September 26th, 2006
Interview with Deborah Glick NY State Assemblymemberby D. Clark MacPherson
Deborah Glick is the first openly lesbian or gay member of the New York State legislature. She has been the Assemblywoman for the Greenwich Village/ SoHo area for 16 years, having had two 8 year terms, after challenging Bill Passanante for this position in 1990 and having succeeded easily. This year she is running for re-election and we met with her to discuss some of her accomplishments as well as some of her current concerns.
Her legislative priorities have included passage of the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), which was finally signed into law in December of 2002, and the Statewide Domestic Partnership Registry, which is still awaiting passage. Most recently, Assembly member Glick’s Hospital Visitation Bill became law, providing domestic partners the same rights that spouses and next-of-kin have when caring for a loved one in a hospital or nursing facility. She has worked on issues of concern to women for thirty years, including advocating for reproductive freedom, a change in the rape statutes, and women’s health concerns. The Women’s Health and Wellness Act, a bill that promotes early detection and prevention of certain medical conditions affecting women, including breast cancer and osteoporosis and provides coverage for contraceptives, became law on January 1, 2003.
Deborah has also been a strong advocate for tenants rights and has sponsored and won renewal of the Loft Law. This law brings formerly commercial buildings up to residential code and protects current tenants, many of them artists, from eviction.
In January 2001, Deborah was made Chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee. This committee works to protect the interests of New York’s most vulnerable individuals who are receiving or participating in government assistance programs. Ms. Glick has served as the Chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Standing Committee on Human Services and Welfare and is a member of the NCSL Task Force on Welfare Reauthorization.
In view of these accomplishments we had a discussion about some of the issues that affect her most deeply. We were already aware of her input on the bar proliferation problem downtown and her vociferous objection to the over saturation which has impacted some of the downtown communities most egregiously. We were interested in understanding what she finds most pressing as a legislator and became involved in a discussion of the needs of families and tenants as well as discrimination.
Housing is one of those most essential needs that affect all of us so fundamentally. In its more primitive form, it is shelter. Glick spoke about the fact that there are an ever-increasing number of families with children, living in their cars or shelters, with no resources available for them to escape these circumstances. Others depend upon the increasingly diminishing stock of rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments–especially in Manhattan; those who are sometimes barely holding on to this shelter, are especially prone to becoming targets of development, attacks, scams, legal decisions (or indecisions), and bureaucratic ineptness–all of which can effect their protected tenancy. And, in Manhattan especially, landlords are always looking for novel ways to take that rent-regulated apartment away from a tenant and multiply the rent.
Glick discussed two of the more recent and egregious legal moves to deprive tenants of a place to live, their shelter. One is the recently revised notion of demolition. There is an accepted fact that if a building needs to be torn down, tenants must leave. But the most recent variation on this theme has the landlord doing “partial demolition” for which the express, but denied, purpose is evicting tenants with the help of the DHCR. Often, the current ploy of partial demolition is really a cosmetic matter that hardly meets the criteria of demolishment in any language–in reality it is closer in meaning to Fraud. But, so far, City government continues to play ball with developers. Glick feels that demolishment should be re-defined in legal terms as the total razing of a building so that this does not become a new means whereby developers legally evict tenants and then re-rent cosmetically improved apartments at a much higher rate.
Similarly, the cute little moniker “landlord recapture” has become a newly abused concept. Recently, a 14 family apartment building was purchased by an individual who proceeded to begin evictions against all of the tenants in the building. This Lower East Side landlord claimed that he needed space for his growing family. This novel approach, if it weren’t so ludicrous, is currently being tested in the courts and could have a potentially devastating effect upon the lower and middle class housing stock in Manhattan.
We also touched upon the contentious issue in Greenwich Village involving a group of gay youths that seem to have overwhelmed residents on Christopher Street, especially on summer weekend evenings. This is an issue which Community Board #2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee under the stewardship of Arthur Schwartz and Maria Derr has attempted to resolve. Glick sees this issue as a controversy that has been handled badly thus far and is an example, for her, as an opportunity that has been lost by City government. Leadership on this issue has been severely lacking. The youths that come from many other areas have at times been obnoxious and disrespectful and have caused residents of the area to lose sleep and suffer indignities. But, she has also pointed out, that we have a history of tolerance especially regarding GLBT issues and that this is an opportunity to bring intelligence, compassion and progressive philosophy to bear for a positive resolution.
Discrimination, Glick reminds us, is not a historical footnote. Gay-bashing is still prevalent and it is still risky for same-sex partners to simply walk down the street holding hands. Despite all of the strides that have been made with regard to the acceptance of gender equality and sexual orientation, violence and aggressiveness is still displayed towards loving couples.