SOHO POLITICS: A Candidate's Perpective

Yetta Kurland reflects on her career in law, activism and public service.

A few years ago a deal was made to close our neighborhood’s hospital, St. Vincent’s, in order to build more luxury condos. As a civil rights attorney and a committed community organizer, I went to work, using my skills to help organize our community to speak out.  

We started the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, and led the fight to open a new hospital on the West Side after the closure of St. Vincent's. Our work got the Department of Health to acknowledge its legal obligation to provide a hospital for West Side residents. We still lost our full-service hospital, but won an important legal point that is the foundation of our fight moving forward: our community has a right—both legal and moral—to a local hospital.

Today, I’m running for City Council on the West Side of Manhattan in the 3rd City Council District.  When I get to the council, restoring an affordable full service hospital in our community will be my first goal.  

People often tell me that I look too young to be running for office, but the truth is that for over twenty years I have worked as a community organizer and civil rights attorney. I have a long record of standing up for ordinary New Yorkers against the rich and the powerful.

I’ve gone to court to protect tenants from unfair evictions and to fight to preserve affordable housing.

I’ve gone to court to fight for equal pay in the workforce—including for  women firefighters, who just won an important legal victory.

I’ve provided legal representation for people victimized by hate crimes.

And, I was part of the Coalition that won marriage equality in New York State.  I am also a small business owner and educator.  In 1993, I founded a language center that offered educational opportunities and created hundreds of jobs for New Yorkers.

I grew up poor, in upstate New York. My family was mostly artists and educators. Our parents taught us to respect and value others.  Every person should be treated with dignity, everyone has something to offer, and it’s important to speak up for what you believe in. That’s why I went to law school, to learn the skills to help me stand up for my community.  

These are the skills I want to take to the City Council.

As Manhattan continues to become less and less affordable for working and middle class families, our communities need a voice on the Council who will stand up for tenants and for anyone who struggles to keep their head above water in this City of skyrocketing rents and prices.

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