Published: February 4, 2016
Publication: The Villager
By Lincoln Anderson
In the past, District Leader Arthur Schwartz has often said he wanted to run for office, but he always held back, usually citing the fact that he had young children — and he has had two sets of kids. Now, at last, he’s finally taking the plunge.
Last month, Schwartz, who is Bernie Sanders’s New York campaign lawyer, announced he plans to challenge longtime incumbent Deborah Glick this September in the 66th Assemblymember District.
The two have always had a testy relationship, and it’s only worsened in recent years. Schwartz has lately attacked Glick’s close ties to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted in December on federal corruption charges.
From left, Arthur Schwartz, Bernie Sanders and former state Senator Tom Duane at a recent Sanders event in New York. Duane has endorsed Sanders, but has not endorsed Schwartz.
A top union lawyer, Schwartz has served as general counsel to the Transport Workers Union since 2001. His specialty has been helping dissident factions take over unions. Two years ago, he was treasurer for Zephyr Teachout’s campaign against Governor Andrew Cuomo. A former member of Community Board 2 for many years, Schwartz is also well known in the Village for his work on Hudson River Park, having previously led the Hudson River Park Advisory Council. He helped push through the Hudson River Park Act in 1998, the park’s founding legislation — and that, he said, he is where his beef with Glick began. Glick opposed the legislation, she said, because it created an “unaccountable” state-city authority to run the park.
“I don’t care,” Schwartz told us. “She voted ‘no’ on the bill to build the park. She was one of a small handful of people who voted against it. The entire environmental community supported it. The community board was for it. The youth recreation organizations were for it — and she voted ‘no.’ We had a break over Hudson River Park,” Schwartz said, “and since then we’ve had an antagonistic relationship.”
Glick fired back, regarding Schwartz, “For 20 years he has been a critic and is best known for his distortions and outright lies.”
Schwartz is now slamming Glick for not supporting a plan to develop the St. John’s Center; the developers would buy 200,000 square feet of air rights from Pier 40, in return for which they would pay the Hudson River Park Trust $100 million, which would then be used to repair the ailing W. Houston St. pier. Thirty percent of the project’s apartments would be affordable.
However, Glick said that, again, Schwartz is mischaracterizing her position. Her statement was part of the public comment on the project’s “scoping.”
“What Arthur doesn’t say — and this is a distortion — is I presented testimony on behalf of all the elected officials — Corey Johnson, Brad Hoylman, Jerry Nadler, Daniel Squadron, Gale Brewer — that represent the area. My testimony was the testimony of all the elected officials, and it was testimony that raised a range of concerns. It was the start of a discussion. And Arthur, as he has done in the past 20 years, will spend the next several months engaging in distortion.”
Glick, of course, is a pioneer in her own right, having been the first openly gay person elected to the New York Legislature, and is currently “one of only three women in Manhattan in the Assembly, and there are 12 Assembly seats in Manhattan,” she noted.
Deborah Glick, right, with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand has not endorsed Glick.
Schwartz, who has always been a political maverick, has been endorsed by Teachout, who won a stunning 68 percent of the vote in the 66th A.D. in her race against Cuomo, her highest margin of victory anywhere in New York State.
“Arthur was my treasurer, is a friend and great collaborator over many years and, yes, I support him! I think he’d be terrific in the Assembly,” Teachout told The Villager.
Glick shrugged it off, saying Teachout’s nod was predictable.
“Well, she was his campaign treasurer,” the assemblymember said. “I never met the woman, I’ve never spoken to her. It would seem odd that she chose to endorse this early — but it seems very typical political payback.”
As for Silver, Glick said, “I wouldn’t run away from the fact that Shelly did a lot of good things over the years.” He stopped the West Side stadium, supported expanding pre-K and always fought for education, among other things, she noted. “People are not one-dimensional. I think Shelly did lots of things, and I think the things that were raised during the trial were obviously deeply disturbing.”
Glick noted that, unlike Silver and others, she is a “full-time legislator,” with no outside jobs or income, and that she has called for this to be the norm for all state legislators.
Glick added of Schwartz’s trying to tar her with her association with Silver, “I think it’s shocking that someone who calls themselves a civil rights attorney would engage in a campaign of guilt by association.”
Schwartz fired back: “That’s bulls–t. The Daily News editorial said she was his enabler — what does that have to do with civil rights? She was part of the club.”
Schwartz blasted Glick for not opposing the hush-money deal Silver set up with women who accused former Assemblymember Vito Lopez of sexual harassment when they worked as his staffers.
“As a civil rights attorney, I was grossly offended by that,” Schwartz said. “You want to pay the women, that’s fine. But you want to pay them to keep silent — against a public official? That’s outrageous. She never spoke out against that deal.”
However, Schwartz said, “I am going to spend little time talking about Deborah Glick — I actually learned that from her — because it’s free publicity for the opponent. The campaign I’m going to run is going to be all positive about what I’ve done.”
In one concession to his opponent, Schwartz said, “I think she probably played a good role around [getting a middle school at] 75 Morton St. I give her credit for that.
“I want to deal with some of the issues Bernie is talking about, like student debt,” he said. “I would promise to do some dramatic things. I have thought about doing a hunger strike over campaign finance or the schools funding, and invite people to join me,” Schwartz said, referring to the city getting its fair share of state education funds. “I could lose a few pounds,” he quipped.
“I am not going to engage in a weekly Villager debate with Arthur’s trash-talking,” Glick emphatically stated. “I’m going to be doing my job, working for the people of the 66th Assembly District.”
But could Schwartz beat Glick? One local activist and former political staffer, requesting anonymity, said anything is possible.
“With the way things are in Albany today, who knows?” he said. “And Arthur is a formidable campaigner.”