Epstein for Assembly

A campaign poster for Harvey Epstein. Photo by The Villager

The Downtown political landscape has been out of whack ever since Daniel Squadron abruptly resigned from the state Senate last August. In November, Asssemblymember Brian Kavanagh won election to succeed Squadron in Lower Manhattan’s 26th District.

Now, on Tues., April 24 — wrapping up this local political musical chairs — voters will have a chance to vote for Kavanagh’s successor in the Assembly’s 74th District.

The district stretches from the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side, through the East Village and all the way up to the United Nations, along the way taking in Union Square, Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village, Gramercy and part of Murray Hill.

Four candidates are on the ballot: Harvey Epstein, running on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines; Juan Pagan, the Reform Party candidate; Bryan Cooper, the Republican candidate; and Adrienne Craig-Williams, on the Green Party line.

Two other hopefuls who sought to be the Democratic nominee in this race dropped out when they realized the obvious — that Epstein was set to win the Democratic County Committee’s support overwhelmingly. Simply put, Epstein has the deepest and longest record of community activism of anyone running in this race. The fact that he has been endorsed by literally every sitting East Side politician is a testament to that fact.

If elected, Epstein is bound to become very quickly one of the most progressive members of the Assembly. He supports single-payer healthcare for New Yorkers; early voting; preserving and creating affordable housing; reforming the bail system — the current system, he says, is “awful” and discriminatory against blacks and Latinos; closing Rikers Island prison; and reforming the special-elections process itself, so that more candidates can be on the ballot. (Epstein noted to us, for example, that for this special election, the Board of Elections did not even see fit to send out a notice to voters telling them where there polls are, which also serves as a reminder to vote. That is truly pathetic.)

In short, Epstein has a record of activism in the district stretching back more than two decades. He served on Community Board 3 from 1998 to roughly 2012, and chaired the East Village board for two years from 2002 to 2004. During his tenure on C.B. 3, he helped lead the board on important land-use issues, including the East Village / Lower East Side rezoning and the redevelopment of the long-stalled Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. Specifically, as chairperson of the C.B. 3 Land-Use Committee, he pushed to ensure that the affordable housing units in the SPURA project (today known as Essex Crossing) would be permanently affordable — not affordable for only 30 years, as the city initially was considering.

A parent, Epstein has raised two children in the district, who have attended mostly public local schools, including Little Missionary’s Day Nursery, My Little Village, the Neighborhood School, Tompkins Square Middle School and Bard High School. He and his wife even helped ensure that “Little Mish” kept its building on St. Mark’s Place.

As project director at the Urban Justice Center, Epstein created a statewide legal services coalition, offering free legal services, among other things, and was also active on tenants’ rights issues.

Epstein’s opponents, to varying degrees, do each bring something unique to the table — though we don’t agree with all of their ideas. The G.O.P. candidate, for one, supports arming school teachers, which we oppose.

Epstein, on the other hand, has a record of not just having opinions on issues, but of really doing things, of getting things done in the community — and that matters.

With his deep track record of community and political activism, Epstein would hit the ground running in Albany. Again, he has been endorsed by all the local politicians — whom he knows from working with them on issues over the years — so those relationships are already there.

As for the inevitable Albany gridlock that, if elected, he would no doubt face, Epstein told us, in all honesty, “I can’t guarantee success; I’ll guarantee how hard I’ll work.”

Epstein has been working hard in the trenches on community issues for years. As such, he has more than earned the right to continue serving the community in the state Legislature in Albany, where his experience would serve him well — and it would also serve the community well to have him there.

The Villager endorses Harvey Epstein for Assembly on Tues., April 24.

Don’t forget to vote!

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