District 37 Wyckoff Heights, Cypress Hills, East New York

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Erik Martin Dilan, Dem 7,331 - 87 percent
Miguel Alonso, Ind 627 - 7 percent
Yolanda J. Martin, Fun 333 - 4 percent
Germania Taveras, Con 163 - 2 percent

Primary Election Results

Erik Martin Dilan 3,220
Heriberto Mateo 2,066
Louis Hernandez 1,377
Ricky Perez 1,369
Michelle Romero 753
Luis Booth 557
Miguel Alonso 535
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Martin Malave-Dilan (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Miguel Alonso
Contributors to Louis Hernandez
Contributors to Erik Malave-Dilan
Contributors to Heriberto Mateo
Contributors to Ricky Perez
Contributors to Michelle Romero
Contributors to Germania Taveras

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 37

Campaign Tangle:
According to the Board of Elections, Democratic candidate Yolanda Martin and Liberal Party candidate Urpiano Rafael Dominguez did not have enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Still, six Democratic candidates will appear on the ballot in September. For more details, see the Campaign Update. Posted 8/21/01

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Brooklyn Brawl

Ricky Perez, community affairs officer for the 75th police precinct, cruises the streets of Cypress Hills in an unmarked sedan. In 1993, he recalls, looking out the window, 126 people were murdered within his police precinct -- the most ever in New York -- helping the area earn the nickname "the killing fields."

"The way the media portrays this area people probably think it is Vietnam," says Perez.

This year, Perez hopes to make the transition from police officer to politician, and as he drives he waves to people he knows. Then he points out one particular location, a park that was refurbished by the current Councilmember Martin Malave-Dilan.

"Aside from putting up some lights in a park, Martin Dilan has not done anything in 10 years," says Perez. "So I'm not afraid of running against Martin Lite."

Perez is referring to one of his four opponents in the race for City Council, the current council member's 27-year-old son, Erik Malave-Dilan.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district from City Project, click here.


  • Hispanic 59%
  • Black 27%
  • White 8%
  • Asian 6%

Median income: $33,219 (ranks 41st out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 14%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

"I've been involved with the community my whole life, says Erik Malave-Dilan, who says there is more to his candidacy than his last name. "I've coached basketball since I was 15. I've been involved with my church. As a member of the 32nd school board I have helped take three schools off the list [of failing schools]."

Although crime is down and the economy is looking up in district 37, the candidates are waging rough-and-tumble campaigns that live up to the area's reputation.

Councilman Martin Malave-Dilan believes Perez's candidacy is a political payback orchestrated by Congressman Edolphus Towns. The councilman ran against Towns twice and lost. He now believes Towns encouraged Perez to move into the district last year. "If he wants to be a carpetbagger, that is his thing," Martin Malave-Dilan says of Perez, who has been endorsed by Towns and his son Assemblyman Darryl Towns.

In a recent television debate, candidate Miguel Alonso also questioned the young Dilan's candidacy. "I've worked in the community for the past 12 years," says Alonso. "I've only seen you active in the community for the past year."

Pushing the mud slinging aside, there are real challenges facing Wyckoff Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York.

First, the area schools are a concern. Test scores are near the bottom in both reading and math citywide, and 91 percent of students are eligible for free lunches. "We need to get money to build new schools," says Heriberto Mateo, president of school board 19. "The schools are very crowded."

Perez hopes vacant lots can house new schools and community centers, like the two Police and Community Together Centers he helped found. "Someone needs to stand up and be accountable," says Perez. "Why are our schools the worst? Because no one has been held accountable."

Economic development is another key issue. There have been recent improvements in the area and in 2002 the Gateway Center, which will be the largest mall in New York City, is slated to open in the district.

Alonso, a former teacher and now corporate trainer on Wall Street, hopes he can connect the neighborhood and the business world together.

Michelle Romero, a legislative assistant for Assemblyman William Boyland, hopes her experience in the State Legislature will aid the economic situation in the 37th district. "The small businesses need a lot of support with the upkeep," Romero says. "Basically, some leave sooner than we would like them to leave, and we'd like to keep them here."

As for crime, which has dropped 82 percent since 1993, the candidates credit the good economy, an increased police presence, and community groups that have worked to get guns off the street. However, some feel police and community relations may have suffered in the process.

In the end, the race for district 37 is likely to be a battle of words between the Dilans and Perez and which allegation is more likely to sway the voters, "nepotism" or "carpet bagging"

posted 5/24/01

Campaign Update:

According to the Board of Elections, Democratic candidate Yolanda Martin and Liberal Party candidate Urpiano Rafael Dominguez did not have enough signatures to appear on the ballot. So now there are eight candidates running in district 37 (six Democrats, one Independence candidate, and one Conservative candidate).

On August 15, the candidates were invited to a forum at the YMCA on Jamaica Avenue. (Candidates Heriberto Mateo and Germania Taveras did not attend.) The candidates were asked how they would respond to community concerns, such as school overcrowding, graffiti on neighborhood buildings, and the lack of affordable housing.

"If you are elected to the City Council, what will you do to insure that our neighborhood receives more funding for school construction," asked Alana Robinson, from the organization Cypress Hills Advocates for Education.

Overall, the candidates had similar responses, saying they would use the office to fight for neighborhood schools, but each also added his or her own take on the problem.

