Volume 74, Number 54 | May 18 - 24 , 2005

Hoylman is challenging Schwartz for district leader

By Lincoln Anderson

District Leader Arthur Schwartz is having the rug pulled out from under him by State Senator Tom Duane and Councilmember Christine Quinn, who have decided to back Brad Hoylman to replace him. However, Schwartz, who has been the Greenwich Village male district leader the last 10 years, says he’s still running for reelection.

In a quick-developing story that happened last week, Schwartz says he was asked by Duane and Quinn — who, until now, have been his staunch political allies — to step down as district leader, after which the Democratic County Committee would elect Hoylman to replace him, allowing Hoylman to run as an incumbent in the September primary.

“I said no and that I wanted to run and do another two years,” said Schwartz, the Village’s longest-serving district leader since Tammany boss Carmine De Sapio.

“Chris and Tom are the source of Brad’s move up,” Schwartz said. “He wouldn’t have done it without their blessing.” Schwartz, 52, said he thinks Quinn and Duane decided to go against him after Schwartz decided to rejoin Village Independent Democrats without consulting them — either that or they are trying to position Hoylman to succeed Quinn when she is term-limited out of the City Council at the end of 2009.

Hoylman, 38, a past president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats club, said he’s running because he thinks he could do better than Schwartz and bring new energy to the job.

“I think it’s an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective on local issues and a chance to work collaboratively with local elected officials, political clubs and the district leaders,” he said. “I respect the work Arthur’s done over the years, but I think it’s time for new blood. It’s time to look ahead past the period of bitterness in Village politics and toward a period of close cooperation with elected officials.”

Hoylman said he’d focus on working with female District Leader Keen Berger, “reenergizing the grassroots” and focusing on a range of local issues from development to housing concerns to park issues.

Also supporting Hoylman is Assemblymember Deborah Glick, a leading member of V.I.D. The club’s endorsement vote on Thursday night will be a key early test. Hoylman claims Schwartz has no support in the club, but Schwartz countered that he’s asking members to vote “no endorsement” and getting some positive feedback.

Schwartz said he’s running on his record, and feels Hoylman can’t stack up against him.

“I don’t think Brad has a comparative record at all,” he said. “I’ll run on my record and he’ll run on his record and we’ll see where the chips fall.” If Schwartz loses V.I.D.’s endorsement, he said he’d probably seek the support of the Village Reform Democratic Club.

Hoylman came in second to Alan Gerson in the City Council race for District 1 in 2001 and is quick to point out that The New York Times endorsed him in that race.

The real question, though, is why are Duane and Quinn dropping Schwartz? Schwartz split from V.I.D. in 1999 after he ran a female candidate for the club’s endorsement against his former co-District Leader Aubrey Lees, who he clashed with, and lost. He formed a new political organization, Lower Manhattan Alliance for Progressive Political Action, of which Duane and Quinn were key members.

“In the beginning, we had hundreds of people coming to meetings,” Schwartz claimed of LaMAPPA, but the organization subsequently was derided as a “shell” by political opponents. Admitting LaMAPPA was defunct, Schwartz recently sought to rejoin V.I.D. and the club let him back in.

Duane didn’t offer any specific reasons for why he’s backing Hoylman.

“I’m supporting Brad,” he told The Villager. “That’s the only thing I want to say right now. I know he will make a terrific district leader.”

“Arthur has shown tremendous leadership, but that said, I think it’s a good time for transition in the district leadership position and I think Brad will do a good job,” Quinn said. “It will bring new ideas and new energy to the position.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with what Arthur has done,” Quinn said when asked if Schwartz’s rejoining V.I.D. was an issue.

Glick said she felt Schwartz couldn’t devote as much attention to being district leader because of his demanding job as a top union lawyer — he represents the city’s Transport Workers Union, among others — as well as his family, which Schwartz admits has consumed a lot of his time. Schwartz recently remarried and his wife had a very difficult pregnancy last year, complications of which caused her to require heart surgery.

“I told Brad that I would support him,” Glick said, “that he would be a good district leader. I think that it would bring some balance and diversity to the club. I think he’s been understandably distracted,” she said of Schwartz. “As a union attorney, he’s had some big issues, bus strikes, and those responsibilities have taken up a lot of time.”

“I did less the last two years,” Schwartz admitted. But he said he always got to the polls during elections to help turn out the vote and insure things were operating correctly — one of district leaders’ functions. District leaders are unpaid and are the lowest-ranking elected officials, though they can play an important part in helping shape a district’s agenda.

Schwartz said his family is important to him, and that he’s running with the blessing of his wife, Kelly.

“The fact that I paid attention to my family the past couple of years doesn’t mean I’m not qualified,” he said, adding that he coached a Little League team for seven seasons. “It they’re saying parents can’t hold office…. I’m not sure what they’re referring to. In fact, I’m the only person running for office in the district — other than [Congressmember] Jerry Nadler — who has kids, young kids. Keen has grown kids.”

Schwartz said he knew things were amiss last year when he spent seven days in the hospital with his wife and did not get a call from Duane or Quinn. It became clear then, Schwartz said, that “the relationship was purely about politics and had ceased being personally friendly.”

In the past, Schwartz has said he wouldn’t run for higher office until his first two children were in college. Now he has a new child with another on the way. With his wife now having another difficult pregnancy, the timing isn’t great for Duane and Quinn to be giving him an election, he said.

Asked if it makes a difference that Hoylman, like Duane, Quinn and Glick, is openly gay, Glick said, “It’s been a long time since we had a gay male district leader — not since Artie [Strickler]. That’s not the deciding factor or the most important factor, but it offers perhaps a new perspective.”

Added Glick, “Maybe it’s just that we should have a district leader named something other than Artie or Arthur — it’s been a long time.”

Glick and Schwartz had a falling out years ago over the Hudson River Park and other issues.

Berger, who helped get Schwartz back into V.I.D., said she’s just looking forward to after the club’s May 19 endorsement vote.

“My thought is I’m going to support whoever the club chooses,” she said.

Frank Nervo, a past president of the club, said it seems odd for Schwartz to try to keep his seat, given Duane and Quinn have dumped him.

“It would be pretty pointless — because one of the [district leader’s] jobs is to have a working relationship with the community and the politicians,” he said.

William Stricklin, V.I.D. president, is reportedly not happy about the potentially divisive endorsement vote, especially since Schwartz only recently was accepted back in the club. He declined to comment.

Duane said Schwartz’s comments about someone having a problem with a candidate with families, is out of line.

“I’m not going to dignify that with an answer,” he said, then added, “I supported him when he had young children — now he’s got more young children.”

“I love children,” said Quinn. “I think Arthur has some terrific children.”

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