By BRENNEN JOHNSON
As State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan walked along Elderts Lane in Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills section, local people raised their right fists in appreciation for him.
Dilan, a Democrat heading toward a third term in the Senate, stopped by local Hispanic businesses, handed out political tracts, shook hands and posed for pictures with residents. For over a decade, the Brooklyn College alumnus has represented a district that covers some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods, including Bushwick, East New York, City-Line, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville.
Dilan easily defeated challenger Debbie Medina in the Democratic primary, and no longer needs to campaign: he has no opponent in the Nov. 8 general election.
Nonetheless, he is out in the streets, talking up his concern for rising rents, crime and education.
Ongoing problems with crime – which is down sharply over the past decade – remain a priority.
He wants to reduce the number of shootings and crimes related to gun violence. In January 2013, Dilan voted for the NY Safe Act, the most comprehensive gun control law in the country. The bill mandated universal background checks on buyers and stated the authorization of the transfer of firearms can only be done through a licensed firearms dealer. The gun reform bill banned the possession or manufacturing of assault weapons.
Education is also a priority for Dilan, who served 14 years on the local Community School Board 32, including seven years as chairman.
“As Senate leader of this district, I vow to continue building the economic and academic infrastructures of the communities I serve so minorities can have access to the affordable housing market and their children can receive a quality education,” Dilan said.
Yanet Ramirez, 37, a small business owner and mother, embraced Dilan as he approached her outside of her La Estrella Dominican beauty salon. Dilan played a pivotal part in bringing funding to P.S. 89, the school her 8-year-old son, Manuel, now attends, she said. Ramirez spoke about how additional funding helped P.S. 89’s efforts to offer instruction with digital media. “The schools in this neighborhood only had a few outdated computers and suffered from a severe lack of funding,” Ramirez said. “Everybody kept complaining about our district being under resourced at Community Board meetings.”
Ramirez recalled the atmosphere she encountered when she first saw Dilan speaking at a meeting after she dropped Manuel, who was 2 years old at the time, off to the babysitter in time to hear the news.
“Dilan’s voice was drowned out by massive cheers as he announced we had just received funds to make the necessary changes the city promised for years but failed to deliver,” Ramirez said.
Dilan has represented the Northern Brooklyn district for three years and is at the end of his second term in the New York State Senate. He has continued to receive favorable support from minorities who’ve watched gentrification change the ethnic make up of their neighborhood.
Thomas Robinson, 38, a Jamaican barber who emigrated to New York nearly two decades ago, works in Dominican Cut. He said he has watched demographic changes take place as immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East have opened shops in Cypress Hills.
“There are so many new small businesses in the health care industries and ties to international trade services in this area now,” Robinson said.
The district’s mix of Hispanic and African American/Caribbean communities have transformed into a culturally diverse population that includes Russian Jews and Bangladeshis.
In line with his constituents’ concern that gentrification will lead to higher rents, Dilan’s Facebook page informs residents of their tenant rights, provides links to laws that help with housing disputes, and gives pertinent information on ways to seek affordable housing. He remains focused on matters related to environmental causes and the preservation and beautification of parks, such as the Greenpoint Eco Fest and Sanitation Department removal of garbage from vacant lots. He wrote a law that fined violators for illegal dumping. https://m.facebook.com/MMDilan?ref=page_internal
Dilan has advocated for tenant rights, sponsoring legislation that protected loft tenants and mandating housing standards to improve fire safety, prevention, and maintenance.
Records show Dilan received 629 donations which total $68,245, especially from donors in the law, unions, business and real estate.
Raul Santiago, 33, a single father of a newborn girl, lived in an apartment that had no heat or hot water, leaky holes in the ceilings, and a busted pipe under his kitchen sink, until he was told how to exercise his tenant rights at Dilan’s district office. Office staff told him to call the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, where he received assistance.
“The Section 8 worker I met with helped me file a complaint against the landlord. After a few months, HPD fixed up my apartment and cut off rent payments to his account,” Santiago said.
Photo: State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan at the podium. He faces no opposition in this year’s general election.