After 18 years serving southern Brooklyn and Staten Island in Albany, state Sen. Diane Savino will not seek re-election, the politico confirmed to Brooklyn Paper on Wednesday.
“I ran for Senate because I knew where I could be more effective on issues that I cared about, things that were important to working people,” said Savino, who would not yet disclose her next venture. “But now I feel like I could be more effective on issues that I am passionate about in another place, other than the legislature.”
Looking ahead, Savino, who has drafted over 150 pieces of legislation in her nearly two decades in the senate, is throwing her support behind her former staffer, Democrat Jessica Sarella-Spanton, who has already announced a run for the open seat against Democratic former Councilmember David Yassky. The two will face off in a primary election for the party nomination.
“She is going to be an amazing candidate,” Savino told Brooklyn Paper. “We are going to do everything to help her get elected, but more importantly she is going to be an amazing elected official.”
Savino says Sarella-Spanton comes with the working knowledge of District 23 to hit the ground running as an effective legislator for every corner of the far-reaching district — which is divided politically, but shares geographical similarities (and issues) by being entirely on the waterfront.
“People who know her in the district already can tell you that she was an integral part of my staff,” Savino said. “I’ve been very blessed over the years to have great staff, and to the extent I look good in the community, it’s because of their ability to help people to stop their problems to get things done — and she has been one of the best staff I have ever had.”
Under the proposed 2022 redistricting, Savino’s District 23 will see quite a few changes — with the district losing its jurisdiction over the portions of Bath Beach, Gravesend, and Bay Ridge that it currently serves.
The district will still include Coney Island, and will now flow further north to cover a larger portion of Sunset Park, along with Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo.
Savino, a Queens native, has written monumental legislation over her years as senator — mostly focused on labor policy — including the first domestic workers Bill of Rights in the United States, the legalization of medical marijuana, and later, the recreational use by adults.
“I have written more than 150 pieces of legislation, they are historic, landmark pieces of law. The first domestic workers bill of rights in the nation, we served as a template for other states, some of the strongest wage theft laws in the country, New York is a leader as a result of that,” Savino said. “I have written a lot of labor law, probably more than anybody who has ever served in the senate.”
“All of the laws that I have passed affect people in a profound way, and I think that’s really what I am most proud of,” she added.
However, she said she still has a full slate of work she plans to complete before she leaves office at the end of this year, such as updating mental health laws to address the homelessness of New Yorkers suffering from mental health issues as well as the regulation of cryptocurrencies and “medical aid in dying” that would allow New Yorkers with terminal illnesses who have been given less than six months to live to determine for themselves whether they want to die on their own terms.
“I have several pieces of legislation that I am still actively working on, trying to address some of the concerns people have about the number of homeless, mentally ill people, and why they are out on the street,” she said. “Part of the problem is the definition of what it means to be a danger to yourselves and others… There is a flaw in our statute that says once a person appears to be stabilized you have to let them go. Well, that’s a problem.”
The primary elections for the State Senate and Assembly will take place on June 28, with the filing deadline scheduled for April 7. The general election for the two state houses will be held on Nov. 8.
Correction (Feb. 17): A previous version of this article erroneously labeled David Yassky a Republican. He is a Democrat. We regret the error.