By Arthur Z. Schwartz
There have been few moments in my life which have been more gratifying than the first day of petitioning to get on the ballot this past June 7, when I stood on the corner of 12th Street and 7th Avenue, getting the smiles (and signatures) of neighbors that I have known for years, and having people tell me that they loved what I wrote in Westview.
I have held political office, and/or served on the Community Board since 1991. Last year I had the wild idea of running against our sitting Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who I had long viewed as a scowling, unfriendly neighbor, who had done little of note in her 26 years in office. I had been disappointed in her non-support for Hudson River Park, never lifting a finger to fight for the funding it needed. She played no role in the efforts to stop the closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital, and was a non- advocate for school funding despite our district’s massively growing school-age population. CUNY and SUNY sank during her years as Chair of the Assembly Education Committee.
The need for action, in my mind, was reached when she became the foremost defender of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, post-indictment. She opposed calls for him to step down. According to Glick, it was okay for a man who had been indicted for taking $5 million in bribes, to continue to be one of the “three men in a room” who negotiated the state’s multi-million dollar budget. She wanted him to lead discussions about ethics reform. I could not countenance our community being represented by such a person.
My decision to run coincided with the explosion of the Bernie Sanders movement, and I was swept along in that enthusiasm, expecting an Assembly campaign centered around issues and not personalities. Deborah Glick and I even had two brief debates, and the discussion focused on issues. But as Deborah began to recognize that I was mounting a serious challenge, things changed. First I noticed that hundreds of articles about her and Sheldon Silver had been “scrubbed” from the internet. (Try to find them; all that is left is WestView and the Villager.) Deborah came up with this proposal that Assembly Members be barred from all outside income, which she knew I wouldn’t agree with. Then I stood before a Stonewall Democratic Club endorsement meeting, first hearing Senator Brad Hoylman denounce me, stating, “An attack on one of us (gay legislators) is an attack on all of us!”, and then getting peppered with attackers stating that I was one of the “most successful” lawyers in New York, and would use the legislature to build my “lucrative” law practice. I left there with my heart pounding. Next, Glick attacked me in the Villager, stating that I had $9 million sitting around after my house sale (which is not true), and could afford to stop practicing law and be a “full time Assembly person like her” (which she is not).
Then one Saturday morning I took a bunch of college–aged volunteers out petitioning at the Abingdon Square Green Market. For an hour it was pleasant, then a horde of young men, wearing Glick tee-shirts, brazenly stood in front of my crew yodeling, “Glick for Assembly. Sign here!” I withdrew, and asked one volunteer, who wanted to get into a fight, to back off. As I left I felt my blood pressure rise. For the rest of that week I would awake each morning with a knot in my stomach and a tightening in my chest.
I had bypass surgery ten years ago, so I am very heart sensitive. This wasn’t good. So I went to my cardiologist, had a stress test, and was warned to “slow down.” The year I had bypass, I ran in a contested election 6 weeks later (for State Democratic Committee) and won. This felt different. I am ten years older.
My youngest is only ten. Her sisters are 12 and 25; my son is 28. They are all at amazing points in their lives; nothing is more important to me than the time I spend with them. Over the last month, four men I know, ages 58 -72, died, several with heart issues. As I sat in my 10 year old’s recent graduation, I found myself crying, worried that I might not see her graduate high school. At that point I decided to pull the plug. The prize was not worth the risk.
I am not going away. Those of you who know me well know that I am an activist. I am not an “issue.” Deborah Glick was about to turn the fight about corruption in Albany, and her role in it, into an attack on me. She wanted to make me the issue. Now she won’t get to do that. But I will not cease speaking out about her role in Albany, one the Daily News called “an enabler,” and the Post called “an enforcer.” I will not cease speaking about the decay which has set in at CUNY and SUNY since she has been in charge of the budget for higher education. And I will not hesitate to reveal the role she refused to play in the fight to stop NYU’s expansion. I will continue in my role as a leader of the NY Sanders delegation to the Democratic Convention, and I will assist other candidates who step forward to challenge the powers that be in the Democratic Party, including Deborah Glick. I will help build the new post-campaign organization Senator Sanders is launching. I will continue as District Leader. I will rededicate my time to my civil rights law practice that Glick wanted to dismantle. And who knows, maybe a few years down the road, when my kids are older, and I don’t have to face a vicious opponent, I might run again.
I appreciate the outpouring of support I received, and I will try to accomplish what I promised—just not in Albany.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Village Democratic District Leader.
For too long, the attitude has been that for-profit consultants or companies, with their money-making incentive and drive, could do a job more efficiently and better than City drudges.