State Senator Daniel Squadron, who has represented Lower Manhattan in Albany since being elected in 2008, suddenly and unexpectedly announced his resignation from the upper house of the State legislature on Wednesday, and stepped down two days later.
In an email sent to constituents on the morning of August 9, Mr. Squadron said, “for years, we’ve fought together for a better Albany and a stronger district. From the beginning, your support, advice, energy — and, yes, criticism — have been an enormous inspiration. That’s why I wanted to let you know directly why I have decided to resign from the Senate this Friday.”
The statement continued, “Like many across the country, since November, I’ve thought a lot about how best to change the direction of our country, and stand up for core values that are under threat. After much reflection, I have decided to lend my hand to make a difference in states across the country, pushing policies and candidates that will create a fairer and more democratic future.”
This project, for which no name or other detailed information have yet been announced, appears to be a joint undertaking between Mr. Squadron, entrepreneur Adam Pritzker (who is an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune), and Jeffrey Sachs, an economist who is also director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and is renowned as a leading thinker in the fields of economic development and mitigating poverty.
“I was surprised to learn of Daniel’s sudden decision to resign,” observed Anthony Notaro, chair of Community Board 1 (CB1). “He has been a strong advocate for Lower Manhattan. He and his team have facilitated meetings and advocacy on many issues from things like multi-year work on Worth Street to helping with our resiliency issues. He has sponsored and promoted, most recently, legislation to ensure that BPC residents are nominated to the Battery Park City Authority board. He will be missed, but we look forward now to who will emerge as a successor.”
The question of who will succeed Mr. Squadron is complicated by the timing of his departure. If the Senator had announced his resignation in July, it would have been possible to hold a special election, in which the public would have decided on the nominee for the Democratic Party line in the September 12 primary election. While the ultimate decision of who will occupy Mr. Squadron’s former seat will be made by voters on election day in November, in the heavily “blue” landscape of Lower Manhattan, the nomination of the Democratic party is usually tantamount to winning the November election, which usually makes the primary the real contest, with the actual election relegated to the status of a formality.
This means that whoever secures the Democratic Party nod will almost certainly be elected to serve out the remainder of Mr. Squadron’s term, and will have the considerable advantage of incumbency going into the 2018 campaign.
That candidate will be decided upon not by the public, however. Instead, the nominee will be picked by two Democratic Party insiders: Manhattan Democratic chairman Keith Wright and Brooklyn County chairman Frank Seddio. (They will decide jointly because Mr. Squadron’s district straddles both Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront.)
Among the candidates believed to be under consideration are Assembly member Brian Kavanagh (who represents the Lower East Side and Midtown), Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou (who represents Lower Manhattan), and Paul Newell, a Lower Manhattan Democratic Party district leader and community activist. With no time for a primary, Mr. Wright and Mr. Seddio will likely simply designate a candidate to run on their party’s line for the November election.
“The bosses will pick the candidate, and whoever they pick will go to the Senate,” predicted Martin Connor, a leading election law attorney, who also held Mr. Squadron’s seat, before being displaced by the then-upstart in the 2008 primary. (Up to that time, Mr. Connor was the longest-serving Democrat in the State Senate, and also served as its Minority Leader, which made him the most powerful member of his party in the chamber.) “If he had announced his plan a month ago, the voters could have chosen the successor, but now it’s too late,” he added.
Mr. Squadron’s local legacy includes pushing for more schools in Lower Manhattan, demanding more funding for parks, and spearheading multiple campaigns to make the Battery Park City Authority more responsive to people who live within the 92 acres that the agency governs. These included a successful effort for residents the right to speak at BPCA board meetings, and a multi-year push for a new law that would require the governor (who controls the Authority, by appointing its directors) to name residents to the BPCA board. That law passed the State Senate in June (after being ratified by the Assembly in April), and now awaits the signature, or veto, of Governor Cuomo.