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NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

How Julia Salazar Is Trying to Become the Next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

On a recent sticky Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg, a group of volunteer canvassers for Democratic state senate challenger Julia Salazar discussed door-knocking strategy. With all the publicity around the June congressional primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — like Salazar, a young avowed Democratic Socialist — would it be prudent to warm up potential voters with an anecdote about Ocasio-Cortez’s establishment-quaking defeat of Queens machine incumbent Joe Crowley?

“If you see a New York Times, yeah, go for it,” advised canvass organizer Wess Higgins. “Yesterday I was at this loft in East Williamsburg. I saw a Times and some guitars on the wall. I mentioned her and the couple was like, ‘Oh, you mean AOC?’ and then they invited me in for pineapple juice.”

Salazar’s team understands the significance of the Ocasio-Cortez signal boost. Both candidates are working-class women in working-class districts eschewing corporate donations and demanding Medicare for All and the abolition of ICE. Martin Malavé Dilan, the incumbent in Salazar’s race for the 18th District state senate seat, is, like Crowley, seen as a machine relic, for his longtime alliance with the late Brooklyn political boss Vito Lopez. Both women consider themselves community organizers first and foremost, and have pledged deference to their voters. (During a primary debate, Ocasio-Cortez refused to commit to endorsing Crowley in the general election, saying, “I would be happy to take that question to our movement for a vote.”) Ocasio-Cortez joined the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America when seeking their endorsement; though the Daily News recently found that 27-year-old Salazar was a registered Republican in her teens, she has been rank-and-file DSA for two years, focusing on police reform.

Julia Salazar at a fundraiser in Boerum Hill on July 17. The state senate candidate has brought in more than double the donations of incumbent Martin Malavé Dilan so far.

Before Ocasio-Cortez’s win, none of this was the stuff of national headlines. When Salazar endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in June, her field manager Isabel Anreus recalls, it was inside a mostly empty quinceañera hall in the Bronx, before a crowd of “only about a dozen folks.” In the week after Crowley’s loss, though, Salazar received more than $15,000 in individual donations, boosting her war chest by a third in a single week. According to Higgins, the canvass organizer, “A typical Saturday before the AOC victory I’d have about five or six people [canvassing]. Then the Saturday after her victory we had fifty people. It was mostly people who felt like they had missed their shot.”

Anreus says she’s sent out more than 2,000 volunteers, 500 of whom have picked up multiple canvassing shifts. She coaches each volunteer to secure three “yes” votes — if they’re successful, that would be more than the number of votes Dilan collected last election, the second of his two narrow primary victories over Debbie Medina, another socialist and community activist.

“There are these media moments and narratives about who has momentum,” says Michael Kinnucan, Salazar’s deputy campaign manager. “But if you’re running a campaign, there’s nothing but talking to voters. Everything is around talking to voters. You get some more donations? That’s great. You can pour it into talking to more voters.”

***

Shortly after her primary victory, Ocasio-Cortez broke down her strategy on the Jacobin magazine podcast The Dig. Early on, she explained, she met with small groups of potential supporters at their apartments.

“I would take the train to that person’s living room, and I would talk to people ten at a time for eight months,” she said. Many of these people eventually became committed volunteers for her campaign. While Crowley shelled out for expensive mailers and television spots, Ocasio-Cortez focused on door-knocking and social media, with its cheaper, more precise viewership metrics.

A dozen of Ocasio-Cortez’s paid canvassers, all Latina college students, came directly over to Salazar’s team after the congressional primary win in June. (A 2012 lawsuit compelled New York to move its federal primary to June; New York’s Republican-led senate blocked efforts to move the state primary into alignment.) “I heard about [Ocasio-Cortez] from my college friend and thought her ideas were good for the district,” explained 21-year-old Rael. “It really did inspire me to join Salazar’s campaign.”

