Dec. 4, 2018 By Christian Murray
Borough President Melinda Katz is in the running for Queens District Attorney, with the life-long Queens resident launching her campaign in Forest Hills on Tuesday.
Katz made the announcement at MacDonald Park this morning, and is looking to replace District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who is up for re-election in November 2019.
The Queens borough president called for many of the justice reforms that progressive Democrats have been advocating for, such as getting rid of cash bail for those charged with misdemeanor crimes as well as ending the prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses.
She also said greater emphasis needs to be placed on crime prevention.
“Justice is not equal if we fail the victims, but justice equally fails if the defendants are not treated fairly,” Katz said. “Whether a victim or the accused, justice should never depend on nationality, color of skin, or income and if it does, we have failed as a community.”
Katz’s DA platform is a nod to criticism that current District Attorney Brown has received in recent years, especially from progressive Democrats, who say he has not moved fast enough to advance criminal justice reforms, and that too many people are sitting in jail because they are unable to post bail—even when charged with low-level offenses.
“In recent years, there has been a growing awareness that the office of the District Attorney must first and foremost be a house of justice,” Katz said, adding, “This wonderful diverse borough should be the center of equity.”
Several elected officials were at her announcement in support, including Assembly Members Jeffrion Aubry, David Weprin, Stacy Amato, Andrew Hevesi, Ari Espinal as well as Council Member Paul Vallone.
But despite Katz’ progressive platform, she was heckled during the announcement over her support for Amazon coming to Long Island City and the billion in tax breaks and grants the company is set to receive from the city and state as part of the deal.
“What about our housing, what about our subways…and the sewers that are overflowing in Long Island City?” a protester yelled, disrupting her announcement. “This is our city, it’s not real-estate-developer-city or landlord-city.”
Katz’ stance on many issues have been subject to criticism from traditional progressives and differ from the likes of Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, currently a favorite among left-leaning Democrats.
Ocasio-Cortez, much like other progressive western Queens leaders, such as Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides, along with State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, oppose Amazon and the proposed tax breaks.
Katz has also supported other proposals that do not sit well with progressives. She has spoken in support of the Brooklyn Queens Connector– which critics say will lead to the displacement of residents along the waterfront communities of Long Island City and Astoria–and has also supported developing over Sunnyside Yards.
Katz is currently in her second and final term as borough president and will be term limited at the end of 2021. The DA is not a position that has term limits, with Brown holding office since 1991.
Brown, who is 86 years old and is in ailing health, has not yet said whether he plans to run for the DA position again, but it is widely held that he will not.
Two other Democrats are also vying for his position. City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and retired Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak have announced their run. The primary will be in September.
Katz, who graduated from St. John’s School of Law, is a veteran politician, and noted that her different roles over the years qualify her for the position.
She served in the State Assembly from 1994 to 1999 and in the City Council from 2002 to 2009, where she chaired the Land Use Committee. She also worked at the law firm Greenberg Traurig from 2009-2012, where she was a land use adviser to real estate companies.
Katz would be the first woman to be Queens District Attorney if elected.