After Squadron: They Want to Be Your New State Senator

The candidates for state Senate, speaking to a meeting of the Downtown Independent Democrats. From left: Diego Segalini, Brian Kavanagh, Paul Newell and Alan Gerson. Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Aug. 27, 2017

The four announced candidates for the state Senate seat abruptly vacated this month by Daniel Squadron appeared before the local political club, Downtown Independent Democrats [D.I.D.], last week to pitch for its endorsement. Their appearances provided the first look at the quickly assembled field of prospects vying to represent the 26th Senate District, an area that runs from The Battery to the East and South Village and parts of Brooklyn.

The Democratic nominee will be picked next month, not by the voters but, per state law, by members of the County Democratic Committee. Their candidate will be a near certain winner in a special election that will coincide with the general election on Nov. 7.

Following the candidate presentations and brief questions and answers, the D.I.D. voted to endorse Paul Newell, a member of the club. Other clubs are yet to make their endorsements before the County Democratic Committee meets, probably the week before the Sept. 12 primary.

Below are video excerpts from each candidate’s appearance, including answers to some of the questions posed by D.I.D. members.



The former two-term City Councilman representing Lower Manhattan was first elected to the Council in 2001. Margaret Chin defeated him in 2009 in his bid for a third term. Gerson is currently in private law practice representing nonprofit clients. Speaking to the D.I.D., Gerson touted his efforts after 9/11 when he helped bring aid programs to Lower Manhattan residents and small businesses and expanded environmental protections and cleanups that would have been excluded by government agencies. He also noted his efforts to halt high-rise development at the Seaport, help create the Noho Historic District and, through a zoning amendment, prevent new nightlife establishments in Soho, Noho and northern Tribeca.



For the past 11 years, Kavanagh has served in the state Assembly representing a district that runs along the East Side from Delancey Street to the United Nations.  Included in his lengthy rundown of work in the Assembly were his efforts to strengthen rent laws and prevent gun violence, reform the campaign finance system and ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state. He acknowledged that he would need to be “brought up to speed” on some issues outside his current district; although some of those issues, he said, are shared with his district. “Whoever represents the district is going to have a lot to learn from people like you about what matters in your part of the community,” he said. “And that’s no exception for me.”



Since first being elected a district leader in 2009, Newell has been re-elected three times, representing Lower Manhattan and the Lower East Side. With a background in nonprofit management and consulting, Newell first made his name nine years ago when he unsuccessfully challenged then Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s bid for re-election. Last year, Newell again ran for the Assembly and lost to Yuh-Line Niou. Speaking to the D.I.D., his home club, Newell emphasized his work as an activist, organizing tenants, fighting for a new hospital in the Village, and speaking out against the anti-Muslim fervor around a proposed mosque and cultural center on Park Place. His grassroots connections and activism, he said, separate him from the other candidates.



An executive vice president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Segalini is a newcomer to the political scene though active as a public member of Community Board 3. As the person in charge of the LMCC’s financial operation, Segalini said he brought the organization through some “tough times,” including the 2008 financial crisis and Superstorm Sandy. Segalini spoke of raising the minimum wage at LMCC to $15 an hour before the state passed its law, providing free health and dental benefits to all the organization’s employees, and “pioneering” all-gender restrooms in LMCC studio spaces.  In addition, “I provide affordable workspaces for artists to ensure that they continue working in the city,” he said.