Over a few shifts in July, Salazar canvassers swapped strategies for how to get into large apartment buildings: ring multiple buzzers until someone responds, or hang around outside until someone opens the door and then slip through. Once inside, use a trilly, musical knock, “so you don’t sound like a cop”; when someone comes to the door, ask them what issues matter most to them, and listen. Never cross your arms. Spanish speakers should buddy up with non-Spanish speakers.

Salazar is also following the Ocasio-Cortez playbook when it comes to fundraising, refusing to accept corporate donations. Her goal is $150,000, $118,415.43 of which had been raised by mid-July. Kinnucan recently wrote about Ocasio-Cortez’s victory for Jacobin, extolling how much a campaign can do with “your first $100,000.”

“You need things like campaign lit, and a couple of staff organizers who can make sure that the volunteers are trained and know where to go,” Kinnucan tells the Voice. “So the first $100,000 is absolutely essential, and the second $100,000 is really, really helpful.”

Small, informal house parties have been a major source of funding for Salazar. She attends, gives a brief stump speech, and answers questions. The campaign doesn’t have to pay to rent out a venue. A recent house party in Boerum Hill drew dozens of young New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties, only one of whom lives in the 18th District, which includes parts of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Cypress Hills. The event brought in at least $2,500, according to hosts Matt Karp and Katherine Hill, who met Salazar through DSA.

Karp and Hill said their friends are excited about Salazar as just one of several progressive senate challengers, many of whom are hoping to unseat centrist Democrats who for years caucused with Republicans as part of the recently dissolved Independent Democratic Conference. “I know she’s keen on representing north Brooklyn, but the fact is she’s going to be involved in a chamber that does a lot of statewide stuff,” Karp told the Voice. “I feel very invested in the race.”

Standing by the fruit and cheese platters, Salazar assured the Boerum Hill crowd that “I am very proud to be part of this blue wave of challengers to senators who have betrayed their constituents.”

Introverted by nature, she drew laughs from the guests excited to support an outsider candidate. When friends urged Salazar to run earlier this year, she recalled wryly, “I said no. Hard no. Hard no. But I was sold on the race. We need a community leader who can finally bring the voices of Brooklynites to Albany.”

***

The Salazar campaign’s door-knocking is currently focused on Bushwick, where the candidate lives, and Williamsburg. Canvassing in Cypress Hills, which has a higher concentration of likely Dilan voters, will ramp up in the early fall. “Our goal is by first week of September we’re talking to pro-Dilan people, and people who don’t know about socialism,” says Anreus.

Salazar’s team has identified roughly 800 DSA members who live in, or directly adjacent to, the district. But canvassers are not coached to talk about socialism explicitly. In Williamsburg last month, lead canvasser Julian Graham, a DSA member, offered a possible talking point. “She’s the only one not taking money from corporations or landlords,” he said. “She’s fighting for affordable housing.” He then ticked off campaign priorities: “We all need access to healthcare. We all need stronger rent laws. We all want to end these insane and evil policies like cash bail.”

Especially in neighborhoods ravaged by gentrification, there seems to be real interest in Salazar’s affordable housing platform, which calls for lease renewal guarantees for all tenants and statewide controls on how much landlords can increase rents. “Whether people want to use the ‘s’ word or not,” Kinnucan tells the Voice, “there seems to be a real movement for decommodifying housing.”

Dilan has in recent years supported pro-tenant legislation, though Salazar often points out that he voted in favor of vacancy decontrol while on the City Council in 1994, helping secure a major tool for tenant displacement. “Every inch of this district is affected by the affordable housing crisis,” Salazar told me this spring. “Dilan has had a lot of time, over fifteen years, to correct his course.”

Graham Parker, a spokesperson for Dilan, tells the Voice that Salazar’s priorities are “identical” to his: “The senator has a clear record on his support for unions, women’s rights, and healthcare access.” And now that the IDC has dissolved, Parker says, Dilan is “looking forward to having a [senate Democratic] majority where he can start delivering on these progressive issues.”

