New York, NY—Standing outside the apartment building from which he and his family were evicted when he was nine years old, Shaun Abreu, City Council candidate for District 7, picked up an endorsement today from current District 7 Councilman Mark Levine (D).
Levine is term limited and is currently running to be Manhattan’s next Borough President. In his opening remarks outside 654 W. 161st Street in Washington Heights, Levine talked about why he believes Abreu will be an effective leader to succeed him.
He first noted Abreu’s leadership qualities, which Levine said were on display when Abreu served as his deputy campaign manager during Levine’s first run for Council in 2013.
“The ability to connect with people from all walks of life, that’s what it takes in this district. I have seen those qualities on display in this campaign where he has built an incredible coalition…as comfortable campaigning in English as he is in Spanish,” said Levine.
He then quipped, “We got to work on the Hebrew—that will be next.”
Levine then noted how Abreu, who is a tenant rights attorney, will be able to carry on the work that Levine started, namely his signature Right to Counsel legislation that passed the City Council in 2017 and guarantees legal support to families facing eviction.
“This has been our signature fight in this district—a community of tenants, tenants who have struggled in housing court, who have had to endure abuse by unscrupulous landlords,” Levine said.
“We need a council member who understands this fight, both from a legal perspective, and in a way that is so powerful for Shaun—a deeply personal perspective.”
In his remarks during the press conference, Abreu graciously thanked Levine for his endorsement, saying that Levine is more than just a mentor.
“I’ve watched Council member Levine fight for Right to Counsel legislation, which would have benefited families like my own in the 1990s. And now I’m watching Council member Levine as he works, day in and day out, to become our next Manhattan Borough President,” said Abreu.
“We need more public servants like Mark Levine, and it is his desire to do good which I seek to emulate.”
In addition to working to expand the Right to Counsel law, Abreu said he would be fighting for a “robust health justice plan,” as well as the creation of a municipal bank to provide low-cost loans to the district’s small businesses.
The Right to Counsel law, since it became law in 2017, has contributed to a 24 percent decrease in the number of evictions since 2014. But in an interview after the press event, Levine said the law needs to be expanded because currently it has a five-year phase-in.
“Given the current crisis, with the avalanche of evictions that we’re facing in the coming months, we need to immediately expand it city-wide—no more five-year phase in. We have a bill on that—Int 2050-2020—which Shaun is highly supportive of,” Levine said.
Following up in an interview after the press event, Abreu emphasized once more the significance of Levine's endorsement.
“As I said before, Council member Levine is not only a mentor, friend, he's a fighter for tenants facing eviction. This endorsement is even more significant when you think about the circumstances under which we're making this endorsement,” said Abreu.
Pointing to the apartment building behind him, he added, “This is where I was evicted as a child—654 W 161st Street—and now I’m a tenant rights attorney, fighting for families like mine in housing court.”