Real estate interests and major unions are investing to ensure the reelection of state Assemblymember Erik Dilan, who is facing a primary challenge from a progressive much like the one that defeated his father four years ago.

The younger Dilan, who represents parts of Bushwick and Cypress Hills, has been a target for tenant advocates over his failure to support the “Good Cause” anti-eviction bill

He has outraised his opponent, Samy Nemir Olivares, who has largely relied on small donors. 

Dilan’s campaign finance records filed with the state Board of Elections show that among his major backers are the PAC of the New York State Association of Realtors, which gave $4,500, and several real estate investors, as well as major construction unions.

Dilan is also benefiting from more than $30,000 spent by Common Sense New Yorkers, an independent expenditure committee, which invested in field staff to support Dilan’s campaign and blanketed the district with literature attacking his progressive, primary opponent.

The mailers — part of a citywide blitz against progressive candidates — accuse Nemir Olivares of pushing to cut “entire police units” and allying with socialists who “threaten public safety.” Nemir Olivares is running with the backing of the Democratic Socialists for America, the Working Families Party and other aligned groups.

A real-estate funded PAC has funded mailers attacking Nemir-Olivares and other progressive assembly candidates.

Campaign finance records show the PAC’s money came in earlier this month from two real estate-related entities, 360 SLD Management Co. LLC, associated with the construction firm Cappelli Organization, and Muss Development LLC, a Queens-based firm that’s long been a fixture on New York’s development scene.

Combined, the two companies gave $80K to the PAC in support of centrist Democrats.

A First in Albany

Nemir Olivares, a Puerto Rican-born immigration rights and mutual aid activist, has run on an unabashedly progressive platform, calling for expanding legal protections for low-wage service workers and market-rate tenants, including championing the Good Cause bill that Dilan opposes. The insurgent also wants to increase state funds for precarious classes of residents, including undocumented and trans New Yorkers.  

If elected, Nemir Olivares, who currently serves as the Democratic Party’s elected district leader in Bushwick, would be the first publicly genderqueer lawmaker in Albany.

“Big businesses and the real estate industry see the movement that we’re building and want to stop it because they know we will fight for housing justice, tenants’ protections and [to] keep rents from going higher,” said Nemir Olivares. “So they’re investing in the incumbent thousands of dollars to try and keep this movement from winning.”

Dilan’s campaign did not respond to voicemails, text messages and emails seeking comment.

As City Limits previously reported, as of last week, Nemir Olivares’s campaign had raised $151,000, about $90,000 less than Dilan’s. Over the last two years, Board of Elections records show two committees in Nemir Olivares’ name had an average contribution of just under $50, far less than the $873 average for the incumbent’s campaign committee.

Independent expenditure records show that a PAC affiliated with the Working Families Party has also boosted the insurgent’s campaign, contributing nearly $20,000 in mail expenditures.

A Relentless Fighter?

For years, Dilan, a former City Council member and the son of former state Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, has faced criticism and protests from tenants and immigrants rights’ groups for his refusal to back their legislative priorities.

In 2020, activists with the immigrant rights’ group Make The Road chased him through a hallway asking him to support “Good Cause,” a bill that seeks to block landlords from evicting market-rate tenants unless they had committed lease violations like missing rental payments.

During this year’s legislative session in March, members of Make The Road and Housing Justice For All, two groups stormed into the Assembly member’s Albany office to protest his failure to back the sweeping proposal.

“Erik Dilan has been an opponent of Good Cause since the minute it was introduced,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice For All. “We’ve tried to meet with him on this bill for four years and we still have never been able to get a meeting.”

On his campaign website, Dilan presents himself as “a relentless fighter who is unafraid to stand up to powerful lobbies and do what is right for the 54th Assembly district, New York City and New York State.”

His campaign notes he is running on building more low-income housing and reducing gun violence. Since his entry into the state Assembly in 2015, he has introduced bills aimed at protecting homeowners from tax liens and helping senior citizens access supportive housing.

In addition to support from corporate interests, Dilan also received several major contributions and endorsements from powerful unions, including AFSCME, one of New York’s government employees’ unions, and the Hotel Trades Council, which represents hospitality and gaming industry workers.

According to a recent community district needs report from Bushwick, housing affordability is one of the neighborhood’s most pressing issues with rising rents putting pressure on tenants, who make up the vast majority of the district, as City Limits recently reported

Between 2010 and 2020, the white, non-Hispanic slice of population in the community district that covers Bushwick increased by 14% while the area’s largely working-class, “Hispanic/Latino” population fell by the same percentage.

In 2018, Dilan’s father, State Senator Martin Malave Dilan lost his primary re-election bid to Julia Salazar, one of first Democratic Socialists of America members to break into Albany. 

In this cycle, Salazar is backing Nemir Olivares, who has also scored endorsements from congressional Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez.