Senator Julia Salazar

Andy Marte Hopes to Woo Moderate Democrats in Race for State Senate Seat

State Senate candidate Andy Marte on the campaign trail (Image courtesy Andy Marte)

State Senator Julia Salazar is often described politically as being left of the center; she’s a Democratic Socialist and a self-identified “Marxist.”

It’s no wonder then that her challenger, Andy Marte, has painted himself a “realist” in his bid to unseat Salazar after her first term in office. Following months of bitter campaigning, including allegations of campaign finance abuse, Marte hopes to persuade moderate Democrats in the 18th District to replace a young, left-of-center incumbent with a young, close-to-center insurgent.

Greenpointers spoke with Marte before Tuesday’s democratic primary elections about his more restrained approach to police reform, his take on mass vaccination campaigns and his ideas for creating more jobs in North Brooklyn.


To voters who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?

I was born and raised in New York and went to elementary school all the way through high school in Bushwick. I ended up at 14 years old stumbling into local Bushwick politics as an intern for the local Assembly Member, Vito Lopez. From there, when I graduated high school, I ended up at Georgetown University. 

When I graduated from Georgetown, I started working on my teacher certification. I was a substitute teacher for some time. I worked at RiseBoro, which is a social services agency in Bushwick, doing affordable housing with them. I also some time after that was a consultant for a substance abuse program in the neighborhood that also works with HIV people. My father passed away from HIV when I was young, so that was something I was very passionate about. 

Before I ran for office, I wanted to understand the three most important things to people, which were housing, healthcare and education. 

 

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Protests into Solutions

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Why are you running for State Senate?

I’m running for State Senate because the current State Senator that we have has zero experience in almost anything. There’s a leadership vacuum in our community, specifically with the State Senate seat. No one sees her at any meetings. It’s very easy to talk about philosophical and theoretical jargon, but not actually do anything concrete. 

I have a sociology background, so I understand the importance of some of the social programs that we have. But I think when you take that to an extreme of supporting Marxism and supporting Vladimir Lenin, you’re adding a whole different aspect to your politics that is not beneficial to the people that I grew up with in North Brooklyn.

There have been daily protests throughout the city against the NYPD and police brutality. Do you believe in defunding the city police? If so, how much money would you slash from its budget?

I have not seen the police’s budget. I would love to take a look at it before we determine whether we should be removing money from them. We do live in the financial capital of the world, so we do need a police force that’s capable of protecting us. 

I’ve been in the police precinct advocating that they treat people nicer, but it wasn’t until I started going to the police council meetings that I started building a relationship with the precinct and the police officers, so that they can understand that we’re people. It’s very easy for a police officer to arrest somebody, but if they know these people, then it’s a different relationship.

As someone that has also studied politics in school and on the streets, there’s been African-American men that have been getting killed every year. There’s a presidential election and all of sudden the police are being attacked. It’s a very interesting dynamic. Some of that has to do with the influences of this Communist conversation that’s coming into our community. Continue reading

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Senator Julia Salazar to Continue to Push for Progressive Change If Reelected

Senator Julia Salazar is running for reelection in the June 23rd primary elections. (Courtesy of Senator Julia Salazar’s office)

Less than two years ago, State Senator Julia Salazar was considered the insurgent candidate. A 27-year-old Democratic Socialist, she challenged Brooklyn’s Democratic establishment and won.

Heading into this year’s June 23rd primary, Salazar is the incumbent, mired in what’s been an acrimonious race between her and Bushwick local, Andy Marte. Both have slung allegations of campaign finance abuse at each other, and Salazar has criticized Marte for sponsoring COVID-19 antibody testing at a NYCHA development without approval from the city.

Greenpointers spoke with Senator Salazar to hear her thoughts on occupying the unfamiliar role of incumbent, the push to remedy housing insecurity in Salazar’s district and her position on police reform city and statewide.


To voters who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself and explain why you’re running for State Senate?

I am the current State Senator for the 18th district. I was first elected in 2018 and I became the youngest woman in the history of New York State to be elected to the State Senate.

How does it feel to be an incumbent when the narrative of your campaign two years ago was one of insurgency? 

Because we changed the election date in order to synchronize the state primary with the presidential primary, it’s actually been less than two years since the last election. It’s been an abbreviated period. That makes it particularly strange to already be running again for State Senate. 

I am a Democratic Socialist. I am on the left of the Democratic conference in the State Senate. I am still committed to pushing for the most progressive policies and pushing for transformative change and challenging the status quo. In all those ways, I still feel like an insurgent candidate, despite being an incumbent.

There have been daily protests throughout the city against the NYPD and police brutality. Do you believe in defunding the city police?

I believe that currently the NYPD’s budget and that of many police departments across the country are inflated. We need to be thinking critically about how much public funds are given to law enforcement and then how those funds are being used.

