BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | With just days to go until the start of early voting, Assemblymember Deborah Glick is counting on her record as an Albany veteran to give her the edge in a rare primary challenge.
She faces Ryder Kessler in the Democratic primary election scheduled for Tues., June 28. (Early voting starts June 18 and runs through June 26.) Kessler is a bright and articulate opponent but the election will ultimately boil down to whose positions on the issues best represent and connect with the West Side district’s voters. The 66th District includes Greenwich Village, Hudson Square, Tribeca, Soho and Noho.
A trailblazer as the first openly gay member elected to the New York State Legislature, Glick has represented the district for 31 years. Kessler is also openly gay.
“I have a strong record of progressive action,” Glick told The Village Sun in a recent phone interview. “I have a record of getting things done. The Assembly has been the place where, for the last 10 years, we put forward a very strong progressive agenda. And we’re very happy that the [state] Senate become Democratically controlled, so that many of the bills that we had pushed for years were able to be passed and become law.”
Kessler, a first-time candidate, previously claimed to The Village Sun that the state Senate, not the Assembly, is now the more progressive wing of the state Legislature, while things now get bogged down in the Assembly.
However, Glick, the Albany veteran, shrugged off that charge by explaining of the Assembly, “Because we have internal discussions and there are more of us, it sometimes takes longer.”
She’s the chairperson of the Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education, as which she has fought to make colleges more accessible and affordable.
In general, among the chief issues Glick has worked and advocated on over the years is reproductive health and fighting against rollbacks of access to women’s healthcare. Thanks to Glick, among others, Roe v. Wade has been codified in New York State.
“So, regardless of what the Supreme Court might decide, New York is on strong footing, and I’m proud of that,” she said.
While Kessler is an unabashed bike-lane and busway proponent, Glick touts her own credentials on pedestrian and cycling safety.
“I’ve been the leader on red-light cameras, speed cameras,” she stated. “I support bus-lane cameras.”
As for the new 14th Street busway that has, without a doubt, sped up bus trips along the crosstown thoroughfare — with the side effect of creating a surreally quiet street in the heart of Downtown Manhattan — Glick said, in general, she supports the idea, but that major traffic changes like this must be “reviewed carefully.”
“I think that it has worked well,” she said of the busway. “But every time that you change traffic patterns, it does have other impacts. For people who can’t use subway steps, the bus is more advantageous for them. Buses are very important. So I’m supportive of that and I’m supportive of bus-lane cameras.” But, she added, “All transportation has to be reviewed carefully.”
On housing, the differences between Glick and Kessler are particularly stark. Kessler is endorsed by Open New York, a pro-real estate group whose credo is “housing abundance” as a way to create a measure of affordable housing amid a boom of market-rate construction. In other words, to sum up the group’s philosophy: “Build, baby, build!” Glick has not been endorsed by Open New York nor does she seeks the group’s support.
Similarly, Glick strongly opposed Mayor de Blasio’s contentious Soho/Noho rezoning, aligning her with most of the targeted area’s residents. Kessler, on the other hand, supported the rezoning, bucking Community Board 2, of which he is a member, which, like local residents, overwhelmingly opposed the scheme.
“There’s no question Open New York has a very real estate-friendly perspective,” Glick said. “And there are many programs, many rezonings, and we’ve seen more displacement than affordable housing [from those rezonings and programs]. So I don’t think that’s an effective approach. And I don’t think you can jeopardize lower- and middle-class people that are currently living in an area. I think it’s a false narrative that they’re proposing. And I think that the people who live in Soho, who have made their home there for 30 years, should not be sacrificed for a plan that might result in affordable housing.”
In short, Glick said that, in terms of affordable housing creation, she supports “reality rather than theory” — as in, plans that actually guarantee the creation of affordable units, as opposed to speculative schemes, which is how she would describe the Soho/Noho rezoning.
In that vein, she mentioned the St. John’s Terminal site at Houston Street and Washington Street. The southern half of the former High Line railroad terminal, under an agreement hashed out in the City Council, was expected to include a signficant amount of affordable housing, but will now be a new Google office campus, slated to open mid next year.
“People said, ‘We will accept large, luxury housing in order to get affordable housing,'” Glick said of the various housing schemes and rezonings. “That’s always what’s promised to communities. And communities have not seen the affordable housing that’s been promised — which is why there have been objections to zoning all over the city. It’s not just in our part of town.”
Meanwhile, Glick has been endorsed by leading tenants group TenantsPAC and received praise from other prominnent tenant activists.
— (((Deborah Glick))) (@DeborahJGlick) June 16, 2022
Joyce Ravitz, the chairperson of the East Village’s Cooper Square Committee, said, “Deborah helps to fund programs for real affordable housing.”
