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Paul Gilman, 64, committed activist, Green Party member, adviser, friend

BY MARNI HALASA | Paul Gilman, a passionate advocate for social change, environmental justice and ending all wars who was a well-known local member of the Green Party, died last week. He was 64. The cause of death was a heart condition.

Throughout his life, Paul Gilman was a tireless champion for a more sustainable and equitable world.

A native of Jackson Heights, Queens, Paul was a graduate of Queens Community College and was a member of the taxi drivers’ union for more than 20 years.

I recently saw Paul only three weeks ago at our business, The Purple Tongue Wine Bar, in Hells Kitchen. And I was thrilled. It was, again, another opportunity to thank him for all the immeasurable help he gave me during my two outsider campaigns for City Council in 2017 and 2021 in District 3. But for Paul, who had been at the wine bar numerous times beforehand, it was a way not just to say hello, but to support a friend’s new small business.

Paul Gilman, right, with Marni Halasa, left, and Fred Newton, demonstrating for debt forgiveness for taxi medallion owners and owner-drivers. (Courtesy Marni Halasa)

I may not be saying anything new to his family and close friends. But anyone who knew Paul — especially those in the worlds of New York City activism — understood his passion and commitment. Paul gave me such a gift when I ran for public office. He was a relentless petitioning machine, spending entire days and weeks on the streets of Chelsea, Hells Kitchen and the West Village to collect voters’ signatures to put me on the ballot.

A student of history, he also spent hours explaining policy to me — which ones were lip service and which were the best for the people. With his easygoing nature, and ability to find humor is nearly everything, he kept me surprisingly sane when the demons of self-doubt rattled my every thought. And when I was at my wits’ end — wondering how on earth I was going campaign in seven places in the district, prepare for debates, answer nearly 50 questionnaires and raise money to qualify for matching funds — Paul was always there to lend support, often cracking jokes, guiding me to see the big picture, and I am forever grateful.

“Never underestimate how influential you are,” he would tell me.

Paul Gilman was an anti-war and environmental activist. (Courtesy Marni Halasa)

Those rare people who come to you to assist you in times of sheer stress make an unforgettable impression. And Paul was exactly that — that proverbial guardian angel who kept me inspired, enthused, focused on getting my issues out there in the community — and, most importantly, kept me going, often when I didn’t think I could. I can hear Paul now from afar telling me to “stop gushing” in this piece, but that’s really who he was. His good friend and Bronx Green Party colleague Debra Rosario agrees.

“Paul was the epitome of commitment and service to others,” she said. “Whether he was protesting against the genocide in Gaza, advocating for the legalization of marijuana, the release of Leonard Peltier, debt relief for taxi workers, the School of the Americas Watch or helping the Green Party grow — he deeply cared about his community and orchestrated his life to do exactly that.”

Aton Edwards, an environmental/social activist and disaster-preparedness expert, said, “Paul was the kind of person you were lucky to know and call a friend! He was a dedicated activist, martial artist, brilliant historian and a damn wonderful human being! Definitely the best of us! Goodbye, my brother! See you after the Global Dr. Ed Teller BBQ Festival!”

Paul Gilman, who lived in the Bronx, second from right, was a committed member of the Bronx Green Party. (Courtesy Marni Halasa)

Paul may have left this world, but his spirit lives on in the countless lives he has touched and the lasting impact of his advocacy. He would also want us to have more humor in our lives, not to sweat the small stuff, listen to more heavy-metal tunes and to take time to enjoy ourselves because life, as we all know too well, is much too short.

May we all be inspired by his example to strive for a more just, sustainable and compassionate world — as well as to not forget to have a damn good time on the planet. And for those reasons and more, Paul Gilman, we all thank you, salute you, will always remember you — and one day, will again party with you in the great beyond.

Paul Gilman is survived by his ex-wife, Rocio, daughter, Fananda, and son, Ulrick, grandson, Avery, as well as a brother, Philip, sister, Emily, stepsister, Mimi, best friend, Doug, and cat, Slinky.

Looking forward, my friend!

12 Comments

  1. Mitchel Cohen Mitchel Cohen June 14, 2024

    Marni, thank you for this wonderful obituary of our friend Paul Gilman. It’s true what you say — Paul was hysterically funny, had stories up the wazoo, and was politically dead serious about smashing capitalism and saving the planet.

    He also was really good at driving his friends up the wall.

    A few months before he died, he sent me his autobiography in the form of a letter, filled with insight and self-reflection that — as is the case with many of us radicals — we turn outward in the fight for social justice and, well, just CARING. I’m attaching one of my favorite pictures of Paul, cornering a more staid Ralph Nader (for whom he campaigned hard) and demanding that Ralph support marijuana reform — not exactly Ralph’s main issue, although Paul served 4 years in prison in the Midwest for transporting marijuana aimed for cancer and AIDS clinics here in NYC.

    This impish side of Paul I’ll remember fondly, as I will his extremely funny, fictitious letters about the Green Party USA leadership when they excluded New York from voting at a meeting in Chicago 20 years ago, where Paul was one of four representing our state Green Party.

    Paul’s satire was relentless, and his historical understanding of Marxism — particularly the Chinese revolution — was second to none.

    Adios, my friend ….

  2. Rocio Rocio June 10, 2024

    Paul was a very kindhearted person in every way. He loved his children and was proud of them. I will always remember Paul and keep him close to my heart.

  3. Steven M Yip Steven M Yip June 7, 2024

    Paul was a great supporter for the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, as well as for Revolution Books NYC. And he was a admirer of the tremendous achievements of the Mao Tsetung and Chinese revolution. Last year he had convinced me to join with him and other Greens to attend the Dead & Company concert at Mets Stadium… We had a great time. Paul will be remembered fondly.

  4. Seid Seid June 6, 2024

    Paul and I were close friends through high school and well into our 20s and 30s.
    I’ll never forget, when we were both about 20 years old. He got me to read the Communist Manifesto. I didn’t understand much of it at the time and he actually had to take time to explain it to me. Looking back, how many 20-year-olds are well versed in Karl Marx? One thing about Paul, he truly did find his calling.

  5. Pete Dolack Pete Dolack June 5, 2024

    Paul was a true friend and a committed activist on many causes. Anybody who knew him will tell you what a special person he was. It is hard to believe he is gone — he was so full of life.

  6. O. O. June 5, 2024

    I only met Paul a few times at protests, but he made an immediate and lasting impression. He will be missed.

  7. Mimi Munroe Mimi Munroe June 4, 2024

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute. Paul was a gem in his own remarkable, unique way. I will miss him.

  8. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost June 4, 2024

    He reminds me of my friend activist extraordinaire Marty Goodman, who died March 16 of a heart attack at age 74.

  9. Philip Gilman Philip Gilman June 4, 2024

    He loved his family and friends, especially when he was with them. I’ll never forget one of the things he taught me about joy. He loved Led Zeppelin as much as any band. I once asked him, which was his favorite Led Zeppelin song, and his reply was “whichever one I’m listening to at the time.”
    Enjoy whatever you’re doing. May his memory be a blessing.

  10. J. J. June 4, 2024

    Paul was the best. May we meet again someday – both for Kata and intellectual debate!

  11. Paul DeRienzo Paul DeRienzo June 4, 2024

    A dear friend who will be always in my heart. Paul Gilman, Presente!

  12. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz June 3, 2024

    Paul Gilman was a big guy in every sense of the word. RIP.

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