DSA, Parker adds, is an organization with “a national message” swooping into Dilan’s district, and that Salazar’s identification as a Democratic Socialist is an opportunistic effort to capitalize on a trend: “It has to do more with an opportunity than a policy.”

Parker declined to discuss Dilan’s campaign strategy with the Voice, but on July 26 Dilan filed a lawsuit seeking to strike Salazar from the ballot on the grounds that she hasn’t lived in New York for five straight years as required, a move her campaign dismissed as “frivolous” and “aimed at political insiders and the press.” As of this writing, Dilan has raised just over half as much as Salazar in contributions.

Anreus, Salazar’s field manager and herself a DSA veteran, remembers attending a Young Democratic Socialists of America conference in 2010 and being the only Latina. At 28, she’s just a year older than Salazar. Last month she sounded proud, addressing a packed room of north Brooklyn DSA members. “This is about building a real socialist movement that continues after September 13,” Anreus said. “I’ve been a DSA member for a long time. Ten years. But this is the most exciting it’s been.”

Categories
Housing THE FRONT ARCHIVES

If Your Rent Is Too Damn High, Blame Anthony Weiner

Twenty-five years ago, it was unthinkable that New Yorkers would routinely pay $3,000 a month for an apartment, except maybe for a penthouse on the Upper East Side. At the time, the city still had more than 200,000 rent-stabilized apartments that rented for less than $400 a month. But on March 21, 1994, the City Council cast a vote that would begin to bring that era to an end: By a 28-18 margin, it approved a bill that let landlords take vacant apartments out of rent stabilization if their monthly rents were at least $2,000.

The council debate, which lasted less than ninety minutes, was contentious. The bill’s supporters claimed it would affect only a few wealthy people in Manhattan who didn’t deserve such a “subsidy.” Opponents argued it would fatally erode rent regulations and the tenant protections that come with them.

“The real death knell of rent stabilization is going to be the decontrol of any rent that reaches $2,000 at any time, which is what this bill does,” said Lower Manhattan councilmember Kathryn Freed. Upper West Side councilmember Ronnie Eldridge said that while $2,000 might seem like a lot at the time, soon enough middle-class apartments renting in the $1,200 to $1,400 range — where “two working professional people live with children” — would reach that threshold as well. Upper Manhattan councilmember Stanley Michels warned that it would create “a great incentive for owners to encourage vacancy” and that the unscrupulous ones would do that “by engaging in harassment.”

But Antonio Pagán, a Democrat who memorably fought on behalf of developers in his East Village district, responded that regulation of high-rent apartments was “a subsidy for people making a quarter of a million dollars a year.” John Fusco of Staten Island, one of the six Republicans then on the council, said complaints that “this is the beginning of the destruction of rent control” were “an insult to this council.” Housing Committee chair Archie Spigner of Queens noted that the average apartment in the city was under $600, and “the likelihood that it will be raised to $2,000, I think, is rather remote.”

The result was, as the bill’s critics feared, a hemorrhaging of rent-regulated apartments. The city’s Rent Guidelines Board estimated last year that New York lost more than 152,000 rent-stabilized apartments to high-rent deregulation between 1994 and 2016, peaking in 2009. Adding in co-op conversions and other means of getting apartments off the rolls, more than 284,000 apartments were legally deregulated during those years, more than double the number of units that were added via new affordable housing programs.

Those numbers don’t include apartments that were illegally deregulated. As landlords are not required to report destabilizations, “the true rate of deregulation is certainly much higher,” the Community Service Society wrote in a 2011 report. It estimated that by 2008, the city had lost more than 450,000 affordable apartments primarily because of “vacancy destabilization and excessive rent increases.”

“People assume it was the Republicans in Albany who did it, but it was Peter Vallone and the Democrats in the City Council,” says Michael McKee, one of the tenant-organization leaders who lobbied against the 1994 bill.

