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Bernie Sanders Campaign Lawyer to Challenge Veteran Assemblywoman

Published: December 29, 2015

Publication: Observer

By Will Bredderman

Deborah Glick (Screenshot: DeborahGlick Youtube channel)

A prominent Manhattan attorney serving as New York counsel to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign will seek to unseat Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a veteran Greenwich Village Democrat.

Arthur Schwartz, a 34-year resident of the Village, told the Observer that he intended to take on Ms. Glick in next fall’s Democratic primary. He attacked her close ties to the disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted earlier this month on corruption charges, and what he claimed had been her failure to deliver strong results for the district during her 25 years in office.

Attorney Arthur Schwartz defending Occupy Wall Street protesters in court in 2012 (Photo courtesy of Arthur Schwartz).

“Most of her powers flowed from her very close relationship with Shelly Silver,” he said. “She stood with him till the end.”

“One could not point to a long list of pieces of significant legislation she passed even with that relationship,” he continued.

Besides his work for the Sanders campaign, Mr. Schwartz has worked as general counsel to the Transit Workers Union since 2001, as well as for other unions. He is currently one of the local district leaders, and as a New York State Democratic Party committeeman between 2006 and 2013 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for President Barack Obama in 2008.

In 2014, he worked as treasurer for Fordham Professor Zephyr Teachout’s long-shot campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He served until last year as a member of Manhattan Community Board 2, and sits on the Hudson River Park Founders Council, and has been both chair and vice chair of the park’s advisory council.

“People in the district have been hearing my name for the past 20 years,” he said.

Mr. Schwartz further upbraided the assemblywoman for what he claimed was insufficient commitment to Hudson River Park. In particular, he singled out her failure to support a plan to develop the nearby St. John’s Terminal into a mixed-use facility with affordable housing and units for low-income seniors—a plan that would have the developer also pay for renovations to Pier 40, which is part of the green space.

Ms. Glick’s camp did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Her district borders Mr. Silver’s old lower Manhattan turf, and she gained a reputation in Albany as one of his most hard-nosed lieutenants—once allegedly threatening a Republican colleague who called for the resignation of the late, scandal-scarred Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez to “quiet down before someone starts playing games with you.”

Mr. Schwartz expressed respect for current Speaker Carl Heastie, but vowed not to simply fall in line with the Assembly leadership’s edicts. He said his experience working for outsider campaigns in organized labor would be a template for his conduct in Albany.

“I consistently have worked with reformers and union dissidents, and somehow found my way to being an influential member of the labor movement in New York City. I would function the same way in the State Legislature,” he said. “You learn to strategize, compromise, look at things in a long-term way.”

The attorney has had controversies of his own. He drew headlines in July when a landlord had him arrested for grand larceny after the lawyer removed surveillance cameras installed outside one of his clients’ apartments and sent them to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s anti-tenant harassment unit.

Mr. Schwartz argued that the landlord was using the devices to spy on the 93-year-old resident as part of a larger effort to force her out of her $700-a-month home.

He called the property owner’s accusations “preposterous,” and told the Observer today that a judge will render a decision on his motion to dismiss in January. Nonetheless, he promised that the case would be “a big part” of his campaign—as would his half-dozen other arrests for civil disobedience.

“I’ve gotten more positive feedback for being arrested for trying to help a little old lady than almost anything I’ve done in my life,” he said. “I’m willing to take risks and I’m willing to put myself on the line.”

Mr. Schwartz was also general counsel to the liberal group ACORN for the year and a half prior to its scandal-scarred collapse and has served as attorney to its successor, New York Communities for Change.

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