By Bill Parry
Several Queens lawmakers are relieved that Eric Schneiderman resigned as state attorney general just hours after his alleged violence towards four women were exposed in The New Yorker magazine Monday. Queens’ newest assemblywoman, Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights), who won her seat in the special election last month, supported the women who came forward against Schneiderman in the exposé.
“I am incredibly disgusted by Eric Schneiderman, the alleged violent acts against these brave survivors, and his hypocrisy,” Espinal said. “We must leave no doubt that any man who abuses, harasses, or assaults women should not be representing our state. In this era of #MeToo, it takes immense courage to speak up about something so personal and traumatic. I stand completely with these women and support them in their fight for justice.”
She added, “As a state and a country, we must do more to empower all victims of abuse to come forward so that we can hold perpetrators accountable and break the cycle of violence. I have complete faith in our law enforcement to investigate this matter fully.”
Schneiderman, who served the attorney general from 2011 to 2013 after 10 years in the state Senate, said the incidents involving the women were consensual.
State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) agreed with her fellow assemblywoman.
“Given the recent allegations of assault by four women, the resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the only option moving forward,” she said. “It is imperative that the reports of these courageous women are taken seriously and that the investigations continue. New York women deserve an attorney general who champions their rights both publicly and privately and we should continue advocating and pursuing a more just New York.”
The revelations about Schneiderman were particularly disturbing because he had been a champion of the #MeToo movement and women’s rights.
Barbara Underwood, 73, was sworn in Tuesday as acting attorney general a day after Schneiderman’s resignation.
Underwood had been the state solicitor general since 2007 and she held an executive position at the Queens district attorney’s office in the 1990s.
“Barbara D. Underwood is a superb lawyer,” DA Richard Brown said. “She was a key part of my administration when I became the Queens district attorney in 1991 and is very well-respected. I brought Barbara in to oversee legal affairs, develop our training program and to manage recruitment. She excelled in all of these areas and continues to be an important member of our state’s legal community.”
Underwood will serve out the remainder of Schneiderman’s term unless the state Legislature selects a replacement. Among the names being mentioned are state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and city Public Advocate Letitia James.
“The work of this office is critically important,” Underwood said. “Our office has never been stronger, and this extraordinarily talented, dedicated, and tireless team of public servants will ensure that our work continues without interruption.”
Several recent investigations in Queens will continue such as the attorney general’s probe into three buildings in Astoria once owned by Kushner Companies, formerly run by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, for allegedly falsifying documents on rent-stabilized tenants. A lawsuit Schneiderman brought against 14 anti-choice protesters who allegedly harassed women who approached the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica between 2012 and 2017 is proceeding.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr