A Son of New York

I had a pretty hard time figuring out who I was as a kid. My parents came from very different types of families: my Mom came from a working class Irish Catholic family from Queens, having grown up in a two-bedroom apartment with her parents and five siblings in Woodside. She was a voracious reader, and curious, and was the only member of her family to graduate from college, ultimately getting a degree from SUNY Binghamton after doing a stint at City College — state schools, of course, being the only ones that she could afford.

She graduated in the late seventies and later moved to Taos, New Mexico (she had lived on an Indian reservation just before college, and loved it, at the time the furthest thing from New York her imagination could conjure), in search of a quieter, slower, greener life, very much in the spirit of the 1960s.

Though to this day she is, and will continue to be, a New Yorker. Those who are also New Yorkers will know exactly what I’m talking about — that voice, that attitude, that vibrancy. I am reminded of the movie director Stanley Kubrick, who spent the entirety of his filmmaking years in the English countryside but still insisted on having the New York Times delivered to his doorstep every morning. An ocean away, maybe, but he never did quite leave.

It was in New Mexico where my Mom met my Dad, eleven years older and from a wholly different type of experience. Whereas my mom was the first person in her family to go to college, my Dad came from a family where everyone went to college. He had gone to Yale, the school where his dad had gone, but soon dropped out (college just didn’t feel like the right place for him) and, like my Mom, sought a new type of living, one that was different but one too that was quintessentially American — freewheeling, populist, and very rooted in a belief in a society that works for everyone.

These populist beliefs were not wholly foreign to my Dad either. Although born in DC and raised in France and Pittsburgh, he had also descended from a uniquely New York experience. His great grandpa, Frederick Delano, had been the uncle of New York’s most famous and, perhaps, greatest civil servant: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When my dad was born in 1944, an ailing FDR sent my grandma and grandpa a letter of congratulations.

It was a tie that had impacted my Dad’s family in a very real way, and, as a kid who grew up sixty miles south of Hyde Park on the Hudson River, it impacted me as well.

Still, I had a hard time reconciling those two very different family histories — one immigrant and struggling, the other privileged and proud of its legacy in the advancing of American liberalism — and unsure what type of person those experiences made me. I sought that answer out every way I could — I played football, I acted, I listened to all types of music, I made friends from working class families, from urban families, with liberals and conservatives — as a way to maximize my options, my routes toward a more known, hashed-out identity.

It made for a searching, hopeful, but restless childhood, exhilarating given the scope and vibrancy but hard given the lack of place and uncertainty.

But it was why New York was so important to me. For nowhere else in the world would have offered me quite the panorama of life. It was home, like me, to those who found their identities challenged, abetted and changed everyday; to those who were willing to enter into conflict (“hey a**hole!” one hears their cab driver yell at belligerent oncoming traffic) with the faith that maybe, just maybe, meaning, love and life itself were waiting at the other end of the tunnel.

It is in that spirit — the spirit of striving to make it, the spirit that says here, in New York, is where I choose to live life in its entirety — that I hope to serve the working people of District 18. We all come from different places. But what we share here is a similar kind of life and a similar vision, I think, for the community we want to see, one where our public transport works, where we can live in the comfort of our own homes without the fear of an angry landlord or an aggressive developer coming into the neighborhood, where we can rely on our kids getting a meaningful — and well-funded — public education, where our healthcare is public, reliable and guaranteed, where we don’t have to live in fear of the cops, and where we can live in confidence, and with a potent sense, that our state government is working for us.

And it is in realizing this change where I will be the state senator that you need, uniting the various communities of housing, environmental, transportation, education and social justice activists much like I have been for the past few months, and uniting voters around that which we share much like I’ve spent my life doing.

Together, we can bring that energy we all share — that urge we have for a better community, a better country, a better world — to Albany.

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