The New York State primaries aren’t until June 2022, but already, Samy Nemir-Olivares, a local district leader in Assembly District 53, has announced his candidacy to become the Assembly member representing neighboring Assembly District 54, which covers much of Bushwick and Cypress Hills, as well as parts of East New York, Ocean Hill and Brownsville.

If elected, Nemir-Olivares would unseat incumbent Democrat Erik Dilan, who was first elected in 2014 and formerly represented the 37th district of the New York City Council from 2002 to 2014.

Nemir-Olivares, a Puerto Rican-Dominican, queer candidate is a part of a young group of progressives hungry for change in North Brooklyn and throughout the state of New York. In 2018, State Senator Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialist lawmaker in Bushwick, unseated Erik Dilan’s father, Martin Dilan. 

Nemir-Olivares is seeking to become the first LGBTQ Assembly member of color in the history of the state.

“Even before COVID, our community was dealing with crises, including with housing, a lack of access to healthcare and a lack of funding for public school,” said Nemir-Olivares. “And then, when COVID hit, we went into a deeper crisis. Our community has been frustrated with the lack of support and investment from our state and city governments.” 

“I’m running because I believe that we can change,” he explained. 

Nemir-Olivares is pushing for rent-control legislation, universal healthcare, full funding for public college and universal after-school programs, more rights and resources for immigrants, regardless of immigration status, and stricter climate legislation. 

“It is the moral duty of the state to ensure the wellbeing of all residents in the state. And in our community, many are undocumented immigrant families,” said Nemir-Olivares, who originally migrated to New York City from Puerto Rico and co-founded the collective Bushwick Ayuda Mutua during the pandemic to help community members have their basic needs met.

Raised by a single mother, Nemir-Olivares grew up on food stamps and housing assistance. For grade school, high school and undergraduate school, he attended public institutions. 

“All of those experiences shaped who I am, because every single aspect of my life was impacted by a government program,” said Nemir-Olivares. 

On a recent phone call, Nemir-Olivares spoke about the lack of climate action being taken by the New York State legislature and how we, in Bushwick, are seeing the direct impact of climate change, most specifically with the recent floods, which forced people out of their homes and caused millions of dollars in damage. 

“Bushwick is not exempt to the issues of climate change,” said Nemir-Olivares. “Hundreds of people lost their belongings and homes. The state of New York needs to be at the forefront of pushing for green policies and laws to tackle climate change.”

Another important aspect of Nemir-Olivares’ life, he told me, is being queer. “When I grew up, I couldn’t get married. It was illegal,” he explained. However, this challenge, like with other challenges Nemir-Olivares has faced, has only helped shape him. 

“Those experiences — being Puerto Rican and being queer, plus the experiences of my mother as a single mother, the struggles she had to go through as low-income — showed me the power the government can have in transforming those lives.”

“It is what inspired me to get into politics,” he added. “Instead of complaining, I need to be a part of the solution.”

Images: Megan Magray 

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