This was originally published by IMAGE Magazine on September 07, 2010.
Assemblyman Brodsky, Our Next Attorney General?
Many things can and have been said about Assemblyman Richard Brodsky during his three decades in public service, but nothing compares to meeting with him in person. From the moment he walked through the door, Brodsky’s commanding presence and mastery of a wide range of issues was evident. Whether he was talking about his record of government reform, his environmental achievements or his daughter’s organ donation experience, it was apparent Brodsky had earned his reputation as a bright and opinionated public servant, a reputation that will serve him well as he runs to replace Andrew Cuomo as New York’s next Attorney General.
Brodsky’s strong opinions and affection for New York began during his childhood in Brooklyn. “Our community was religiously and ethnically diverse and I was able to be friends with kids who were observant and nonobservant, Jews as well as Christians. It was a friendly, safe and warm environment. I’m glad to see Brooklyn’s neighborhoods reestablishing those qualities,” Brodsky said. It was his experience riding the subways to school in Brooklyn that motivated his recent successful campaign to preserve the free metro cards for NYC students, a program that the MTA had threatened to cut. Brodsky described his drive to save the program as coming from having taken his sister and himself to school at PS 149. “I knew the importance of those free passes. I couldn’t stand by and let students be used as negotiating pawns in figuring out the MTA’s bud- get,” he said.
After moving with his family to Westchester in his teens, Brodsky’s long career in public service began in his undergrad years at Brandeis University and continued during his time at Harvard Law. Since first joining the NYS Assembly 28 years ago, Brodsky made a name for himself as a determined legislator, authoring legislation including New York’s Environmental Protection Fund, Clean Air/Clean Water Act, STAR tax relief program and perhaps most importantly the Public Authorities Reform Act (PARA). Brodsky explained the urgent need for the PARA, stating, “What we had in New York was a Soviet-style bureaucracy of over 700 public authorities that had little oversight and cost the taxpayers billions of dollars in debt. We’ve begun the process of overhauling our public authority system, an effort that is long overdue and will bring our budget much needed relief.”
Despite his long record of achievements as a legislator, he is probably best known by the public for his legal victories. In court, he took on powerful institutions like the Yankees, challenging the public funding of the new Yankee Stadium. Alongside Pete Seeger and Clearwater, Brodsky successfully sued Entergy to end the polluting of the already damaged Hudson River. It’s his record as a litigator that Brodsky believes qualifies him to be New York’s top attorney. The race for the Democratic Attorney General nomination has been shaping up to be this election season’s most closely watched race in New York State.
Joining Brodsky in the crowded field is corporate prosecutor Sean Coffey, Former Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo, Nassau DA Kathleen Rice, and State Senator Eric Schneiderman. “There’s not a bum in the race,” explained Brodsky. “What it’ll come down to is which candidate has proven themselves to be the candidate of real reform, and I’m confident my record will speak for itself. It’s this record that’s earned me the endorsements of unions like CWA and DC37, political figures like Speaker Shelly Silver and community leaders across the state.” The past six months have been a whirlwind of travel and events for Brodsky, who has been touting his record in communities across Brooklyn, New York City and New York State. “Throughout this campaign I’ve visited areas like Long Island, Manhattan, Syracuse and Buffalo and have been greeted by New Yorkers familiar with my work. I’ve fought the good fights and it’s been gratifying knowing that that my record is remembered and has made a difference.”
In his continuing effort to make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers, Brodsky addresses hardship felt across our communities through programs like the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York State. “TAP should be made available to all students based on their individual needs. The struggle to broaden the TAP program hasn’t been easy. With the leadership of Shelly Silver, a friend and supporter, we are close to finally enabling the state to help poor middle-income students regardless of their place of study.”
During his decades of public service, certain issues have been of personal importance to Brodsky, most notably organ donation. His legislative efforts on this issue stem from his family’s personal experience. His youngest daughter, Julianne Willie, suffered from an autoimmune disease that led to her needing a second kidney donation at the age of 16. At the time, Brodsky was a candidate for Attorney General but once Willie’s doctors identified him as a donor he dropped out of the race. “There are no atheists in bunker holes or donor waiting lists,” explained Brodsky. He insists he did nothing extraordinary, that any parent would have done the same. Complications later in the process ultimately prevented Brodsky from donating, though. “After I was unable to donate, my daughter received a kidney from a woman in Long Island who was struck by lightning. I’ve been working by Willie’s side to improve our organ donation system in New York State in order to shorten our unacceptable waiting list and make sure more New Yorkers are able to give the gift of life.” Even as his 28th and final year in the legislature comes to a close, Brodsky’s efforts to overhaul New York’s organ donation system are still underway. “After all of these years serving the people of New York in the Assembly, moving on to be New York’s top lawyer is an exciting next step in my life in public service,” Brodsky mused. “I’ve proven time and time again to be a voice for the people of New York State and am eager and ready to be the people’s lawyer.”
Brodsky recently met with Renewal staff and kidney donors. Renewal is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting people suffering from various forms of kidney disease. Their multi-faceted proactive team is dedcated to saving lives through kidney donation. Renewal is there for every patient and their family at every stage of the challenging journey towards health, providing many services to both donor and recipient. Special attention is given to the Jewish community to address specialized issues and concerns. It was an emotional meeting, as several kidney donors recounted the stories behind their heroic deeds. Faigy Morgenstern shared her own personal story of how she saw an ad in the newspaper and decided instantly that she would donate her kidney. “I only wish,” she said, “that I had more kidneys that I could donate to even more people.”
The parent of a young kidney recipient expressed appreciation for Renewal’s continued support throughout the entire arduous process. Brodsky then told his own family’s story. “The staff and donors at Renewal are true American heroes. I was deeply moved by their selfless sacrifice and generosity and humbled by their actions,” he concluded. Brodsky agreed that he will continue to do everything in his power to make live kidney donations even more prevalent. This would reduce the waiting time for those who so badly need a kidney to survive. Often, donors are interested in donating a kidney but are held back when they consider the financial strain it will entail for their families while they are going through the recovery process. Sometimes their spouse may not be supportive of kidney donation because of the toll it may take on the household running smoothly. They also worry about transportation costs to and from testing. Renewal covers many of these expenses and government funding and support would surely be helpful in increasing the number of kidney donations within our community. Should Brodsky’s legislation be passed into law, many of those who have held back from kidney donation for financial reasons may reconsider. Hopefully, it will help them decide to give the ultimate gift—the gift of life.