Borough President Melinda Katz officially launched her campaign for Queens District Attorney against Councilman Rory Lancman and retired Judge Gregory Lasak on Tuesday morning at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills.
The news conference addressed topics of inequality in the justice system such as ending cash bail and treating gun violence as a public health issue as well as preventing recidivism.
“For far too long our system has allowed the wealthy to pay for freedom while the poor who posed no danger just sit in jail,” Katz said. “We must end the practice of cash bail because the system penalizes poverty … and has been extremely detrimental to communities of color. It requires ending prosecution for low-level marijuana arrests, it requires knowing that gun violence needs a public health response.”
Katz pledged to take an aggressive approach to the district attorney’s office, if elected. According to the campaign, she would seek a “hard on hate” vigorous enforcement of hate crime laws; a more vigorous prosecution of rape, sexual assault and domestic and gender-based violence; fighting for worksite accountability and worker protections; and protecting elders from abuse.
After graduating from St. John’s School of Law, Katz was an associate at a law firm before running for State Assembly and later for City Council.
Her remarks, however, were punctuated by a lone Amazon protestor who called attention to Katz’s welcoming attitude toward the online retail giant choosing Long Island City as their HQ2.
“Melinda Katz is complicit in the Democratic Party machine in looting the taxpayers, giving Amazon $1.5 billion when our infrastructure is falling apart,” Adam Wilkes, the single protestor, said.
Wilkes was escorted away from the news conference Community Affairs officers from the 112th Precinct.
Katz has supported Amazon moving space at Anable Basin for the 25,000 jobs, half of which an Amazon spokeswoman claims would not require a tech background, but on the condition that they help pay for transportation improvements.
Sitting DA Richard Brown has not officially thrown his hat into the race for another re-election.
Brown, 86, has a long record as DA, having been elected in 1991 and serving as a member of the New York Judiciary for 18 years before that.
“I welcome Borough President Katz to the growing field of career politicians running for District Attorney,” Lasak said. “As the only non-politician in this race, I look forward to putting my decades-long record of fighting crime and freeing the innocent up against anyone else’s.”
Katz was re-elected as borough president in 2017, and with the DA’s seat coming up for election in 2019, could leave Borough Hall two years early should she be the voter’s choice of top prosecutor.
If Katz wins, a special election would be declared by Mayor Bill de Blasio within 45 days; the deputy borough president would serve in the interim period if a vacancy occurs in the borough president’s office.
Lancman made his official announcement for DA in September also planning to make a “real transformative change in Queens.”