Albany, Erik Dilan, continues to stand out through his absence. 

This week, the New York State Assembly is poised to pass a consequential budget with multiple pieces of legislation and funding that will be critical to our communities here. Yet, we are left voiceless in the Assembly chamber, as Dilan continues to remain in hiding. His actions show that he continues to abandon his community, even after he almost lost his seat to my insurgent campaign by a margin of 200 votes.

Since then, and for years before, Dilan has remained silent and has not co-sponsored key legislation that our community sorely needs, in issues like housing, justice and immigration.

Not a fan of Dilan: opponents of Assemblyman Erik Dilan gather to protest his purported absence.

Here are some of the key housing bills he hasn’t co-sponsored — or even said a word about this year. Good Cause Eviction legislation sponsored by his North Brooklyn colleague in the State Senator, Julia Salazar, that would set a standard for unreasonable rent increases if a landlord seeks to evict a tenant through a high rent increase. The Housing Access Voucher Program, also known as the HAVP, which is a section 8-style rental assistance voucher for people experiencing eviction, homelessness or at risk of it. 

Why the silence and inaction? His donors. Dilan is in the top five lawmakers in the state assembly that has received the most campaign funding from the real estate lobby, landlords, and developers. That’s why the coalition Housing Justice for All awarded him last month symbolically with the “REBNY Lifetime Achievement Award,”, reflecting a designation from by tenant advocates who are tired of being ignored for years at his Albany office. As they said online: “Assemblymember Dilan has used his entire career to help his donors and BLOCK any help for tenants including #GoodCause and #HAVP.” He was able to stay in power thanks to real estate money, as The City reports, donated by landlords so they would continue to have a lawmaker supporting their interests. 

Sadly, this is not new. When Dilan was in city council, he was fined $9,000 for ethics violations for giving tax breaks to a developer who was his own landlord. Even worse, at a time when Bushwick had the highest incidence of childhood lead poisoning in the city, Dilan blocked lead abatement legislation for years while receiving thousands of dollars from landlords. 

Dilan’s inaction is also hurting immigrant New Yorkers. Bushwick is home to thousands of immigrants, particularly undocumented and asylum seekers, many of whom suffer from a lack of work permits or government assistance for unemployment or food. With organizations like Make the Road New York, his constituents have repeatedly visited his office pleading for action and they have been ignored, mocked and even threatened. Still, he has refused to co-sponsor bills like Coverage For All or the Unemployment Bridge Program, which would expand access to health care insurance and unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants. 

Economic opportunity is also critical for our community, where too many of our neighbors struggle to find good, stable employment. We can dramatically address that by passing a series of bills known as “Tax the Rich,“ but Dilan has been silent on these bills as well.

The Clean Slate Act, which would address barriers to jobs, housing, education by sealing old records, is key legislation that would help 2.3 million New Yorkers is the, Dilan is again nowhere to be found. 

The silence is even more deafening on criminal justice legislation, which is especially atrocious since he was recently appointed as the new chair of the assembly’s Committee on Corrections, directly overseeing issues imacting people in jails, prisons and other detention facilities. 

Under that committee, there are critical, no-brainer bills that will help many people in our community to re-enter society and get a second chance. Three of those bills are the Earned Time Act, the Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act and the Second Look Act, the last of which would make New York’s sentencing laws fairer and more just. Additionally, parole bills such as “Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole Act,” would provide a second chance to incarcerated people, helping to reunite them with their families and communities. 

And that’s just legislation in Albany, ever worse is his negligent absence in the district. In over four years, no one has seen his face in meetings of Community Board 4 (Bushwick) or 5 (Cypress Hills, East New York), nor in any Community Education Councils. During COVID, didn’t lead a single food distribution and to this date hasn’t updated the official social media accounts leaving constituents in the dark. During the campaign I spoke with more than 3,000 neighbors and many said they were not helped or listened to in the district office (Cornelia St).  

His campaign led homophobic and untruthful attacks against my campaign, including sending a mailer comparing me to “Trump’s nasty tactics,” despite our running of a clean campaign. As a candidate, I can look past those negative attacks, lies and deceitful campaigning from Dilan, orchestrated with the aid of the dirty money that kept his seat. 

But as a concerned resident, activist and neighbor in this community, my fellow constituents and I can not forget his failure to show up. This is about humanity, decency, and respect. 

After over a decade in that seat and pocketing over a million dollars from taxpayers in salary, we wonder, where is Dilan? With what conscience do you hoard a seat but don’t take any action while your people struggle?

We need representatives that represent us; that have the needs of the people at heart, not their personal ones. State Senator Julia Salazar and the recently-elected New York City councilmember Sandy Nurse is a great example for the district, who has done more and advocated for the district than Dilan in his entire 12 years in the Assembly. 

Too many lives rest in your hands, Erik Dilan. People are literally dying. The state budget is due, and we are counting on you to fulfill your duty as the district’s representative to take action on these much needed bills, but also the rest of the year. 

All eyes on you. The community is closely watching- and will not forget.

Samy Nemir Olivares is a writer and organizer who ran against Erik Dilan in last year’s Democratic Party primary and has previously served as a District Leader in Assembly District 53. You find Olivares on Twitter @Samynemir.

Bushwick Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of local voices. Do you have something you’d like to say? Email: akarpan@bushwickdaily.com.

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