Last Friday I had some ice tea with Dan Goldman, the lawyer running to represent the new Congressional District 10, steps away from his campaign office in Park Slope. It was one of those ridiculously hot days, with temperatures just short of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we sat outside - indoors every seat was taken by someone working.
Goldman seems to be everywhere these days - in person on street corners, in the mailboxes of registered voters, in ads. He raised more money than any of his opponents this past quarter, and he's putting it to use.
But is he the right choice for this bit of Brooklyn? He certainly makes a compelling case, positioning himself as a pragmatic Democrat that shares many of the progressive ideals of Brooklyn's residents. He's focused on results rather than revolutions and believes defending Democracy is the most important task we have right now.
Below is a condensed and lightly edited version of our conversation.
Bklyner: What is your pitch for the Brooklyn voter?
Dan Goldman: My pitch for the Brooklyn voter is similar to my pitch for the whole district, which is that we are facing unprecedented threats to our democracy and our fundamental rights. And as the only candidate in this election that has stood up to Donald Trump and effectively proved the case against him, which even the Republican senators acknowledged, I am uniquely qualified to take him on to protect and defend our democracy and to defend our fundamental rights which are being rolled back by the Supreme Court that Trump installed. I think we need to resolve these existential issues before we can really focus on a lot of the same progressive policy ideals that many of us have.
I think the same creativity that I used in proving the case against Donald Trump can be used to achieve results in Washington – to restore the right to choose, to increase gun control legislation, to address climate change, to promote much more affordable housing. We are in a situation right now where Democrats have a lot of bold ideas, but we've achieved very few results. And I have the creativity, the pragmatism, and the experience in Congress to get results.
Bklyner: That is harder if you are in the minority, right?
Dan Goldman: That is true. It is harder. I hope we aren't in the minority. If we are in the minority, I would say two things. One, the value of my experience leading the impeachment investigation against Donald Trump will be much greater when the Republican House impeaches Joe Biden, which they will, and my experience will be called upon even more to defend bogus investigations.
Two. I think part of the reason why politicians that we have today don't get results in Washington is because there's too much in-fighting within the party, and we're still using the old playbook. Which is sort of a straightforward negotiation with Republicans, where we scream and yell and don't convince them of anything. What we need is a different playbook that either puts pressure on the Republicans through their voters, through their special interests, or makes them realize that our priorities are in their self-interest. Because they are not good faith partners anymore, so we have to recognize that we have to use different strategies to accomplish our goals.
One example I think we could actually make some progress on even if we're in the minority is climate change. Similar to how Republicans resisted reducing incarceration for many, many years on that sort of 'tough on crime' platform, they came around to it when they realized that it was fiscally beneficial to reduce the prison population and the state governments really appreciated that. We hear a lot from Republicans about energy independence. The best way to get energy independence is to invest in renewable energy that is made here. That is obviously also very good for climate change, but there can be different interests to get to the same point, and that's what I will focus on finding.
Bklyner: Is democracy top of mind of the voters that you've been talking to or are there other issues that come up?
Dan Goldman: Look, there there are a number of issues that come up. Democracy is right at the top. And I think that's confirmed by the traction that our message is getting. There's a genuine fear for our democracy and a recognition that that is an overarching issue that urgently needs resolution.
And the January 6 hearings have just confirmed it. And the fact that Donald Trump is ready to announce that he's running in 2024 and that he's trying to lay the foundation to steal that election. January 6 was the beginning, not the end of the threats to our democracy because they are changing state laws around the country to allow elected, partizan officials to overturn the will of the people based on mere allegations of fraud. And that is very scary.
So, I think there is a thirst for someone with a different approach, someone who has been effective in Congress, and someone who can be a leader to defend democracy. So when I talk to voters, they are most concerned about the threats to our democracy and the threats to our fundamental rights, and guns - gun violence in the city and mass shootings around the country. I think the polls reflect the fact that the message resonates with voters.
