As a teenager growing up in Bushwick, I watched then Sen. John F. Kennedy win the presidential nomination at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. I saw a Presidential candidate defending his beliefs. His beliefs were to work to bring people together and tackle the issues of our time.
At the time, I remember thinking anyone can run for office, even the Presidency. I wanted to be a part of that movement. I felt that a Puerto Rican kid in Brooklyn had as much right, and responsibility, to get involved as any other person. I then volunteered for Democrat Abe Beame’s 1965 campaign for mayor.
At age 17, I became campaign manager for a state Assembly candidate. After that, I joined Allard Lowenstein’s anti-Vietnam War congressional campaign as campaign coordinator. I arranged rallies with civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. By 18, I was chairman of programs at Community Corporation for Bushwick, bringing critical community programs and resources into the neighborhood. I saw how community action, yielded community benefits, while fires and corruption ruined my community and the home of my children.
I began my service on Community School Board 32. We saved schools and started to reclaim our neighborhood, making it safer. It wasn’t long before someone suggested I run for City Council. I remember the first door I knocked on. It was Mr. George Walker. He wanted a dilapidated building torn down. I won the Democratic primary by just over 100 votes. I took office, and set out to have the building demolished and a park be put in its place. We named it George Walker Jr. Park, in Mr. Walker’s memory
Elected to the New York State Senate in November 2002, Martin Malavé Dilan is serving his 8th term in the 18th Senatorial District representing the North Brooklyn communities of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Cypress Hills, City-Line, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville.
Senator Dilan currently serves as the Assistant Minority Leader for Policy and Administration in the Senate’s Democratic Conference. Senator Dilan’s leadership in the conference began in his first term as Assistant Minority Leader of Conference Operations. He has since held the posts of Chairman of the Minority Conference and Senior Assistant Majority Leader.
In his time in the Senate, Senator Dilan has championed causes such as tenant rights, public safety, voting rights and numerous transportation issues including a ban on texting while driving and Leandra’s Law, which makes it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a child in the car. As the Senate Democratic appointment to the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR)—and former Co-Chair—Senator Dilan has fought for the formation of a non-partisan redistricting process that guarantees objective and transparent redistricting that maximizes public participation and ends the drawing of New York’s legislative districts to disenfranchise any one-person or community for the sake of political gain.
Senator Dilan has long been an advocate for youth and senior citizen issues. He is a strong supporter of education and believes that students must have the basic tools to achieve. Having served 14 years as a member of Community School Board #32, (seven as Chair) Senator Dilan was instrumental in addressing overcrowding by advocating for new school construction. As a council member, he successfully obtained state of the art computers for every elementary school and middle school in his district, and was successful in obtaining $20 million in Capital Funding for Public School 89, the Cypress Hills Community School. In the Senate he has championed many measures to improve public education from kindergarten to college.
Senator Dilan has an impeccable reputation amongst his colleagues in all levels of government. As the City Council's Chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee, he advocated for greater access to information about conflict of interest issues among elected officials and government employees. As a former businessman, Senator Dilan understands the importance of economic development and business retention programs in New York. He is also a strong supporter of environmental causes, and the beautification and preservation of parks.
Senator Dilan grew up in the community of Bushwick where his parents, Esther and Gilberto—who migrated from Puerto Rico in 1947—instilled in him the importance of community service and cultural heritage.