New York, NY—The race for the Manhattan District Attorney is crowded. Yesterday you were introduced to four of the candidates who each provided their vision for the DA office during a virtual forum hosted by the West Side Democrats this week. In this installment, you’ll read about another four candidates who likewise shared their vision, explained some reforms they’d like to implement and also how they would be radically different from the current Manhattan DA, Cy Vance.
Liz Crotty is currently a defense attorney who for 20 years has worked on both sides of the criminal courtroom at 100 Center Street. She was a Manhattan district attorney for six years, and then 13 years ago she started her own criminal defense law practice.
“I believe going forward that Manhattan needs a district attorney that balances the need for public safety and practical reform. We shouldn’t have to choose between safety and civil rights,” said Crotty.
She noted she has the right experience and perspective to lead the office, given that she worked as a prosecutor in 1,000 cases and as a defense attorney in 3,000 cases.
“This has been my career, what I know and what I come to bring to this job has been learned over time. It has not been taught, it is not academic and it’s not from a supervisor’s office. It is representing people every day in the trenches—I think that is what brings a unique perspective to this office.”
Assembly Member Dan Quart (District 73) mentioned that his favorite book about the criminal legal system has very little to do with the law. The author, Jill Leovy, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, wrote a New York Times best-seller, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America and Quart said his favorite line in the book is: “The law is a bully against that which is easy, but a coward against that which is hard.”
“Nothing sums up the last 11 years under Cy Vance more so than that statement—a bully against that which he should not have prosecuted, and a coward against that which he should have,” said Quart, in an obvious reference to Cy Vance’s record of refusing to prosecute white-collar crime.
Based on his experience in the courtroom and as a legislator, Quart said he would “rebuild the office from the ground up” in three specific ways.
His first priority would be to revamp the sex crimes unit within the office.
“Nothing is more important than gaining the trust back from Manhattanites on how to reform the sex crimes unit,” Quart said.
Second, he’d end surveillance-based technology for street gang prosecutions, saying that it’s an important issue in the race and a point of distinction between the candidates.
“Many of the prosecutors and many of the candidates in this race believe this is a tool that they themselves can use more wisely. I reject that notion. It is the tool itself that is wrong. And it is the tool itself that has racially disproportionate outcomes. I won’t use it,” said Quart.
And the last thing that he’s most synonymous with in Albany—ending all sorts of policies that punish poverty with no public safety benefit.
“I have been at the forefront at every important effort over the last 10 years to reform our criminal legal system. It is those three issues that I’m running on and a point of distinction between myself and the other lawyers in this race and why I want to be your next DA,” noted Quart.
Lucy Lang began by saying that the office of District Attorney is about far more than prosecution alone, that the next DA must take a 360-degree view of the criminal justice system.
“And I know this as a national criminal justice reform leader and as a former assistant DA here in Manhattan. I know that the urgency of ending mass incarceration must be a stated priority for the next DA,” said Lang.
According to Lang, she’s developed a plan for addressing racial justice and injustice, which have been informed by her work with incarcerated New Yorkers and includes declining to prosecute cases that don’t belong in the criminal justice system.
“Diverting cases that belong in the public health system—crimes of poverty, crimes of mental health challenges and substance misuse, and ultimately, ending the reliance on mandatory minimum and three-strike laws and draconian laws that result in unduly long sentences that serve no one and undermine public safety,” Lang said.
She’s honored to have the endorsement from families who have lost loved ones to police violence, including Valerie Bell, the mother of Sean Bell, Victoria Davis, the sister of Delrawn Small and Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile.
“I know how to change the system because I’ve worked to change it from inside and out, and I’m committed to a DA office that prioritizes prevention, equity and the dignity of all New Yorkers,” said Lang.
Diana Florence said she’s running to be Manhattan DA to fight for people who never thought they’d win. She noted that she’s spent her career fighting for justice, for people like Carlos Machado, a 22-year-old construction worker who was badly injured at a construction site.
“I got justice for Carlos. This is exactly what your DA is supposed to be doing,” said Florence.
She contrasted her record to Cy Vance.
“For too long the current DA has done the opposite, over criminalizing people of color while giving a pass to [Harvey] Weinstein, [Jeffrey] Epstein and Donald Trump and many other lower-profile powerful people.
She’s proud to have the support from over a dozen labor unions—bus drivers, sanitation workers and carpenters.
“Together, we can make the DA office a place of opportunity, and as your DA I will do this alongside the community I serve, not in spite of it, to ensure that every New Yorker is safe at home, safe at work and safe on the street,” said Florence.