Assemblymember Dan Quart (D-Murray Hill, Lenox Hill) stands out among the candidates in the Manhattan District Attorney race, for one simple reason; he’s the only one with experience making the laws that he hopes to enforce.
In a recent phone interview with NYCP, Quart said that the “broad executive power” he would wield as DA would help him accomplish more than he currently can as an Assemblymember. However, he added that he is running for DA to further the reform he has already accomplished in the Assembly.
“I can take that experience [as a lawmaker], and also my experience representing people as a civil litigator and my criminal defense work, and change the District Attorney’s office,” said Quart. “So I think I have the right set of experiences as a lawmaker and a lawyer to truly reform the Manhattan DA’s office.”
One of his most noteworthy accomplishments as a legislator was the decriminalization of gravity knives. The illegality of gravity knives disproportionately affected low-income New Yorkers of color, many of whom had to use gravity knives as part of their jobs. In 2019, he sponsored a bill to legalize them, which Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed in May of that year.
“Working with advocates and legal aid lawyers, we were able to decriminalize something that Cy Vance himself used to criminalize poverty,” said Quart. “On occasion, he’d even use it as a felony bump-up to ensure incarceration.”
Quart went on to elaborate on his efforts to resist incumbent Cy Vance’s draconian policies. In the mid-2010s, Vance entered into a memorandum of understanding with the New York Police Department (NYPD). This allowed the NYPD to make arrests for low-level summonses and prosecute the people they arrested. Quart caught wind of this in 2016, when an NYPD officer issued summonses for two Black Lives Matter protesters, Arminta Jeffryes and Cristina Winsor – the former for jaywalking and the latter for disorderly conduct.
In response, Quart formed a coalition of Manhattan electeds to pressure Vance to rescind the memorandum of understanding – which, eventually, he did.
“This was, to me, deeply wrong, that Vance would outsource an essential function of his office… to the NYPD,” said Quart. “The majority of credit goes to the two BLM protesters who refused to take plea deals, but I’m proud of the work I did. But I guess it goes to the point that it’s not only a matter of your years of experience in Albany; it’s what you do with that time in elected office that really matters.”
When asked what his top priorities would be upon taking office, Quart cited three primary areas of concern. His first would be a complete reform of the DA’s sex crimes unit. He has published a nine-point plan to overhaul the office, which is available here. Secondly, he would halt the office’s use of surveillance-based technology, which he called “an extension of stop-and-frisk” and an undue invasion of privacy. His third priority would be “an extension” of the sorts of policies that he’s become synonymous with as an Assemblymember.
“I’d be committed to ending the punishment of poverty where there is no public safety benefit,” said Quart. “That takes a whole host of issues – declining to prosecute crimes, stopping overcharging, sentencing reform, bringing greater synergy with the different departments of this office to ensure a de-carceral approach.”