State Senator Daniel Squadron says that if you do a Google map search for New York City, the little pin drops directly across the street from 250 Broadway, his district office building.
On the 20th floor, towering over the Manhattan Municipal Building, Squadron says, “We’re at the center of the island in terms of its history, and at the center of the world in terms of its global financial importance.”
But Squadron sees something else here, too. “It’s also a place where people live, where people are trying to raise their families; a place where people are trying to age in place,” he says.
That the city is both a microcosm and a macrocosm is a common theme for the 36-year-old Senator, especially when he discusses protecting Lower Manhattan against storms like Hurricane Sandy and rising waters.
“It’s a hyperlocal issue,” he says. “It’s about the safety of people’s homes and their blocks and schools and businesses, but it’s also an issue of major import to the city. Because we’re protecting one of the largest business districts in America, one of the most significant drivers of the economy in the city and the state.”
When he’s on the Senate floor in Albany, he says, “I try to connect government to their experience of neighborhoods.”
Squadron’s current district in Manhattan is river to river, from 6th Street at the East River to Christopher Street at the Hudson River. His district also includes Greenpoint in Brooklyn. The senator has served District 26 since 2009 and is in his fourth term. He currently is up for re-election in November, unopposed. He ran for public advocate in 2013 while he was still a State Senator, and lost to Letitia James.
Squadron says that there isn’t enough media coverage about initiatives to protect Lower Manhattan in a future storm. “I think the ongoing work of figuring out how to get that done is of such importance and it’s hard to get the ongoing focus because it doesn’t lend itself to a short-term winner-loser kind of story,” he says. “It’s a kind of a long, non-controversial but vastly complicated and vastly important project. It involves at least three levels of government: city, state and federal, and associated entities and authorities.”
Squadron handles other issues in Albany, too. He’s known for campaigning to reform Albany, strengthen affordable housing, and enhance regional transportation infrastructure. He’s emphasized the importance of bringing diverse parties together to find practical solutions.
He grew up in the city, to parents who were both in public service. His father rose from poverty to become the Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. His mom, who was from the South, was involved in the Freedom Summer of 1964, the civil liberties union, and other milestone events.
Politics, public service and civil rights in his family were “like casual dining-room-table conversation,” he says. When he was eight years old, he ran the 1989 David Dinkins for mayor chapter of his class.
These days he’s engaged in representing Lower Manhattan. The senator says it’s a place where “there are the same issues as everywhere. They just happen to be on a much bigger scale.”