I grew up in the Bronx. We didn’t expect a whole lot of heroic leadership from people holding elected office there when I was young. More frequently than not (it seemed) a politician would get indicted and no one made a big deal. Two Democratic County Chairmen (Stanley Friedman and Patrick Cunningham) and two Congressmen (Mario Biaggi and Robert Garcia) were indicted before I was firmly established as a Manhattanite.
I moved to Manhattan for college in 1970 and have lived here since (except for a one year visit to Brooklyn). Here in Manhattan, things seemed so much better.
On the West Side we had a crusading Congresswoman named Bella Abzug, surrounded by a crew of young activists like Jerry Nadler and Dick Gottfried, anchored in the Village by Bill Passanante, a man who wasn’t afraid to buck the leadership and who introduced gay rights bills, and bills supporting reproductive freedom.
In the mid-90s our State Senator Manfred Ohrnstein got convicted, but it involved using Senate staff to do campaign work. He was followed by Catherine Abate, who was as squeaky clean as one gets, and Tom Duane, a man who might be partial to a hug, but not a dollar. Eric Schneiderman’s original district came almost down to 14th Street, and we all know where he is now. Our local leaders were stalwarts against corruption and abuse.
But times have changed. Almost monthly major political leaders are indicted. We actually have the former Senate Democratic Leader (Sampson) and the current Republican leader (Skelos) facing charges at the same time, alongside Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Assembly Speaker, who represents our neighbors to the south.
When Silver was indicted, our Assembly Member, Debra Glick, rushed to his defense after the first calls for him to resign. She invoked his right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, instead of a call for a government leader’s credentials to be impeccable. She was joined by Gottfried to the north.
When our State Senator, Brad Hoylman, bravely called for Silver to step down, the movement snowballed. But one Assembly Member never got out of the way of the snowball—
Debra stuck with Silver to the end, and refused to vote for the new Speaker, Carl Heastie, from, of all places, the Bronx.
As the details of Silver’s avarice were laid out and more indictments unfolded, we heard nothing from Glick. No calls for radical ethics reform, no calls for public financing of State Legislature campaigns, no calls for an enhanced reporting requirement from the State Board of Elections. She has even less to say than Governor Cuomo, whose tepid statements about solutions to corruption belie his fear of cutting himself off from millions of dollars in questionable contributions.
Debra’s tepidness on this issue is only matched by her lack of ongoing activism against the continuous upscaling of Greenwich Village, West, Central and East.
Yes, she marches around against NYU, but developers know that the Village is open territory—unless they run afoul of Andrew Berman and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. She gives lip support to folks who desperately need support (like in Westbeth) but doesn’t pound her shoe and refuse to take “no” for an answer.
I want crusading elected officials representing me in Albany: Don’t you? Debra Glick has been our Assembly Member for twenty-five years, next year will be her twenty-sixth. She gets a full pension: it’s time for her to make room for a crusader and retire.
Arthur Schwartz is the Male Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village. He has been endorsed for re-election by the Village Independent Democrats and the Village Reform Democrats.