Out lesbian City Council candidate Lynn Schulman is in the midst of her third campaign for City Council in Queens’ District 29 — and this time she hopes to make some history.
After running for City Council in 2001 and 2009, Schulman is back on the campaign trail with a goal of bringing change to the district, which encompasses Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, and Maspeth. Unlike her previous bids for office, however, this time she is navigating a campaign during the coronavirus pandemic, which she said has “laid bare” existing disparities in the city — particularly in the area of public health.
“A lot more people died than needed to,” said Schulman, who pointed to the shortage of hospital beds and capacity in the borough from early on in the crisis. “I want to provide services and give support to people in marginalized communities that don’t have a voice.”
Schulman is one of 13 candidates who filed to run for the open seat to replace term-limited City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz. With less than three months until the Democratic primary, her campaign has an estimated balance of $171,292, following only David Aronov, who has $171,815, and Avi Cyperstein, who has $171,426, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
If elected, Schulman would be the first out LGBTQ woman to serve as a lawmaker in the borough of Queens — and that weighs even more heavily on her in light of the homophobic threats she received in her mailbox during her earlier campaigns. In her 2001 campaign for City Council, she was beaten handily in the Democratic primary by then-Assemblymember Melinda Katz, who is now Queens district attorney. In the 2009 Democratic primary, she went on to lose a race that was won by Koslowitz.
Schulman, who previously held posts at the Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn and Gay Men’s Health Crisis, currently works as a senior community and emergency services liaison in the office of out gay New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, where she provides outreach to advocacy groups and residents.
Whether in the public or private sector, defending her values has not always been easy.
In the 1990s, then-Mayor-elect Rudy Giuliani allegedly ousted Schulman from her job as associate executive director for Emergency Medical Services. Giuliani meddled in a dispute between paramedics and a mother who wanted responders to take her injured child to a different hospital, according to an archived newspaper clip from the New York Times. Schulman told the Times that the paramedics responded appropriately given the service’s guidelines.
“I gave what the standard policy was…and [Giuliani] didn’t like it,” Schulman told Gay City News. “He told his people he wanted me gone.”
Years later, Schulman said this incident fueled her desire to be a voice for the community.
“I wear it as a badge of honor now,” she said. “It amplified to me why I want to be in public service as opposed to working in the private sector. In the private sector… you’re working for the dollar. In here, I’m working for other people and trying to make people’s lives better.”
Schulman is vowing to advocate for more affordable housing and healthcare, and she wants to propose legislation requiring city developers to assess the impact of new buildings on hospital capacity. Among other issues, she supports the full decriminalization of sex work — a key LGBTQ issue in the state.
Schulman said she wants to “demilitarize” the NYPD, which would include providing social services instead of a police response to homelessness or a mental health crisis. However, when asked how much money she would allocate away from the city’s police budget, Schulman declined to give an exact number.
“You got to really be careful and really take a hard look at what you’re cutting and how you’re cutting it,” she said.
Schulman has nabbed endorsements from the Victory Fund, a nationwide organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ people into office; the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a citywide LGBTQ political club; the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens; out gay Congressmember Ritchie Torres of the Bronx; Councilmembers Carlina Rivera of Manhattan and Costa Constantinides of Queens; and labor unions such as 32BJ and DC37.
On March 29, Schulman scored a key endorsement from Queens Congressmember Grace Meng, who is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
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