18th Senatorial District Race: Dilan And Medina Trade Barbs Over Reform, Gentrification

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Incumbent 18th District State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan yesterday charged that the powers behind his insurgent challenger Debbie Medina are the same young professionals that are rapidly gentrifying the longtime Latino district under the guise of being reformers.

But Medina countered that the real people gentrifying the neighborhoods are the landlords and real estate people behind Dilan and not her supporters.

The district’s center is Bushwick and includes large swaths of Williamsburg and Greenpoint as well as parts of Cypress Hills, City-Line, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville.

State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan

“She (Medina) is running to take the neighborhood back as a socialist Democrat, but look who’s running her campaign. They’re the new people moving in. So she’s taking back the neighborhood for the new young professionals that are running her campaign,” said Dilan, a 14-year incumbent.

“I remember going around to the high schools and telling the kids to get an education because if they don’t then one day they might not be able to afford to live here,” said Dilan. “Then the young professionals started moving in and the community accepted them, and people started selling their houses at a huge profit, and now one- and two-bedroom apartments are going for $2,200 and up.”

Dilan said at the same time unscrupulous landlords wanting higher rents are harassing tenants by cutting off water and electricity, and clogging sewage pipes.

That’s why I’m introducing legislation raising tenant harassment from a violation to Class C felony,” he said.

Dilan noted that several people helping run Medina’s campaign come from the New Kings Democrats Club (NKD), which was formed as a reform club several years opposed to former Kings County Democratic Boss Vito Lopez and how he ran the county organization.

“I tried to reach out to New Kings Democrats on several occasions when they were holding a candidates forum for endorsements, but they held it while we (the senate) was in session. I talked to several members and other folks I think were connected to them, but they never gave me a chance. They call themselves reformers, but I don’t see them as transparent,” said Dilan.

NKD President Anusha Venkataraman responded to Dilan’s allegation saying, “NKD reached out to Dilan to invite him to our May endorsement meeting, but received no response. We also did not receive any communication from Dilan or his staff asking to attend a meeting, in May or at any other time.”

Venkataraman said the club endorsed Medina, among other candidates, at that meeting by a vote of the membership in accordance with our bylaws and endorsements process.

When asked about Medina’s much publicized personal problems and allegations of physically abusing her son,  Dilan said while he doesn’t want to take her tragedy and turn it into a campaign issue, he does feel his opponent should be transparent with the issue in the community.

“There are still some details that are not out and I don’t think my opponent has dealt with the issue forthright and put it on the table,” he said.

Debbie Medina
Debbie Medina

Medina responded that it is typical of Dilan to distract people from the real issues facing the district.

“I have all kinds of people working with my campaign. Whites, Latinos, blacks. People are ready for a change. He (Dilan) is trying to distract them instead of talking about the real issues. People  are being displaced not by new people moving in, but by the landlords and the real estate industry, and they are the ones giving him money,” said Medina. “My donations are small and I’m not getting anything from the real estate industry. I want people to understand what’s really happening and I’ve been a community organizer for 30 years.”

In response to her personal problems, Medina said she has spoken at length about her son – one of her four children – and that she never abused him, but she did discipline him.

“My son was smoking angel dust. He was arrested four times when he was young. I was running after my son at two and three in the morning trying to do everything I could so my son wouldn’t die on the street and so I would not lose him,” said Medina.

The primary election is slated for Sept. 13. The two also faced off against each other in the Democratic primary two years with Dilan edging Medina 58-42 percent.