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After 14 years of Democrat Tom Duane’s service in the state Senate, voters in what is now designated the 27th District find themselves deciding Sept. 13 who next will represent a major swath of Manhattan from the Village and Lower East Side up the West Side.
Duane, of course, has been a leader on L.G.B.T. and AIDS issues in Albany; during his tenure, New York enacted a hate crimes law, a gay civil rights statute, school anti-bullying protections for categories including sexual orientation and gender expression and, last year, marriage equality.
Maintaining an L.G.B.T. voice at the table in the state Senate is an important consideration. But our endorsement of Brad Hoylman, the only gay contender in the Democratic primary that will decide the race, is not based on that factor alone.
In the 11 years since Hoylman, who is 46, made his first run for office in a hard-fought 2001 City Council primary in Lower Manhattan, he has played a high-profile leadership role on the Lower West Side. As chairperson of Community Board 2 for three and a half years, he has successfully pushed for two new public schools, supported historic preservation, and helped build consensus for an AIDS memorial in a new park planned near the former St. Vincent’s Hospital campus.
He was the board’s chairperson during its intensive, two-month-long review of the ULURP for N.Y.U.’s 2031 project, which saw C.B. 2 vote an “absolute No” on the university’s large-scale development plans for its two South Village superblocks.
As the Village’s local Democratic district leader, he has worked to get voters to the polls on Election Day and ensure that voting machines are in good working order.
Hoylman’s opponents charge he was essentially handpicked by Duane and other West Side Democrats, and point out that his employer of 12 years, the Partnership for New York City, a business-friendly, nonprofit group where he served most recently as general counsel, often champions policy positions at odds with the progressive profile he now presents to voters. These are fair issues to debate.
Duane threw in the towel late in the lead-up to the primary process and virtually endorsed Hoylman at his retirement press conference; Hoylman acknowledged the two discussed the incumbent’s likely departure weeks in advance of that. It’s not surprising that voters would have liked to have seen a genuine choice in this primary race.
Hoylman’s opponents, however — Ritz Bar and Lounge owner Tom Greco and educator Tanika Inlaw — have not made the case that their community engagement and command of local and state issues have prepared them sufficiently for the seat they are seeking. In their Aug. 20 debate at the L.G.B.T. Community Center, on W. 13th St., the two made valid arguments about the importance of political independence, but failed to explain how their outsider status would inform their efforts in Albany.
It’s also important to note that Hoylman has demonstrated his own record of independence. The Partnership for New York City this past spring balked at supporting the living-wage bill that that will establish a minimum compensation package for employees of companies receiving city subsidies; Hoylman supported the measure.
The fact of Hoylman being gay was not determinative in this endorsement, but neither was it incidental. He is well-situated to bring thoughtful attention to the need for passage of the long stymied Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), for identification of revenue streams to support housing and services for homeless youth, and for enactment of the rent relief for H.I.V. / AIDS Services Administration clients living in private housing for which Duane fought so hard over the past half-dozen years.
The Villager recommends a vote for Brad Hoylman on Thurs., Sept. 13.