***

The 1994 high-rent vacancy decontrol law was the first major crack in the rent-stabilization system set up in 1974. Rent stabilization had been superimposed on the city’s older rent-control system after another vacancy-decontrol law, passed by the state in 1971, led to almost 400,000 rent-controlled apartments being deregulated within three years, with their rents increasing by more than 50 percent on average. And those rent increases failed to stop owners from abandoning thousands of buildings.

The real estate lobby and the city’s political establishment began pressing to again weaken rent stabilization in the early Nineties. In 1993, the state had deregulated vacant apartments renting for $2,000 or more, but only if they were vacant during a window of less than three months that summer. The bill the council passed would apply at any point in the future.

In today’s political climate, it would be unimaginable for an overwhelmingly Democratic City Council to vote to drastically weaken rent regulations. In 1994, however, the speaker was Vallone, a machine Democrat from Astoria who had close ties to the real estate industry. Joseph Strasburg, Vallone’s former chief of staff, had just become head of the Rent Stabilization Association landlord-advocacy group. Spigner, who during the debate on the bill claimed that fifty years of rent control had caused “vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and foreclosures,” and that rent regulations were a disincentive for people to invest in or maintain buildings, represented a mostly black homeowner area in southeast Queens. In 2000, City Limits would call him one of the councilmembers who were “sure friends of landlords.”

Antonio Pagán, the only Manhattan member to vote for deregulation, had been elected on a backlash against homeless people in the East Village, and was backed by landlords and developers in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood. The Republicans who argued for the bill were ideologically opposed to rent regulations.

Outer-borough councilmembers provided the margin of victory. Of the twenty-four Democrats who voted for the bill, eleven came from Brooklyn, seven from Queens, and five from the Bronx. The four Republicans from Queens and Staten Island voted “yes,” while the two from Manhattan voted “no.”

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“My interpretation was that it was not going to impact my district,” Martin Malavé Dilan, now a state senator, tells the Voice. Malavé Dilan at the time was a councilmember representing Bushwick and Cypress Hills, where rents averaged $400 to $500 a month; he says he saw the measure as solely affecting Manhattanites who were “taking advantage of rent-control laws that were intended to protect lower-income people.”

“I thought it would provide greater access,” adds former Brooklyn councilmember Una Clarke, who also voted for the bill. She did not elaborate.

Democratic councilmember Lucy Cruz of the Bronx said just before she voted “aye” in 1994 that she had “been assured, as my colleagues have been, that there are extensive protections.”

“Rent regulation is a complicated issue, and a lot of councilmembers didn’t bother to educate themselves about it,” says Jenny Laurie, former executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, who lobbied against the bill. “They were easy votes for the leadership.”

One of the few who “totally got it,” says McKee, was Anthony Weiner of southern Brooklyn. “Unlike most councilmembers, who had no clue, he understood that this would erode tenant protections.” The future sext maniac, he adds, voted for the bill after twice promising tenant groups that he would vote “no.”

The landlord lobby was very effective at framing the issue as about rich people living in rent-stabilized apartments, says Laurie. The Wall Street Journal in 1994 singled out actress Mia Farrow, who was paying about $2,900 a month to rent the ten-room rent-controlled apartment on Central Park West she had grown up in; the paper also cited an investor paying $350 for a two-bedroom apartment with a solarium on Park Avenue.

The law contained a separate provision called “luxury decontrol,” which more directly affected affluent renters, by allowing landlords to deregulate occupied apartments if the tenant was paying more than $2,000 a month and earned more than $250,000 a year. Although the state lowered that income threshold to $175,000 in 1997, only about 6,200 apartments have been taken out of rent regulation since 1994 under it, according to the Rent Guidelines Board.

