This weekend, an openly gay man was shot to death after a confrontation in Greenwich Village Friday in what police commissioner Ray Kelly is calling a hate crime. According to New York state Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, whose district includes Greenwich Village, the incident was at least the fifth instance of anti-gay violence in Manhattan this month.
Pickus: You’ve tracked this spate of what you see as discriminatory crime in recent weeks, and I’m wondering what you’re doing in your role as senator to combat that.
Hoylman: Well, let me just say I want to thank the hate crime task force of the NYPD and the entire police force for acting decisively and swiftly and apprehending the suspects and investigating the crimes. What we are doing today is holding a march in Manhattan starting at 5:30 outside the LGBT center in Greenwich Village and concluding with a rally at 6. Part of the issue, Ian, is to raise awareness among our straight allies, but also among people who might have been victims; that they need to speak out, they need to let the hate crimes task force and the NYPD know that they’ve been assaulted or targeted as a victim of a hate crime.
Pickus: You know, I think people were kind of shocked; many pointing out that the site of this crime was only a few blocks from Stonewall, and with the state having passed same-sex marriage a couple years back, it seemed like maybe we were past this. I wonder, as the state's only openly gay senator, have you ever faced anything like this in these neighborhoods?
Hoylman: I’ve never faced anything like what occurred over the last few weeks in Manhattan. Certainly, my husband and I, over the years we have had our own share of incidents when we’ve held hands but, you know, it happens. But, you can’t be complacent about it. And I do worry that our community might not be as vigilant as we should be. We still don’t have a human rights law for transgendered New Yorkers in New York state. We still have a rising problem of homeless LGBT youth in Manhattan and across the state, and social services have been cut dramatically, which is hurting our ability to help those young people. So, it’s really incumbent upon all of us in the community to stay vigilant, to continue to fight for our rights, and to make certain that these kinds of crime get the attention they deserve from the public.
Pickus: In the meantime, this was another example of gun crime and reportedly the suspect in Friday's killing, who was arraigned yesterday, had spent a decade in prison and, reportedly, an assault weapon was found in his home. You voted for the SAFE Act… I’m wondering if you think that there is a gun aspect to this story as well.
Hoylman: There certainly is. I have been speaking to the local precinct about whether this gentleman, the suspect who was out on parole, was entitled to have the gun. Certainly, I would advocate that we need fewer guns in every aspect of our society. We have a problem with illegal guns going into New York City from different parts of the country, particularly from the South. Unfortunately, the SAFE Act, while it addresses a lot of issues, doesn’t address that issue of handguns and the importation of them. That is something that is going to have to happen at the federal level. That’s why the logjam in Washington or the absolute failure to get a gun law passed is so disappointing and should really remind us of the actual consequences of that failure in Washington.
Pickus: Let’s change topics a bit. There was a Siena poll released today that did not have good numbers for people like you who come to Albany to serve. Sixty-seven percent of New Yorkers think Albany gets more dysfunctional by the day I think nine of 10 expected more lawmakers to get taken away in handcuffs. You’re fairly new to theSenate, having been elected in 2012, but what’s your take on how Albany can get back into the good graces of the voters?
Hoylman: Well, I can’t blame those numbers. I feel the same way as those numbers indicate, but you know, at the same time there are a lot of well-meaning honest, decent, and hardworking public officials here. That’s been my takeaway, but we need to do more to increase transparency to make certain we have campaign finance that takes the pay-to-play aspect out of Albany politics and frankly addresses some of the loopholes that were left in the last ethics bill that was passed a couple years ago. For example, I don’t know if you knew this, Ian, but, if you are an elected official elected after 2011 and you’re convicted of a public corruption charge, then you lose your pension. However, if you were elected before 2011, which accounts for the vast majority of legislators, you get to keep your pension. It’s those kinds of loopholes that we need to fill. I’ve introduced some legislation to that effect. We need to make certain everybody plays by the same rules and if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, the consequences are severe.
Pickus: Do you think the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, JCOPE, should be reorganized or changed in any way? Because it seems like many of these investigations have come from the federal level.
Hoylman: I think its terrific, frankly, that the U.S. Attorneys have set their sights on Albany. I wish they had been doing this for a more sustained period of time. But now we have the Southern district and the Eastern district focusing on Albany. I say, let every district attorney uncover as much information as they can. I would like to see more coordination; for example, I think the attorney general could play a big role in policing the ethics of the capitol. I hope the governor and attorney general will work on that aspect. JCOPE, I think it’s a little confusing, frankly, the way it is organized. It was, essentially, a compromise deal as I understand—I wasn’t serving at the time. And I’m not a big fan of the fact that any conference of either chamber can essentially derail an investigation due to the composition of the JCOPE board.