Hank Dombrowski, a member of Cooper Square Committee’s Steering Committee, said the experienced politician’s effectiveness is partly due to her already knowing the issues through and through.
“I’ve lived in the 66th District for a long time and have had my share of bad landlords,” he said. “Deborah and her team are always eager to help and address the root cause of the problem. Most elected officials come into a community and ask, ‘What are the issues?’ So it’s rare and refreshing that Deborah tends to already know what’s happening and comes with solutions.”
Glick also strongly diverges with Kessler on Open Restaurants — the city’s pandemic-emergency outdoor dining program — which is still going strong despite opposition from the majority of the city’s community boards. There are 12,000 of the road sheds across the city, with Downtown Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, the East Village and Lower East Side especially heavily inundated by them.
“I think there are negative ramifications that are not being discussed,” the assemblymember said of the COVID-driven dining program. “I think it puts every business that only needs indoor business at a competitive disadvantage. And nobody who supports Open Restaurants talks about the fact that the use of that outdoor space [for dining and/or drinks] can only be paid for by people that can afford it. Government has to think about balance.”
On the issue of the waterfront, over her years in office, Glick has also kept careful watch on the extent of commercial development in Hudson River Park, which was intended to be financially self-sustaining “to the extent practicable.” Construction of the 4-mile-long park started around 2000.
“I feel very proud that the park has been built,” she said. “I’m disppointed that we haven’t come up with a better plan for Pier 40. But by all measure, what we need is open space not commercial development. And I think that there is enough development adjacent to the park. If someone is upset that I blocked housing in the park — fine.”
The Hudson River Park Act of 1998 forbids residential housing in the park, though there have been efforts in the past to modify the founding legislation to allow it. Even the Downtown youth leagues — Greenwich Village Little League and Downtown United Soccer Club — at one point proposed building twin residential towers at the foot of Pier 40, at W. Houston Street, to fund repairs for the aging pier, plus provide a revenue stream for the larger park. Glick stood firmly against the plan.
Glick said she agreed with former Governor Cuomo when, at the end of 2019, he vetoed the latest development plan for Pier 40. The legislation Cuomo canned would have allowed up to 800,000 square feet of office space on the massive pier, allowing structures as high as 88 feet.
In addition, Glick is very concerned about climate change and thinks this global condition must be factored more into the Hudson River Park Trust’s planning whenever the state-city authority considers redeveloping its piers.
“We should all be rather concerned about building along the waterfront at this point,” she warned.
Bail reform, on the other hand, is one issue on which she and Kessler are on the same page: They both oppose any rollback of the contentious policy that many charge has increased crime and reduced safety in New York City.
“I think everybody is very concerned about instances that seem not just dangerous but scary,” Glick said. “And New York’s recovery is dependent on people feeling that their streets are safe. On the other hand, there is no evidence that bail reform has made cities anywhere — all cities — less safe. The New York Post, which is not the most liberal of bastions, indicated that only 4 percent of those who had been released on bail reform reoffend. Bail is meant that you return to trail. It is not meant to be pretrial detention, unless the crime is severe enough.
“In some of these instances, it’s ‘Why didn’t the judge ask for a psych evaluation?'” she noted of reoffenders. “I’m in favor of more services for people with mental health issues where jail is not the place for them. But a major rollback of bail reform just to have a rollback of bail reform, I don’t support.”
Glick backs congestion pricing for Manhattan south of 60th Street — though with a few specific “carve-outs.”
“I support congestion pricing both as a way to encourage the use of more eco-friendly modes of transportation and also as a mechanism to increase funding for our public transit system,” she said. “Though I think it is appropriate that the M.T.A. is considering exemptions for low-income residents living in the congestion zone. Also, my office has worked consistently with God’s Love We Deliver, which supplies food and nutrition to aid terminally and seriously ill New Yorkers in Downtown Manhattan, and as it stands would not be granted an exemption. In my opinion, this organization provides assistance as vital to the community as emergency services and should not have to pay the congestion fee during their deliveries.”
Of the two candidates in the Democratic primary Glick clearly has the lion’s share of political support. She is backed by various local political clubs, including Village Independent Democrats, Downtown Independent Democrats and Stonewall Democratic Club, seven labor unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, DC 37 and 1199 SEIU, and 10 elected officials, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmembers Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Councilmembers Erik Bottcher and Chris Marte. Additionally, she is supported by former mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, Downtown Women for Change, the National Association of Social Workers and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
She knocked her newcomer rival as a candidate “with no record.”
On the other hand, Glick said the community sees her as “someone they know, that they have access to, and they know the kind of commitment and dedication I have with which I perform the job.”
In summing up, she said, “I’m passionate about public service. I know I have served the community well. And I want to continue to serve that community as I have in the past.”