“It was a fake issue, but it was effective rhetoric,” says Laurie. In reality, according to the 1993 federal Housing and Vacancy Survey, half of the 212,000 rent-stabilized tenants who were paying less than $400 had incomes below $10,000 a year, and less than 0.1 percent made over $100,000.

***

The key to the passage of the 1994 law, some councilmembers at the time argue, was Strasburg, the council insider turned landlord lobbyist. “The guy who really made it happen was Joe Strasburg,” says former Bay Ridge councilmember Sal Albanese, who voted against the bill. “Strasburg was a visionary. He knew the city was beginning to gentrify, and apartments were going to reach that threshold.”

“Politics is about relationships,” says Tom Duane, who then represented the Chelsea–Greenwich Village district, and Strasburg had good relationships with councilmembers. Albanese adds that Strasburg was very good at finding people in black and Latino communities friendly to big real estate.

A few days before the vote, McKee recalls, the bill lacked the 26 “yes” votes it needed to pass. Speaker Vallone had a reputation for twisting arms. “If you voted against a bill that was considered a ‘leadership vote,’ you’d lose your committees,” says Albanese.

Others disagree with that assessment. There was no “iron-thumb leadership,” says former Brooklyn councilmember Stephen DiBrienza, who voted “no.” You could go against the leadership, he explains, as long as you gave a good reason and didn’t surprise them.

In any event, the council’s 1994 vote would have been less momentous if not for what it inspired 150 miles to the north and three years later. In 1997, the state decontrolled vacant apartments renting for $2,000 or more, after a three-way wrestle among Albany’s “three men in a room.” With the state’s rent-stabilization laws expiring that June, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno threatened to use his control of the chamber’s Republican majority to completely block renewing them. Governor George Pataki took the more “moderate” path of wanting to weaken them, such as through complete vacancy decontrol. A few days after the deadline, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agreed to major concessions, including vacancy decontrol, allowing a 20 percent rent increase on vacant apartments, and creating what was effectively a four-year statute of limitations on tenants’ claims that their rents had been illegally increased.

“If the council had not passed this, it may not have passed in Albany,” says Albanese. Worse yet, the 1997 state law made it impossible for the city ever to repeal its own 1994 law: A provision in the 1971 vacancy-decontrol law, commonly called the “Urstadt law,” prohibits cities with over 1 million people from enacting rent regulations stronger than the state’s. “But they can pass weaker laws,” notes Duane.

All attempts to strengthen rent regulations since then have had to go through Albany. Tenant groups gradually moved toward a strategy of trying to defeat all senate Republicans, on the grounds that even the few moderates who supported rent regulations would still vote to put the GOP leadership in control of what bills got to the floor.

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In 2008, on Barack Obama’s coattails, Democrats won a majority in the state senate for the first time since 1964. The next year, the assembly passed a bill to repeal vacancy decontrol. But the day before the Senate Housing Committee was scheduled to send it to the floor, Democratic state senator Pedro Espada, from the Bronx, switched to the Republicans, ending the Democrats’ one-seat majority. Since then, whether at the ballot box (in 2010) or via the splitting off of the Independent Democratic Conference to caucus with Republicans (starting in 2012), the senate has remained in GOP control. In the years since, the assembly has regularly passed bills to repeal vacancy decontrol and otherwise strengthen rent regulations, but none have ever made it out of committee in the senate.

The renewal of rent stabilization in 2015 raised the decontrol threshold to $2,700, adjustable for inflation; it also clarified that for apartments to be decontrolled, the previous tenant had to be paying that much before they moved out, so landlords could no longer legally deregulate them solely via hikes in legal rents following renovations and vacancy increases. (On April 26, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that that principle didn’t apply to apartments deregulated before 2015, reversing a lower-court decision that could have re-regulated up to 100,000 apartments.)