We’ve seen in recent weeks the militarization of police departments, including the NYPD, the brutal tactics used to suppress protests, including nonviolent protests. I would fully support decreasing the NYPD budget and then using those funds in the city budget for education, for example, to hire more counselors, to reduce the number of police officers, especially in schools that predominantly have a black and brown student body.

As far as quantifying it, I’ve heard from several Council Members, a lot of them are saying a minimum of a $1 billion reduction in the budget. I fully support that. Some of them are discussing more significant cuts depending on the details. I think at minimum the city needs to reduce the NYPD budget by at least $1 billion and then transfer that accordingly to more community alternatives. 

At the state level, would you push for legislation to defund the state police and state law enforcement?

We haven’t been having rigorous conversations about this at the state level, mainly because of the way police departments are generally funded, but I would be very keen to examine what state resources are currently being allocated to law enforcement. I also want to ensure that any state or municipal resources that are currently given to law enforcement are not being used to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement.  Continue reading

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Greenpoint’s Elementary Schools Overcrowded, Residents Say

Photo courtesy of Ben Weiss

Last summer, Darla Childs, a Greenpoint resident of 16 years, was ready to leave the neighborhood. After months of trying to get her son into a Pre-K program at neighborhood public schools, she was at her wit’s end.

“He’s supposed to go to school in a month and we’re not enrolled anywhere,” she said in an interview with Greenpointers. Childs’ son, who has severe food allergies, had only been offered a seat in East Williamsburg, a 45-minute walk from her home. 

“I need him to be at a school that’s within walking distance so that I can meet an ambulance if there’s an emergency,” she explained.

Childs’ difficulty in enrolling her son in a nearby public school reflects a growing problem in Greenpoint. Despite statistics from the Department of Education (DOE) that depict a large swath of northern Brooklyn as under capacity, Greenpoint’s Pre-K and elementary schools are filled to the brim, parents and elected officials say. Continue reading

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From Greenpoint to Albany: Safe Way Home Act Awaits Governor Cuomo’s Signature

NY State Senate chamber (courtesy of Flickr/JVL)

A new state law that began in Greenpoint as a crowdfunding campaign to provide sexual assault victims free transportation home from the hospital following treatment is headed to Governor Andrew Cuomo for final approval.

The Safe Way Home Act (Senate Bill S3966A) unanimously passed both the New York State Senate and Assembly in June and the bill is headed to the Governor, whose 2019 Women’s Justice Agenda passed legislation this year including criminalizing revenge porn and strengthening workplace harassment protections.

Deborah Spiroff, a Greenpoint resident since 2004, and a volunteer for the past two years at Wycoff Heights Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Treatment Program raised concerns for sexual assault survivors who have no choice but to walk home alone after being discharged from the hospital.

“I’ve had more than one case where after the person has been treated they’re just released, and they literally were walking home from Wycoff Hospital at 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the morning,” Spiroff told Greenpointers last winter when the bill was first introduced.

Sprioff launched the initial GoFundMe campaign raising $750 for survivors and began reaching out to local elected officials. State Assemblyman Joe Lentol introduced the Safe Way Home Act after meeting with Spiroff and State Senator Julia Salazar sponsored the bill.

“The creation of programs to better our communities frequently come straight from those experiencing problems,” Lentol said in a statement. “I am happy to say the Safe Way Home Act was yet another incredible achievement spearheaded from a constituent. Deborah Spiroff saw a problem and found a solution,” he said.

“Sexual assault survivors deserve the highest standard of care, and part of that includes a ride home after what is often the most traumatic day of the victim’s life,” Salazar said in a separate statement. “This is common-sense legislation that shows the positive results of people getting involved in their community and in their government. I am grateful to Deborah Spiroff for bringing this issue to my attention and to Assemblyman Lentol for working with me to pass this bill into law.”

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Town Hall With Senator Salazar and Assemblyman Lentol Set for Williamsburg (8/15)

A town hall hosted by state Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblyman Joe Lentol will take place in Williamsburg next week.

The “groundbreaking bills passed this year” and the “goals for next year’s legislative session”
will be the topics of discussion at the town hall happening Thursday, August 15, at Bushwick Inlet Park Community Room (86 Kent Ave.) from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

 

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North Brooklyn Development Meeting on Thursday 2/28

Greenpoint Landing construction begins on Commercial Street. Photo credit: Kim Masson

The next public meeting regarding real estate development and Superfund sites in North Brooklyn is happening Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Polish Slavic Center (176 Java St.) from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. The meeting is hosted by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, Senator Julia Salazar and NYC Council Member Stephen Levin.

Topics including the former Nuhart Plastics Superfund site and community air monitoring will be discussed with representatives from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Environmental Remediation.

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