In Remembrance, Appreciation & Undiminished Determination

Gay New York has lost two giants. On May 12, longtime lesbian activist Adelaide Connaughton unexpectedly passed away. Adelaide worked to elect many LGBTQ people to office and also worked to elect our straight allies. She was the founding vice president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club and remained in that post until her death.

Adelaide also worked tirelessly as part of the Candles for Clemency movement. As an employee of the Fortune Society, she devoted herself to the effort to secure the compassionate release of incarcerated people who had paid their debt to society and to ease their transition to a new life outside prison. When we protested outside the home of Governor Andrew Cuomo to demand the release of elderly people from prison, Adelaide handled all of the logistics.

As much as Adelaide accomplished in the fight for clemency, she knew there was much more to be done. A week before she died, Adelaide asked me to take her and two other Fortune Society staff members to visit Judith Clark — whose release she fought so hard for and did not live to see.

PERSPECTIVE: Insider Trading

Adelaide’s life partner of 29 years is Lynn Schulman, who works for the City Council. In 2021, Lynn is expected to make a run for an open Council seat now held by the wonderful Karen Koslowitz. Currently there are no lesbians in the City Council and the number of women has shrunk to just 11 out of 51 members.

Last month, we also said goodbye to longtime State Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who died on May 26. We had been friends for decades, and I always knew him to be a loyal, kind, and funny guy. We should never forget that his first act after winning his Assembly race in 1974 was to hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall to endorse the gay rights bill. Denny was pro-gay rights before most people would give us the time of day. In 1985, he ran for mayor against incumbent Ed Koch and City Council President Carol Bellamy and, not surprisingly, he was better on the issues affecting us than either of them. And unlike Koch and Bellamy, if Farrell were gay, I have little doubt that he would not have been closeted. Despite his loss, Denny remained an assemblymember and a major part of the fabric of New York, impacting the lives of all for the better.

Denny was also a key member of the Candles for Clemency effort. Last year, he went up to Bedford Correctional Facility with me and Manhattan Democratic leader Keith Wright to meet Judith Clark.

In my last column, I spoke about bossism in Manhattan’s little-understood judicial process through the manipulation by a few bad apples — including former Shelly Silver employee Joanna Saccone. Recently, Civil Court candidates received a text written by Saccone ordering them to not attend an endorsement meeting by the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. Six of the seven candidates showed up anyway, with most of them laughing off her demand not to show. Saccone’s partner in hijacking the system is East Side District Leader Louise Dankberg, whose method of choosing members of the county-level trial court bench has less to do with character or ability than with blind loyalty to her and her judicial delegate machine.

Days before the Women’s March in January, Dankberg led the vote to not allow the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to participate in Manhattan’s judicial screening panel. NOW’s crime was that its president, Sonia Ossorio, had lobbied against the reappointment of Judge Lori Sattler, who slammed a mother in open court for having an abortion — an action that garnered the criticism of elected officials including Public Advocate Tish James, Congressmember Adriano Espaillat, and City Councilmembers Margaret Chin, Rosie Mendez, and Helen Rosenthal. Against this list of formidable political opponents, Dankberg joined District Leader Josh Kravitz in targeting NOW, calling its criticism of Sattler “totally inappropriate behavior” that they “didn’t want to reward.” What sexist nonsense!

The motion to bar NOW was presented by Kravitz, who is now trying to create a new East Side Democratic club by passing himself off as a progressive. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that progressives don’t bash women rights organizations like NOW for daring to speak up for the rights of women. And men don’t tell women to shut up.

Sue Moss of the law firm Chemtob, Moss, Forman & Beyda, one of New York’s largest law firms focused on the practice of divorce, family, and matrimonial law, nominated Sattler at last year’s Democratic Convention. Not very surprisingly, women so often get the short end of the stick in Family Court because men are more likely to be able to afford the hefty retainer fees at firms like Moss’.

I’m sorry to report that former Senator Tom Duane voted for Sattler at the convention. Tom has been close to judicial delegate power broker Saccone for years, and thus made light of Sattler and the abortion issue. I supported Duane in all his City Council races and his bid for Congress. Back then, he spoke as a progressive — but as time went on, he veered away. Inexplicably, he is now a good friend and promoter of anti-gay bigot and anti-abortion advocate Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Carl Kruger, who enraged our community when he voted against marriage equality the first time around in the State Senate and wound up serving a hefty prison term, having been found guilty of corruption.

Perhaps Tom’s change in outlook shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2013, he proclaimed at a rally that gays who opposed Christine Quinn’s mayoral bid must have suffered a traumatic experience in their youth that made us self-loathing. As we all know, most in the LGBTQ community did not support Quinn — not because they were self-loathing, but because they were opposed to her policies and her brand of politics. Progressives fled Quinn after she refused to support the aggressive early incarnations of the Living Wage and Paid Sick Leave bills, two measures that would have benefited mostly low income and working class women, constituencies real Democrats care deeply about.

In other news, Community Board Three’s district manager, Susan Stetzer, lost her fight to keep Alan Cumming’s East Village’s Club Cumming from having live music and performances. In a recent decision, the State Liquor Authority cited the club as an asset to the community. Stetzer said the SLA approved the license because Cumming is rich and famous. She, as usual, was acting on her own agenda to cleanse the East Village of restaurants and venues that serve alcohol, and of course those include gay establishments. Did anyone tell her that Prohibition ended in 1933? Though many gays have fled living in Stetzer’s community board boundaries, we still have our rights to public accommodations. Why exactly does Borough President Gale Brewer allow this anti alcohol/ nightlife hysteria to continue on her community boards?

Allen Roskoff, the president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, co-authored the first gay rights bill ever introduced in the US. Upcoming: more about how a recently published news report shows just how much damage Community Board Two does to downtown economic development… and more on the continued harassment of an elderly gay member of CB2.