“The Assembly needs more comrades”: Julia Salazar’s chief of staff to challenge real estate favorite Erik Dilan

Santos said, if elected, he will pass “Good Cause” eviction, a tax on house-flipping, and grant the right of first refusal on foreclosure sales to tenants

Boris Santos, chief of staff to State Sen. Julia Salazar, and Assemblymember Erik Dilan in Bushwick. (Credit: Facebook and iStock)
Boris Santos, chief of staff to State Sen. Julia Salazar, and Assemblymember Erik Dilan in Bushwick. (Credit: Facebook and iStock)

State Senator Julia Salazar’s Socialist chief of staff Boris Santos announced he will challenge Assemblymember Erik Dilan for his seat in Assembly District 54, a race that could have significant implications for the real estate industry.

At a Democratic Socialists of America forum in a unitarian church in Brooklyn last week, Santos announced that he would seek the DSA endorsement to dethrone the incumbent in 2020.

“Albany hasn’t changed much yet. It’s in dire need of cleanup. Lobbyists still rule the day,” Santos said. Pounding the pulpit, he added that the Assembly “needs more comrades.”

During his speech, Santos decried in-fill development in New York City Housing Authority developments and said he wants to pass “Good Cause” eviction, a house-flipping tax increase, and grant the right of first refusal on foreclosure sales to tenants. The rest of his platform, according to Santos, will be defined by constituents.

Dilan — the son of former State Senator Martin Dilan, who was knocked off by Salazar in 2018 — won his 2018 election easily, with 95 percent of the 23,000 votes cast. His district covers Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and East New York, a significant overlap with Salazar’s senate district.

Over the years, Dilan has received donations from the Rent Stabilization Association, hotel developer Sam Chang, former Real Estate Board of New York president John Banks and landlord Jay Wartski. Dilan has been in his Assembly seat for four years, after he was term-limited in the City Council.

“It’s logical in light of the fact that his boss took out Erik’s father,” Rent Stabilization Association president Joe Strasburg told The Real Deal on Tuesday.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Tascha Van Auken, co-chair of the Brooklyn DSA electoral working group, facilitated the socialist forum last week and introduced Santos, who has a reputation for being “blunt” and charismatic, sources said.

A self-described “Bernie person” and an unapologetic Democratic Socialist, Santos is the 29-year old son of immigrants who got his start as a special education teacher in Far Rockaway. Later, he was hired in City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso’s office as the Bushwick/Ridgewood housing organizer. He was candid about past run-ins with law enforcement and his “life-long goal of dismantling Capitalism.” Santos said he wanted to turn the “Big Ugly,” the end-of-session package of legislation that pits interest groups against each other, into a “Big Beautiful.”

Santos has already locked horns with the real estate industry. Salazar and Santos met with Strasburg during the legislative session at the 123 William Street RSA headquarters. According to Strasburg, the threat to Assemblymember Dilan is serious, and he’s “got a race on his hands.”

“We’re going to see an unusually large number of primaries throughout the city. They haven’t hidden it,” Strasburg said. “They’re going to keep the momentum going. I’m interested to see what their agenda is in January.”

The far-left upstarts are smarting from the narrow defeat in the Queens District Attorney primary, in which real-estate favorite Melinda Katz managed to pull ahead of outsider Tiffany Cabán by 55 votes. The race was closely watched by the real estate industry, who poured tens of thousands of dollars into the former Greenberg Traurig lawyer’s coffers, although the importance of the race was largely symbolic.

Albany insider and lobbyist David Weinraub told TRD that was surprised at Santos’ run, which he said would “have to be reckoned with.” He added that the “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude of the DSA when it comes to real estate is not a productive policy approach.

“If he wins, I hope he does understand the complexity of some of these issues,” Weinraub said. “Again, if you’re going to make policy based on the worst acts of the worst participants of the marketplace… it’s probably not going to be good policy. I’m going to look him up.”