By Rich Bockmann
City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) came up empty-handed when the Council speaker was doling out committee chairmanships last week, but the Queens Democratic Party loyalist did get a seat on all three public safety committees, a vantage point he said puts him in a unique position to ensure the city’s safety.
Lancman, the former state assemblyman who backed Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) in the race to helm the Council, said only Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) knows why he was not given a chairmanship, and his lack of title will not hold him back.
“For me it’s not a big deal,” he said. “I don’t need to hold a gavel for the sake of holding a gavel.”
When it came to handing out committee assignments, Mark-Viverito appointed Lancman as a sitting member on the Public Safety, Fire and Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice committees, making him the only lawmaker to sit on all three.
“I’m coming at it holistically. These three committees cover all the public safety issues the city of New York confronts,” he said. “You get to see the whole public-safety panorama from where you sit.”
For the committee on juvenile justice, Lancman said one of the top priorities will be to take a hard look at Close to Home, the Cuomo administration initiative that brought low-security youth offenders who were sent upstate back to the city to be closer to family and support services.
“It’s a big issue in communities of color that young men and women — mostly young men of color — find themselves in the criminal justice system upstate — far, far away,” he said. “The perception was that it was as much to create jobs upstate than to afford sound criminal justice purposes. Close to Home is fraught with lots of other political issues.”
Lancman said that a year or two after its implementation the program needs to be evaluated to see if it has had the desired effect, noting that being close to home may also bring an offender closer to the elements that lead to criminal activity in the first place.
A lawyer by profession, Lancman served three terms in the state Assembly.
One of the tasks of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee is to oversee the city’s criminal courts, and Lancman said one thing he would like to focus on is the effectiveness of restraining orders issued in domestic violence cases.
“Sometimes that order of protection is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” he said, adding he has had conversations with the Queens district attorney’s office about the feasibility of requiring those with orders of protection against them to wear GPS-tracking bracelets in order to track their movements.
On Public Safety, Lancman said the Council, the mayor and the courts have basically had their say on stop-and-frisk, and now the task is moving the Police Department forward while keeping the city safe.
“That’s behind us, and now the challenge is to make sure the Police Department can keep us safe and do so in a constitutional way and not fall back and be able to break some of the bad habits that developed over the last couple of years,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.