After nearly four decades in office, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan decides to retire

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan retires
Longtime Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan has decided she will not seek re-election after 38 years in office representing western Queens. (QNS file photo)

She was one of the youngest women ever elected in New York when she was first sent to Albany in 1984 at age 26. Now, 38 years later, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan has decided that she will not seek re-election to represent western Queens when her current term ends at the end of this year.

Nolan was diagnosed with cancer last February and has been working remotely, or from her district office in Long Island City, since last year.

“I’m doing well, I’m back in the district office quite a bit, but I just can’t do it the way I did with all the events,” Nolan told Newsday. “I can’t run for reelection like I used to and be with the voters. I’m a little sad, but 38 years…I always gave it full-out, and won’t be able to do that. I pretty much loved every minute. I never minded a fight for the right thing.”

Nolan represents the 37th Assembly District which encompasses Sunnyside, Long Island City, parts of Astoria, Maspeth and Ridgewood where she lives. She was appointed Deputy Speaker of the Assembly in the winter of 2018 by Speaker Carl Heastie. Nolan served as chair of the powerful education committee from 2006 to 2018 spearheading efforts to achieve class size reduction, universal pre-K, middle school initiatives, improved high school graduation rates and other measures that meant immediate success for the more than three million school children in New York State.

QNS reached out to Nolan and is awaiting a response. Meanwhile, former Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer praised Nolan’s tenure in Albany.

“Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan will forever be known as a woman who blazed trails for many other women to serve in elected office,” Van Bramer said. “She fought for decades on behalf of the people of the 37th AD and we should thank her for her service. I wish Assemblywoman Nolan good health, time with her family and all the best in retirement.”

Van Bramer had been mentioned as a potential successor if Nolan decided to step aside, but he would not comment on whether he was considering a run. Danielle Brecker ran against Nolan in 2020 and thanked the longtime leader for her service.

“Assemblymember Catherine Nolan set the example and blazed the trail for me and many other women to engage and lead in our communities and run for office,” Brecker said on Twitter. “I would not have been able to challenge AM Nolan in 2020 if she had not been doing the work before me.”

She added that she expects a scramble to replace Nolan, much like the 26 candidates who ran last year to replace Van Bramer. Hunters Point Civic Association President Brent O’Leary, who was among that field of 26, said that he is seriously considering a run for Nolan’s seat, and offered his appreciation for her 38 years representing western Queens.

“The entire community owes sincere gratitude for Assembly Member Nolan’s hard work and dedication in fighting for the families of our community for over 38 years,” O’Leary said. “We thank her for her public service and dedication”

Community leader Mary Jobaida and Huge “Turbo Vax” Ma announced last year they would run in District 37 recently ended their campaigns. Neither could be reached for comment.

Governor Kathy Hochul took to Twitter on Friday evening to thank Nolan for her nearly 40 years of public service.

“For decades, Assemblymember Cathy Nolan has been a steadfast advocate for the people of Queens,” Hochul said. “We are grateful for her service, from her tenure as education and labor chair, to the farmworkers bill, and more, and wish her best in retirement.”