Nick E. Smith serves as first deputy public advocate for the city of New York. Throughout his career he has served as a policy advisor and campaign strategist for city and state elected officials, and as a policymaker, primarily focused on housing, equity and public safety. He’s authored or co-authored more than 50 local and state laws, including the Fair Chance Act; cracking down on tenant harassment and expanding the Human Rights Law.
If you could give your younger-self advice, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to not be afraid of rejection, or being told “no.” That’s part of life. I would further say to keep going because for every no, a “yes” is right around the corner.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2023, and most looking forward to achieving in 2024?
My proudest accomplishment isn’t work related, it’s personal. I’m the father of twin girls, Grace and Faith, and it’s been a pleasure continuing to watch them grow. They’re now in school and I’ve been as nervous as they are starting. But, so far, so good.
Do you have any movie/music/book recommendations for readers to check out in celebration of Black History Month?
One, I’m not sure how many people saw Black Wall Street Burning. Check it out. A few of the survivors are still alive and seeking to be made whole. It dispels the anti-Black narrative of a lack of entrepreneurship in the community. Those barriers remain. Two, I spend a lot of time studying “Black” music. Check out “Quincy,” about Quincy Jones, who was behind so many hits, from Michael Jackson, James Ingram, Kanye, Aretha, and others.
Is there a person or organization doing particularly inspiring work that you would like to spotlight?
Not surprisingly, I have to big up the organizations that are part of the New York City Crisis Management System, who are helping to reduce gun violence. It’s a national problem in all communities – urban, suburban and rural, which no one has solved. The CMS providers are getting to the roots of the problem and making progress here in New York City. Check them out and support them.