"My intention, if I get elected to City Council, is to work with federal, state, and city elected officials to bring in money to this community," said Miguel Alonso. "Being a former teacher has shown me the condition of our schools, and we definitely need funding to rebuild, renovate, and construct new schools in our district."

"As a representative in City Council, I will make sure that our community is represented fairly;" said Louis Hernandez, "and since I am working now with two state senators -- Olga Mendez and Nellie Santiago -- and others to make sure we get our fair share of construction, I will also make sure that we get our fair share of smaller class size."

"I can assure you that I will march with you in front of the Board of Education and I will scream loudly in front of city hall to make sure we get the funding necessary to make sure our kids get a proper education," said Ricky Perez. "And that's non-negotiable."

Erik Martin Dilan said he would target the School Construction Authority. "As your next City Councilman, the first thing I will do is call for the abolishment of the School Construction authority, which is infamous for its overruns and mismanagement in fiscal areas when it comes to building schools," said Dilan.

Candidate Michelle Romero advocated community involvement as a way to improve the quality of local education. "We should work together with the community-based organizations and take the essential solutions that we have found with those organizations in this district, and in New York City, to improve the quality for our children in their education," said Romero.

Candidate Luis Booth said he would raise private funds for schools. "My approach is, if we cannot get money through some kind of state funding, perhaps we can get some kind of private funding from foundations or venture capitalists to help with our seat shortage," said Booth.

After the event, current City Councilmember Martin Malave-Dilan played down the notion that there is a feud between the Dilans and Congressman Edolphus Towns and his son, Assemblyman Darryl Towns, who have both endorsed his son's opponent, Ricky Perez.

"The Towns and I like each other just fine," said Malave-Dilan. "Darryl was sitting near me tonight and we shook hands. There is no feud."

The two candidates are splitting the endorsements from rival camps within the Brooklyn Democratic organizations. Perez has also been endorsed by Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, Bronx Borough President and mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer, and State Assemblywoman Diane Gordon. Erik Martin Dilan has been endorsed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez and DC 37, the largest municipal labor union in the city.

Candidate Biographies

Miguel Alonso is a former teacher and now works as a corporate trainer.

Luis Booth came to the United States as an exchange student from Guatemala in the late 1960s. He holds a master's degree in industrial administration.

Erik Martin Dilan works as a manager in an office equipment company. He is a member of school board 32, where he serves as the chairperson of the African American Heritage Committee. Dilan was born and raised in the district and graduated from Norman Thomas High School. He graduated from St. John's University with a major in business administration and currently lives in Bushwick.

Urpiano Rafael Dominguez (no information available)

Louis Hernandez is the associate chief of staff to the mayor. He began his career in city government by working for the Department of Transportation. Hernandez was born in Brooklyn, went to Abraham Lincoln High School, and attended John Jay College. He has lived in Cypress Hills for eighteen years.

Yolanda J. Martin (no information available)

Heriberto Mateo is the director of the city's Human Rights Commission and president of school board 19.

Ricky Perez is community affairs officer in the 75th police precinct. He works closely with two community centers in his district, the Police and Community Together Center and the East New York Community Anti-crime Project. Perez moved into district 37 last year, and has worked in the district for 13 years.

Michelle Romero has been a legislative assistant to State Assemblyman William Boyland since 1987. She was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Clara Barton High School. Romero attended a trade school for computer technology in Manhattan. She lives in East New York.

Germania Taveras (no information available)

Campaign Trail

City Council district 37 in Brooklyn has a five-way race for the Democratic primary. But much of the focus of the campaign is on candidates Erik Malave-Dilan and Ricky Perez, and a feud between the two men who back them. Another candidate in the five-way primary race, Michelle Romero, is a legislative assistant to State Assemblyman William Boyland. She also hopes to bring close ties with Albany to the service of the district, with an eye toward securing state money to foster small-business development. Economic revitalization is on the mind of candidate Miguel Alonso as well, but he plans to use the connections he developed on Wall Street to make the case to the private sector for investing in the depressed area. Education is near the top of the agenda for most of the candidates, especially Heriberto Mateo, president of Community School Board 19, which splits the district with District 32.. (Daily News)

Ask the five candidates about district 37 and you get five different answers. Perez, Malave-Dilan, Alonso, Mateo, and Romero give their views of the district and why each thinks he or she is the best candidate. (NY1)

A 50-acre piece of land in East New York will soon be developed into the Gateway Center shopping mall bring much needed business to the area. The mall, which will open in 2002, is expected to be the largest suburban-style shopping centers in New York City. It should draw customers from both central and southern Brooklyn, possibly as far south as Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, as well as from parts of Queens, like Ridgewood and Ozone Park. (New York Times)

The five candidates for City Council see East New York and Bushwick differently. One of them, Ricky Perez, has only lived in the district for a year, but he worked there for thirteen years as a police detective in the notoriously high-crime 75th Precinct (NY-1)

A look at the potential for family dynasties in this year's Council races. Are the family members of current politicians born leaders or seat warmers? (Gotham Gazette)

The names of some term limited Councilmembers will still appear on the ballot this year. That is because their family members are running. Erik Malave-Dilan, the 27-year-old son of Martin Malave-Dilan, joins the family affair. (Daily News)



Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Board of Elections
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New York, NY

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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