Bklyner: Your district is incredibly diverse. It has a large, diverse immigrant population as well as residents who have lived here for generations. There are those who want the American dream and those who live the American dream. How do you bridge all those constituencies, and where do you find the common ground to get yourself elected?
Dan Goldman: I come into this with a variety of experiences in my life, some of which relate to some aspects of the community. I think there's this overarching concern for our democracy. But I also have lived in the district for 16 years. I'm raising my five children here. I'm very concerned about the safety in the city. I'm very concerned about the climate that my children are going to inherit.
And a lot of the issues that people are dealing with are issues that I have dealt with and have had to address over the last 15 years of being in the district. I've been a federal prosecutor, but I've also been really immersed in the criminal justice reform movement as a researcher and contributor to Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow. So I have a 360 degree understanding of criminal justice issues, which are top of mind for many of the communities in the district.
I have spent ten years defending victims throughout the district as a prosecutor, whether that be Mafia bosses who were infiltrating various unions or restaurants or victimizing others, whether it be corporate fraud or insider trading or the Chinese organized crime case that I did in Chinatown. I've been a part of this community defending the victims and trying to protect the public for my whole career. And I think that those experiences resonate with people in different ways for different reasons.
I also share a common goal with everyone, and I think this differentiates me a little bit from my opponents, which is -- I want everyone's opportunities to increase from the rich to the poor. I believe that if we are all successful, we all do better. So I support business development and I believe that government funds should be used to incentivize and subsidize business development, but with a requirement that business development of financial firms, real estate developers or other corporations give back a lot more to the community. And whether that be through affordable housing or community space, public space, medical facilities, day care, homeless shelters, we need to work all together to increase opportunities for everyone.
Bklyner: This brings me to the question I wanted to ask you about housing, a big issue in the district. On your platform, there was very little outside of bringing more resources to NYCHA. Do you plan on working on affordable housing beyond NYCHA?
Dan Goldman: I was just looking at the website because I'm pretty sure there's more than just NYCHA, because one of my pillars of my housing policy is to require real estate developers to provide more affordable housing and public spaces with any government subsidized or funded projects.
It is not in Brooklyn, but, Five World Trade Center is an example of what I'm talking about. There were Federal bonds and government subsidies, it's government land that Silverstein and Brookfield Properties were able to use to develop the Freedom Tower and other commercial buildings. They have made a lot of money off of that. They built Five World Trade Center, and that not only should be 100% affordable because it is new housing on public land but it should also be subsidized by the developer in addition to the government.
I think part of the problem that we run into with housing is there are insufficient requirements of community benefits for the developer. And then, even when there are, there's insufficient follow through to make sure that they hold to their word. We are going to need a whole of government approach to this to ensure that the community sufficiently benefits from the government's subsidies and incentives that it gives for rezonings and development, and also that there is some degree of oversight to ensure that there's follow through.
Bklyner: Are there any issues that are non-negotiable with you?
Dan Goldman: Well, I would say, one of the commitments that I made to myself when I decided to run was that I am not going to become a typical politician. I will stake out what my views are, which are always subject to change based on community input and expert input, but based on what I know, I will say what they are. And I will say that in every room I go to and you will not hear me say one thing to one person and another thing to another person about what my views are. And if that means that I lose votes or I lose elections, then so be it. But I'm not going to compromise my morals and my integrity for political expediency. I find that aspect of politics to be repugnant, and I refuse to do it.
I am not someone who is going to take any position for political expediency. And, in fact, there are a number of positions that I have taken in this race that a lot of people really don't like.
I don't support a single-payer health care system. I think it's unrealistic, and I think that the fact that so many are only committed to a single-payer health care system in order to provide health care to all Americans is self-defeating, because it is much more realistic to expand current government programs to include health care for all people in this country, while maintaining the private health care system that we have. And if our goal is to actually make sure that everyone in this country has health care, that is quite obviously the much more realistic way of going about it.
