Local Assemblyman Richard Gottfried will retire after his current term expires next year, making him the longest-serving legislator in New York state history. He was 23 when he was first elected to represent the West Side. Gottfried is known for his liberal policy positions — he was much earlier than other Democrats to champion same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana.
“When I was 13 years old, John Kennedy inspired me to seek a career in public service. In 1970, at the age of 22, I announced my candidacy for the State Assembly,” he said in a statement.
Gottfried’s district (at right) encompasses parts of Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown and Chelsea, but it also includes a portion of the Upper West Side. In a letter announcing his retirement, Gottfried listed some of the bills he had sponsored through the years:
- LGBTQ Rights: The first bill to legalize same-sex marriage (2003): which was the basis of New York’s 2011 same-sex marriage law. Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) (2019)
- Hudson River Park Act: Catalyzed the development of the Hudson River waterfront into a vibrant park from the Battery to 59th Street (1998)
- Illegal Hotels Law: Bans using residential apartments as transient hotels (2010)
- Drug Law Reform: Marijuana decriminalization for possession of under 25 grams (1977); medical marijuana law (2014); syringe decriminalization (2021)
- Child Health Plus: Ensured that children had access to health insurance and health care (1990); became the model for Clinton Administration’s Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Protecting Health Care Decision Making: Includes laws that enable people to designate health care proxies and that allow family members to make health care decisions when an incapacitated person does not have a proxy (1991, 2015)
- Medicaid Expansion: Numerous laws and major funding to ensure availability of equitable health care services to low-income New Yorkers.
- Criminal Justice & Crime Victims: START Act to protect human trafficking survivors (2021); Reforms of rape laws to protect victims, grand jury reforms, crime victims’ rights (1977-81); Comprehensive reforms of juvenile justice and child welfare laws (1975-76).
- Campaign finance reform. Sponsored first bill for public campaign financing (1979), which became a model for New York City’s public campaign finance law.
He says that in his final session he’ll keep pushing for the New York Health Act, a bill he’s been advocating for since 1992 that would give New York a single-payer health care system.