A Word With Erik Dilan, Aiming to Unseat Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez Tomorrow

dilanCourtesy Erik Dilan

New York City Councilmember Erik M. Dilan is running to unseat Nydia Velázquez in tomorrow’s Democratic Primary. The congresswoman is seeking her 11th term, this time in a newly remapped seventh district that includes the housing projects east of Avenue D as well as parts of the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Brooklyn.

Mr. Dilan, the 38-year-old son of State Senator Martin M. Dilan, took a break from voter outreach Sunday evening to speak to The Local. In a phone interview, the Bushwick resident – who, like Ms. Velázquez, is of Puerto Rican heritage – admitted he hasn’t spent all that much time campaigning in the East Village. “Should I be elected, I’m hoping to become expertly familiar with all the local issues there,” he said.

On nightlife, an evergreen battle in the neighborhood, Mr. Dilan said, “As an elected official, you want to be there to listen to complaints. It’s always a concern. I think there is a way for nightlife and the residents in the neighborhoods to interact.” If elected, he said, he would zero in on bad actors and help to resolve disputes.

As the City Council’s chair of the Housing and Buildings committee, Mr. Dilan is familiar with the N.Y.U. expansion issue. He said he saw deep opposition to the project, but had yet to develop a specific position on it.

Overall, Mr. Dilan said he thought East Villagers, like most Americans, were concerned about economic recovery. If he heads to Capitol Hill in January, he said, he would get to work on a serious economy-boosting to-do list. “Obviously we need to find a way to get people back to work, and make sure we have a vibrant economy that includes credit flowing to small businesses,” he said.

Mr. Dilan questioned Ms. Velázquez’s liberal-leaning bona fides, citing a vote to repeal provisions in the Glass-Steagall Act that restricted affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms. Ms. Velázquez’s vote in favor of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, which some say created conditions that led to the financial crisis of 2008, was discussed in a recent NY1 debate between the candidates, as a recap in The Times noted.

dilan 2Courtesy Erik Dilan

“It was made very obvious that she did not tell the truth about her vote on Glass-Steagall,” said Mr. Dilan. “If you’re a progressive you don’t vote to deregulate the banks.”

Other priorities on his agenda, said Mr. Dilan, are securing financing for public housing and continuing work on immigration reform.

Mr. Dilan got specific on a proposal he thought might raise cash for infrastructure and help create jobs. He supports a plan that would offer a tax holiday to businesses who stash earnings overseas, beyond the reach of the IRS, but who would voluntarily contribute to an infrastructure bank. Funds raised would go to projects like highways, bridges, water systems and electrical grid expansion.

Mr. Dilan also thinks those with annual incomes of $1 million or more need to chip in more. “I agree with the president that they should pay a higher tax rate,” he said. “I don’t want to criticize them for their success but I think they need to realize that for a long period of time they haven’t paid their fair share.”

He sees the change in tax policy as a way to reduce the budget deficit.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary election will face scant opposition on the November ballot, meaning he or she will likely go on to represent the district in Congress. Mr. Dilan’s chances of unseating a long-time incumbent are not considered strong, especially with high-level officials like Governor Cuomo lined to support Ms. Velázquez. According to WNYC, the incumbent did some last-minute local campaigning on Sunday (The Lo-Down also noted that she spoke out against a proposed bar on East Broadway).

But Mr. Dilan is seen as the most formidable challenger among the three vying to replace the sitting Congresswoman. The Times noted that he is backed by Vito Lopez, the head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, and Capital New York reported that members of the real estate industry have contributed $70,000 to his campaign. The other two candidates are Dan O’Connor, an economist and businessman who, New York Press reported, is using his knowledge of Chinese culture to court Chinatown residents, and George Martinez, an “Occupy Wall Street candidate” and hip-hop artist.

Polls will open tomorrow at 6 a.m and close at 9 p.m. Find your nearest location here.