But other of my opponents in this race are adamant that the only way to do it is through single payer. And I believe a lot of the people in this district agree with them. That's not my view. I may lose votes because of it, but I am a pragmatist. I'm a realist. And I'm focused on what our goals are. The goals of single-payer health care and the goals of expanding the public option are both to get access to health care for everyone. My view is, let's figure out the most realistic and practical way of doing that, and let's pursue that.
I am not someone that will make perfect the enemy of the good, because I think people are craving results. And I think the people that we're all trying to help care much more about results than they do about revolutions.
Bklyner: What are some things you could specifically do for the district and its residents, thinking particularly about bringing funding back to the district.
Dan Goldman: Oh, there's a lot. I think infrastructure is a huge thing that the federal government can be involved in and will be involved in because of the infrastructure bill that was passed last year. So, I think there should be significant involvement with infrastructure projects. I'm trying to think of specifically to Brooklyn. I don't know how much there has already been approved for Gowanus rezoning, subject to some of the environmental issues.
Housing is a huge issue in Brooklyn. It's obviously a big issue over in the lower part of Manhattan as well. And there needs to be more federal oversight and involvement of NYCHA and I think that is actually an area that has a federal nexus. And where someone like myself with experience with oversight, and experience doing investigations can be very helpful in making sure that the federal government is doing its job, that NYCHA itself is doing its job, and that there is enough funding. Because what is going on in public housing and especially with there still being the consequences and ramifications from Hurricane Sandy, now, ten years later is just unacceptable. So that's an area that I'm going to focus on a lot.
One of the things that I still think we need and that Brooklyn thrives on a lot is promoting small businesses. Small businesses have still not properly recovered from COVID. And I think we need to figure out a narrowly targeted way to help small businesses get fully back on their feet because small businesses are really the lifeblood of the district and it's the lifeblood of New York City. And the diversity that you find in the city and that you see in small businesses is what makes this city so great and so vibrant. And so we have to make sure that we are not allowing these small businesses to go out of business.
And the other thing I would just add that, you know, is it's not so much from necessarily federal funding, but it's something that I do want to spend some time on and focus on and use the pulpit of representing the district is public safety. I think a lot of people walk around this city very scared right now and the violent crime wave is very concerning. And we need to be focused on making sure that our streets are safe while also providing off ramps for those nonviolent offenders who can be diverted out of the system before they get in the system and others who can reenter the system much more productively so we don't have a cycle of recidivism. So I actually think that we can reduce incarceration and make the city a lot safer, and someone with my background and understanding of the criminal justice system, I will be very invested in doing that for the district.
Bklyner: Aren't hate crimes a higher concern in the district?
Dan Goldman: Depends on what part of the district.
Bklyner: Which parts do you think are affected by high rates of violent crimes?
Dan Goldman: I think people are scared to go on the subway in the whole district. I've heard it from all over the place, from the wealthy. The wealthy areas in Tribeca to Chinatown to Borough Park to Sunset Park. I think a lot of people are afraid. And, obviously, hate crimes. You know, the AAPI hate crimes have gone up 360% in the last year. Anti-Semitic incidents have gone up four times in the last eight years. There's a dramatic increase in hate crimes, and I would propose increasing, having sentencing enhancements for hate crimes, because I do not think that we can live in a society that tolerates hate.
Dan Goldman: Have you asked Rep. Jerry Nadler to endorse you?
Dan Goldman: No, I haven't spoken to him.
Bklyner: Why not?
Dan Goldman: Why have I not asked him to endorse me? Because he has his own race. And I have not got any indication that he plans on endorsing in this race.
Bklyner: Anything that surprised you about the Brooklyn end of the district?
Dan Goldman: You know, what has actually I don't know if it's a surprise, but certainly I was not aware of it before this campaign is how civically and politically engaged the Brooklyn residents seem to be. It gives me a lot of hope in our democracy to see so many people really immersed in these issues and caring about these issues and caring about the local issues that affect them day to day. It's been quite reassuring to know that there are so many people who really do care as much as I do about this stuff.
P.S. It was just me who had the tea, Goldman did not order anything at Velvette Brew on 5th Ave.