Squadron Quits 'Seedy' Senate for National Goals: 'We're In a Crisis'

State Sen. Daniel Squadron at a January 2017 meeting of Lower Manhattan's School Overcrowding Task Force. After the resignation and criminal conviction of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Squadron shared leadership of the task force with Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Aug. 09, 2017

State Sen. Daniel Squadron stunned his constituents, especially local leaders, last Wednesday when he publicly announced his resignation, taking effect Friday Aug. 11, from the office he has held for eight years. Squadron represents the 26th Senate District, which includes Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

“Wow, unbelievable,” said Community Board 1 chair Anthony Notaro, who said he was shocked at the news, released by Squadron in a New York Daily News op-ed piece. Notaro called Squadron and his staff “very responsive to our community.”

“We’re going to have to recover from this a little bit,” Notaro said, noting in particular the senator’s ongoing involvement in the School Overcrowding Task Force and another long-running task force that deals with the reconstruction of Worth Street. “There were things he had accomplished and things he had in the works,” Notaro said. “And all those things are going to have to be picked up by the new person."

No sooner had Squadron made his announcement than Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, whose East Side district runs north from the Lower East Side, declared that he would be a candidate. Others are expected to follow. According to state law, the Democratic candidate to run in November will be selected by party leaders.

Bruce Ehrmann, a longtime Community Board 1 member, said he was shocked and disheartened at Squadron’s sudden resignation. A resident of Worth Street, he lauded Squadron for his personal involvement in the Worth Street Task Force, a group monitoring work on the street. “If there were a serious issue, he would come in, host the meeting himself,” Ehrmann said. “He has a sharp mind. One of the finest thinkers.”

Squadron says he is leaving the senate to help promote progressive candidates and policies at the state level around the country. In a telephone interview with the Trib, he called President Trump “the driving force.”

“I really think we’re in a crisis and I feel compelled to try to have the biggest impact I can,” said Squadron, who is teaming up with Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economics professor and writer, and Adam Pritzker, an entrepreneur and member of the Hyatt Hotels family. “I’m excited to turn towards trying to help states reach their potential, which hopefully can have an impact nationally.”

Squadron said his decision to leave the senate was made just days ago and acknowledged that he has yet to work out just how he will go about meeting his new challenge.

“There’s more to come on that,” he said. “I’ve been a full-time state senator right up to the end here, and my decision was made in the last week or so. There’s some work we’re going to do before we launch more broadly.”

In his op-ed essay, titled “Why I’m Leaving the N.Y. Senate,” Squadron vented his frustration at the “seedy” state senate, with its “‘three men in a room’ decision-making, loophole-riddled campaign finance rules and a governor-controlled budget process” that have “thwarted” his legislative efforts. The biggest impact most senators can make, he said, is in helping constituents in their district.

Squadron underscored that belief when asked by the Trib what he will miss about the job.

“Waking up every day with a very clear mandate and goal to figure out how to have a concrete impact on people’s lives in the district,” he said. “Specifically, I love walking around the district, going to events around the district. You can go around the world going around my district.”

Indeed, Squadron attached himself to a multitude of local issues and events, and seemed equally at home whether arguing before the senate for resident representation on the Battery Park City Authority Board (he got the legislation passed on that) or judging the most recent pumpkin-carving contest in Washington Market Park.

“Whether it’s community events, or bringing together a group from all over the district at the [Squadron-sponsored] annual community convention, or having a conversation with someone walking through Chinatown or down Greenwich Street, I’m going to really miss that,” he said. “That’s a special privilege.”