***

Today, the threshold for vacancy decontrol is $2,733.75 a month, and there are deregulated apartments far beyond Manhattan and the brownstones of Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. One real estate site advertises more than eighty two-bedroom apartments that cost more than $2,740 in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Deregulated apartments can also be found in five-story walkups in Harlem and Washington Heights and 1950s-vintage buildings on Queens Boulevard. And as Duane points out, renters in deregulated apartments not only face higher rents, but they have no right to renew their leases — unlike rent-stabilized tenants, who can only be evicted for cause. That means they risk losing their homes if they complain to landlords about poor conditions.

Meanwhile, the 1994 law’s selling point that New Yorkers would never pay more than $2,000 a month to live in the outer boroughs has become ancient history. In Mott Haven — the city’s third-poorest neighborhood in 2016, with a median household income of $2,276 a month apartments in a new luxury building are now being offered for around $2,900 to $3,500. 

“Boy, were we right,” says Kathryn Freed, now a Civil Court judge.

“Looking back, it’s definitely had a negative effect on affordable rents,” says Malavé Dilan, who has co-sponsored unsuccessful attempts to repeal the state vacancy-decontrol law. “If I were clairvoyant, I would have perhaps voted ‘no.’ ”

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Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

Council Priorities

Not that anyone expected new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to throw perks or plums to those who opposed her, but the list of committee appointments she unveiled last week contained some mind-boggling names and omissions. This was Quinn’s maiden voyage as the new leader of the 51-member council, and her picks represented both an indication of her priorities as well as a distribution of spoils among the members and Democratic county leaders who endorsed her. As such, the list revealed Quinn as more the steely-eyed Irish pol who whipped six challengers for her post than the former housing activist who once wrestled with City Hall bureaucrats.

For starters, there was the appointment of newly elected Queens councilmember Thomas White Jr. as the new chairman of the Economic Development Committee. The post brings a lulu of $10,000 that is added to his $90,000 base salary. It also positions him to garner campaign donations from all those with business before the panel. White is the first former councilmember to return to the body since term limits—which Quinn has vowed to revisit—were imposed in 1993. But before those rules forced him out of office, White had become a one-man walking argument for why many thought term limits were a good idea in the first place. Back in 1995, White had the council’s worst attendance record, missing half of all his committee meetings. He never even held a session of his subcommittee on alcoholism and substance abuse. By 2001, his last year in the council, he was still missing 40 percent of committee sessions. Worse, as Newsday‘s William Murphy revealed last summer, three top officials of J-Cap, the drug treatment program White heads in Jamaica, Queens, were nailed on federal charges of shaking down vendors. White was never accused of a crime, but a Department of Investigation report obtained by Murphy said he’d also failed to intervene in staff wrongdoing. “For many years, White managed this organization while the criminal activities continued unabated,” the DOI report stated.

That’s the résumé of the man Quinn chose to head a committee that is supposed to oversee the city’s economic development operations. Ideally, the head of such a panel could use its powers to bird-dog such Bloomberg administration deals as the one that seeks to evict several hundred employees from the Bronx Terminal Market in favor of a big-box-store retail center to be built by a close friend and former business partner of the current deputy mayor for, yes, economic development. Or it could look into the administration’s curious approach to promoting economic development in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where several hundred more workers are facing eviction from the city’s piers next year, without any backup plan to relocate either employees or freight customers elsewhere on the Brooklyn waterfront.

White didn’t return a call to inquire about his agenda. A secretary at his agency, J-Cap, said rules there forbid anyone taking a message related to “politics.”

In picking White, Quinn had to dump the panel’s former chairman, James Sanders Jr., another Queens councilman. Elected in 2001, Sanders hadn’t exactly distinguished himself either, providing lackluster leadership on issues and embarrassing the Speaker’s office. After marrying his chief of staff last summer, he ignored council nepotism rules that bar wives from council payrolls, vowing to fight an order to fire her. But his greater sin appears to have been angering Quinn’s key political backer, Queens Democratic boss Tom Manton, who backed a losing candidate against Sanders last fall.

