Who am I?
I am a civil rights attorney, educator, radio host, small business owner and community activist, who has been working on social justice issues in my community for over two and a half decades.
In 1993, I founded Hello World Language Center, a progressive school in New York City for language and culture studies that continues to draw students from around the world to New York. Based on this ground breaking work, I was invited to teach as an Adjunct Professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education, where I prepared fellow educators to teach in the New York City public schools, and beyond. I also taught, as a visiting professor, in South Korea.
In 2001, I started a Civil Rights law firm focusing on the needs of New York’s LGBTQ community. As the firm’s Senior Partner, I won numerous landmark decisions, including a decision to allow same sex couples to change their last names based on their relationship as domestic partners as well as the right for LGBTQ activists to protest anti-gay policies. I have also represented community members fighting the closure of St. Vincent ‘s Hospital and activists protesting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. I was one of the lead attorneys defending the free speech rights of protesters from the 2004 Republican National Convention to the Occupy Wall Street movement and I currently sit on the Executive Committee of the NYC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. In 2005 I brought suit against the New York City Fire Department on behalf of several women EMS workers alleging wrongful promotional practices.
I was a founding Board Member of Marriage Equality New York PAC, and consequently was at the center of the campaign for Marriage Equality and virtually every other fight for LGBTQ equality over the past two decades. More than that, I have worked with many segments within the LGBTQ community, communities of color, low-income communities and other under represented communities on a wide range of social justice issues. Most recently I was active in efforts to curb the Stop and Frisk policies in New York City. I also sit on the board of HollaBackNYC, an organization working to fight street harassment.
I also host Yetta Kurland LIVE!, a popular weekly progressive talk radio show on WWRL 1600 AM. The program focuses on Civil Rights and Social Justice issues in New York City. My guests have included prominent journalists, activists and political leaders.
I have lived in New York State all my life, and graduated summa cum laude from SUNY Buffalo in 1990 with a B.A. in Women’s Studies. I then received an M.A. in US-Asian Studies and a Juris Doctorate from Brooklyn Law School in 1997. I live in Chelsea with my two Italian Greyhounds, Sal and Luca.
Why am I running?
I know first hand the importance of having a government that represents all of us, including those of us who do not have a voice. I grew up a poor kid in upstate New York. I was able to afford college and law school only because of the educational opportunity programs that existed back then.
I helped found the first ever Earth Day in my college. I started a language center here in New York City which created jobs and offered resources to the immigrant community, I have been an outspoken advocate for the humane treatment of animals, I have worked as a civil rights attorney to advocate for better wages, to protect tenants, to defend the right of my fellow New Yorkers to freely assemble, and to stop discrimination in the work place.
In the last twenty years, I have watched this City lose too much of its soul. We are headed towards becoming a place where only the richest can afford to live, and where our public resources are being converted into private profit.
I have watched too many of my friends forced to move because they can't find a job, too many small businesses forced to close because they can't afford the rent, thereby losing more jobs, and too many of my neighbors denied access to proper health care, educational opportunities, and other basic necessities.
As a leader in the fight for Marriage Equality I was part of the coalition that won the right for New Yorkers to realize that which before we thought impossible, marriage equality. As your City Councilmember I will continue to fight everyday for LGBTQ New Yorkers and all of us who need a voice, because we are all in this together and because together we are greater than the sum of our parts.
As a community organizer I signed the letter authored by the Working Families Party to support paid sick leave and as your next City Councilmember I will fight to pass that legislation.
As an attorney I have stopped numerous evictions of small businesses as well as rent controlled and rent stabilized tenants. I have worked with organizations like the Housing Conservation Coordinators to protect single resident occupants in low income housing from predatory landlords. As the next City Councilmember of the 3rd District I will work to preserve and recapture affordable housing stock in our community.
In a post Sandy New York, we need experienced leaders who are committed to public interest. We can change the way politics happen in New York City.
The closure of our community's only level 1 hospital combined with the recent devastation of Hurricane Sandy has made clear, we are at a critical point in our City's sustainability. It is imperative that we have community representatives in City government to advocate for the public so that we can begin to recover what we have lost over the past decades and prepare for what awaits us in the future.
As the lead attorney for the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, I have shown I can organize 8,000 community members to stand up to the most powerful real estate interests in this City. While we have not finished the fight, we have forced those in power to admit that by law, there must be a hospital at the site of St. Vincent's. As your next City Councilmember I will not stop until we have a full service hospital for our community.
My other top goal is to bring the voice of the community back to City Hall. For far too long the moneyed interests in this City have crowded out the people who truly define what this community is about. I believe that everyone must have a seat at the table and we can make that a reality by beginning to listen to community groups.
My DFA Values
I personally share the values of DFA and they are embodied in my campaign for City Council.
Without having the support of our Community and freely giving back to everyone in it, eventually we will all lose in the end. That is why I helped organize the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, so that when members of our community get sick, they can get the healthcare they deserve right here in their neighborhood. It is essential that everyone in our community have a seat at the table and be able to participate in how government affects their every day life.
While Security is more of a national issue as it relates to foreign wars and federal contracts for weapons developers, I am a strong advocate for green jobs here in New York City and a believer in American ingenuity that will make us stronger as a city and as a nation as a whole.
Finally, seeing Liberty as one of the three key words in DFA’s values statement makes me proud to be a member of this organization since its inception. As a civil rights attorney and LGBT American, I have not only had to fight for my own right to be free of bigotry, abuse and discrimination, but am proud to have done so for many others as well through community activism and legal work.
I was also on the board of Marriage Equality New York and worked hard with many fellow LGBT advocates so that all New Yorkers are free to marry the person they love, no matter what.
My Campaign is People Powered!
When I volunteered on the Dean campaign in 2003 and 2004, it was truly inspiring to be a part of what was called “People-powered Howard.” Thousands had organized across the country to bring about a change in how politics worked in America. While the campaign did not put Howard in the White House, it did fundamentally alter the way Democrats worked for progressive change. Using the techniques begun on the Dean campaign, we were successful in winning back Congress in 2006, and in 2008 we elected Barack Obama as our President.
When I announced my campaign for City Council on the steps of City Hall, Marriage Equality advocates, anti-fracking activists, animal rights leaders and members of various community groups throughout the district surrounded me. It is important that our next City Councilmember be responsive to all constituencies in our district and not just a favored few. It is a testament to my campaign that so many different groups stood behind me on that day and I am proud to have these different groups working on my campaign currently.
I am also supported by many volunteers from my 2009 City Council campaign, as well as new volunteers from Voterbook (fka Obama NYC) who recently endorsed our campaign and our biggest focus is to employ grassroots tactics including house parties, social media and old fashioned door knocking to ensure our victory in 2013.