Morton Povman: longest serving NYC Council Member, dies at 93

Former Queens Council Member Morton Povman died Tuesday at the age of 93.
Photo courtesy of the Queens County Democratic Party

Morton “Morty” Povman, who was the longest-serving New York City Council Member, died Tuesday due to complications of pancreatic cancer.

Povman served in the role from 1971-2001, representing what was initially New York’s 15th congressional district and later the 24th congressional district, which covers Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Briarwood and Fresh Meadows. After 31 years in office, Povman retired because of term limits.

Povman was born and raised in Brooklyn. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. After graduating first in his class at Brooklyn Law School, Povman served as the editor-in-chief of the legal periodical “Law Review” before founding his own law office in Forest Hills. Throughout his long legal career, he assisted several tenant and civic associations as he took on pro-bono cases.

In 1960, Povman first got involved in politics when he joined the 7th Assembly District Democratic Club in Richmond Hill. While he initially did so in an effort to find more clients, Povman soon became legal counsel to the club’s leader, former New York State Assembly Majority Leader Moses Weinstein. After Weinstein left the club in 1970 to assume a judgeship, Povman stepped in to take over as district leader. He ended up maintaining that position throughout the entirety of his term in the City Council.

In 1971, following Council Member Donald Manes’ departure to pursue the Queens Borough President role, Povman seized the opportunity to run for the vacated position. His election victory marked the beginning of a 31-year tenure in office.

While Povman received offers over the years for higher political offices, he turned them all down, as he was very comfortable serving as a council member. Among the opportunities he turned down were for congressman, Queens borough president and a judgeship in the Queens division of the Supreme Court. “I was never power-driven. I was never pressing for any office except City Council,” he said in a 2002 interview.

During his time in office, Povman was instrumental in ensuring the 107th Precinct and the Metropolitan Hospital Center remained operational after both were threatened by the Mayor’s office with closures. He also helped protect Flushing Meadows-Corona Park through his vocal opposition to plans for construction of high-rise apartments near Willow Lake and a racetrack around Meadow Lake. Throughout his tenure, all 15 parks within his district underwent major rehabilitations.

One of his most enduring legacies is bringing the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and bringing the U.S. Open to the venue.

In 2000, the Educational Center for Russian Jewry in Rego Park honored Povman for his years of services and dedication to assisting newcomers to the Forest Hills and Rego Park communities, which each had a large Russian population throughout his time serving in the New York City Council.

“He was a committed Democrat, having served as District Leader for several decades,” the Queens County Democratic Party said in a statement. “Beloved throughout Queens, he was pivotal in helping to bring many positive changes to our borough, including the U.S. Open to its current location.”

Schneps publishers Victoria and Joshua Schneps shared their heartfelt condolences, remembering him as a towering figure and a guiding light to the community. “Morty was our lawyer for the acquisition of BORO magazine in 2013 and helped to make the purchase possible with his wisdom and guidance. His legacy is in place for all he did for our Queens communities.”

Morton Povman is survived by his wife Sandra, their two sons and five grandchildren.

Funeral service will be held at Schwartz Brothers – Jeffer Memorial Chapels at 114-03 Queens Blvd. on Friday, March 8 at 9 a.m.