A Dedicated Public Servant
BY TRONE DOWD
Darryl Towns—a former New York State assemblyman, former chairman of the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR) and current liaison for government affairs in the northeast region for American Airlines—has spent the last 25 years trying to do the right thing by communities of color.
Towns grew up in East New York. After high school, he attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He also served in the United States Air Force from 1981 to 1986. After his time in the armed forces, Towns would serve as director of community affairs at Interfaith Hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He was elected to represent the 54th Assembly District in 1993, where he served the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick, Cypress Hills and East New York. During his tenure, he served as the chairman of the state legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus from 2007 to his eventual exit from politics in 2011.
As an elected official, Towns focused on the effects of development, affordable housing and transportation on communities such as Southeast Queens, serving on various committees. His passion for this particular field would extend to the next step in his career. In 2011, he was appointed to his post on the NYSHCR by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Towns told the PRESS of Southeast Queens that being able to serve the public “was a tremendous honor.”
“To come home and be a part of the mechanism in order to make my community better—when you look at the changes over the last 20 years, Brooklyn and Queens were once considered overflow communities for people who wanted to be in Manhattan,” he said. “Now, they’re preferred communities. I would like to think that I was involved in some of the great work that was done for that purpose.”
Regarding the opportunity to serve the public as the head of a state agency, Towns said that it was something in which he was always interested.
“I think everyone’s always interested in finding opportunities for affordable housing,” he said. “But it wasn’t just that. It’s also home of the New York State Housing Finance agency. When I was in the assembly, I served as chair of the Banks Committee.”
He said that he was able to lay the foundation for developers to bring housing and other community bolstering projects to the previously untouched outer boroughs.
“As head of NYSHCR, I was able to usher in a large portion of the development and make sure that it was affordable for the community that currently existed there,” Towns said.
He cited Jamaica and Astoria as areas that are seeing the effects of his initial goal. Although he is out of the state government professionally, Towns said that this issue is still something near and dear to his heart.
“Although it is not in an elected role, I spend a lot of my private time advocating on behalf of New Yorkers who don’t have as loud of a voice as I do. As a lifelong New Yorker now raising two daughters, I think that affordability is very important.”
Towns said that he was thrilled to receive recognition from the PRESS of Southeast Queens and Queens Tribune.
“It’s a definite honor,” Towns said. “I’ve known the Queens Tribune for years, even though I’m a Brooklyn guy.”
Towns said that he often visited his grandarents during his childhood and teenage years in Hollis.