In a year synonymous with political change and challenges, New Yorkers will have the opportunity in November to select fresh voices or familiar faces to serve them in citywide and local offices.
It wasn’t always supposed to be that way.
Previously, under the term limits twice approved by the city’s voters, elected officials could only serve two consecutive terms in an office. But thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial proposal to extend term limits, which the City Council passed in the fall, he and many other powerful incumbents will be asking New Yorkers once again to re-elect them to their seats.
That turn of events is just one reason why it is time for the city’s residents to look carefully, and consider a new candidate unencumbered by tired old debates, someone who boldly presents ideas for the future.
Yetta Kurland is that candidate for City Council District 3. A resident of the district for nearly 15 years, she understands the issues facing the community she aspires to represent. “I have fought my whole life to work to empower those around me to be able to be themselves and to express themselves, and I will continue to do so as the next City Council Member for the West Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen,” says Kurland. She may be a newcomer to elected office, but she is no stranger to the political life of New York City, and to urgent items on the agenda, such as civil rights, education and development.
“My experience as an educator, a small business owner, a community organizer and a civil rights attorney has prepared me to represent my community and the people who I live among and whom I love.” As a civil rights attorney for the past decade, Kurland helps give a voice to people contending with problems that too often remain silent, especially in the LGBT community. The founding partner of the law firm, Kurland, Bonica and Associates, P.C., her current clients include Emergency Medical Services workers suing the City for unfair promotional practices, and an individual wrongfully arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention. She also represented Josie Smith-Malave, the lesbian “Top Chef” contestant who was gay bashed on Long Island, and is working to help gay men who allege that the police are entrapping them at local adult video stores.
Kurland wants to work on issues not just typically coined as LGBT as well. She has a long history as a small business owner and educator. “I think the closing of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop typifies some of the more serious problems we are facing in our community. We must invest in our small businesses because they will help us out of this difficult economic time and they also help to express our identity and the history of our community,” she says. As a tenant rights activist, Kurland has worked to create sustainable and affordable housing solutions for working people, while also defending tenants in eviction proceedings to protect their rent stabilized and rent controlled homes. Her dedication to making housing more affordable is part of a broader commitment to making New York City more livable, with sensible development in neighborhoods, and opportunities for small businesses to flourish and utilize the immense and diverse talents of New Yorkers.
Earlier in her career, Kurland became a teacher, and she founded the Hello World Language Center, an alternative language and culture resource center. Today, she is an adjunct professor at New York University, where she teaches in the Steinhardt School
of Education. These experiences position her well to contribute to the important debates surrounding education reform.
In the contest to represent District 3, Kurland is likely to face a formidable opponent in City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has represented the area since 1999, before being elected in 2006 as the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the powerful speaker’s position. Speaker Quinn supported the mayor’s proposal to extend term limits, which Kurland opposed without a referendum. While Quinn is to be commended for her years of barrier-breaking service, Kurland, with her independence and courage, represents the inspiring change people have come to believe in this year.
Yetta Kurland 41, lives in Chelsea with her partner, Elizabeth, and their two Italian Greyhounds, Sal and Luca.