On Wednesday, as the committee assignments were being put to a full council vote, Sanders stood in the chambers to denounce his ouster. “Were we in a meritocracy, I would still be chair of my committee,” he said. “Sadly, forces outside this room have more power than they deserve and they have exacted their pound of flesh.” Sanders’s tough talk faded as soon as the session ended and reporters pressed him to name names. “They know who they are,” he said coyly.

Quinn has already taken a public shellacking, albeit mostly on blogs, for designating Brooklyn’s Erik Martin Dilan to head the influential Housing and Buildings Committee. Dilan inherited his seat from his father, State Senator Martin Malave Dilan, who was also term-limited out of office. Both men are loyal soldiers of new Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez, whose endorsement of Quinn put her over the top in her search for votes. A longtime state assemblyman from Bushwick and Williamsburg, Lopez also heads the assembly’s housing committee, so the designation of his protégé to run the council’s housing panel gives him unprecedented clout over city programs and policies. But the younger Dilan’s most noteworthy housing experience was his obstinate refusal—until the final vote in the council—to sign on to tough new lead-paint-removal requirements forged in the council’s last session. Dilan’s hesitancy stood out because his Bushwick and Ocean Hill district constitutes a large portion of what’s been dubbed the “lead belt,” with the city’s highest concentration of cases. Tenant activists repeatedly marched in protest on Dilan’s borough offices and publicized his ample contributions from the real estate industry.

Landlord lobbyists rarely get everything they want from the council these days—witness the lead paint bill and last year’s Tenant Empowerment Act. But they’ve managed under every council leader to hold on to the right to approve the head of the housing committee. Former Speaker Gifford Miller handed the post to conservative Democrat Madeline Provenzano, whose Bronx district held comparatively few rental units, making her less vulnerable to tenant pressures. Before that, southeast Queens councilman Archie Spigner, who marched in lockstep with Democratic Party orders and whose district was largely composed of homeowners, presided for years over the panel.

Asked earlier this month about Dilan’s much rumored appointment, Quinn insisted to both the press and tenant lobbyists that nothing was decided. But when his nomination was released on Wednesday, it was accompanied by wholesale changes. Gone from the committee were a trio of stalwart pro-tenant councilmembers, Manhattan’s Gail Brewer, Brooklyn’s Letitia James, and Queens’s Melinda Katz. In their place were two of the council’s three Republicans, and the ubiquitous White. The lone bright spot for tenants was the appointment of newly elected councilmember Rosie Mendez from Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Another head-scratcher by Quinn was the designation of Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder as head of the Governmental Operations Committee. Under its former chair, Bill Perkins of Harlem, the committee took on everyone from the police commissioner, over civil liberties violations, to the mayor, over diversity in hiring. Those are unlikely targets for Felder, whose Borough Park district is so conservative that he took a bathroom break rather than cast a public ballot for Quinn, whose lesbian status might offend his heavily Orthodox Jewish constituents.

The committee also oversees the public campaign finance board, which has long asked the council to address the nettlesome issue of whether candidates facing nominal opposition should be allowed to receive public matching funds. Those insisting they needed the public’s dime to aid their re- election this past year ranged from Brooklyn radical Charles Barron (re-elected with 89 percent of the vote) to Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza (who got 81 percent). This problem doesn’t affect Felder, whose donation-rich district filled his coffers with a whopping $287,000—without his even entering the public campaign finance system. But whether that makes Felder, known as a jokester, a free agent on the issue or an easily maneuvered reform foe remains to be seen.

Quinn got credit for extending an olive branch to former challenger Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, retaining him as head of the General Welfare Committee, and making him a new assistant majority leader. Less noticed was her decision to leave other pro–de Blasio figures out in the cold. James, whose most high-profile stance has been her opposition to the massive Atlantic Yard arena project, was shut out altogether in the awarding of committee leadership posts. “I am bloodied but unbossed,” James said last week, echoing the late Shirley Chisholm.