MANHATTAN - Manhattan District Attorney candidate Dan Quart is ready on day one to build a fairer and safer city. His work in the Assembly for the past decade has shown his ability to build coalitions, pass meaningful reform, and stand up to the kind of immense public pressure that the next district attorney will face.
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On a recent afternoon at the Orion Diner & Grill in Kips Bay, Assemblyman Dan Quart had just finished eating a turkey-burger lunch with two campaign staffers when a patron, who had overheard him discussing his run to be the next Manhattan district attorney, approached his booth.
“One thing you should know: if someone does commit a crime, there should be penalties. There’s too much crime in the streets,” said the woman, a sharp dresser who sported a long, white-blonde ponytail and a pair of thick black oval frames. “People see that they can get away with things, and other people follow suit … Nothing’s ever done.”
Quart, a 49-year-old soft-spoken Democrat, gave a slow nod to show he was listening before the woman — a Sutton Place resident and one of his constituents in Manhattan’s 73rd district — quickly turned the conversation toward another pressing subject: trash.
“I really feel there should be a stronger stance on crime — and also, if they spend money, they should make sanitation a priority, and make sure all of the garbage pails are picked up now that the weather is getting warmer,” the woman said. “[Ours] overflow.”
For Quart — the only current elected among the eight Democratic DA candidates vying to replace incumbent Cy Vance Jr., and the only one to ever hold public office — juggling a campaign with his legislative work, active cases from when he was a lawyer in private practice, and fatherhood is a fine-tuned balancing act that requires knowledge on a number of issues.
He knew about the receptacles in question, took inventory of the grievance and invited her to call and stay in contact with his office about the matter.
“I’m running for district attorney, but I also serve the community,” Quart told the patron. “So when things like the garbage pails [fill up] we’ll make sure something’s done about it.”
The assemblyman, a St. John’s School of Law graduate who worked for years as a pro bono attorney, says he is invested in all aspects of public policy — but criminal justice reform is the driving force behind much of his legislative work and his decision to run for DA.
“This is my passion. This is where I’ve found my voice,” Quart told the Daily News, noting he has worked with advocates to pass bills like elder parole and Clean Slate, which calls for the automatic expungement of conviction histories. He also introduced a bill last year to overhaul the rules governing wrongful convictions.
“People have been fed the idea that being tough [on crime] is about long jail sentences, or pre-trial incarceration. That’s not what I’m going to do,” Quart said. “We have to deal with public safety; I’ll prosecute when appropriate. But I’m not going to prosecute, or distort the bail laws or the sentencing laws in an overly punitive way.
“If that’s what people want, there are some candidates in this race that can satiate that desire. It’s not me.”
Quart begins his days at around 6 a.m. with a rigorous routine of 100 sit-ups and 200 push-ups, along with a cup of coffee — no sugar, light on the milk — before tackling items on the legislative agenda, or meeting with other lawmakers when the Assembly is in session, or joining forums to discuss his campaign.
And while part of his day is devoted to securing endorsements — key players in New York politics like State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), as well as Abacus Federal Savings Bank founder Thomas Sung have backed his candidacy — most afternoons are reserved for talking with voters like the Orion Diner patron about public safety, police accountability and anything else that’s on their minds.
“[This] is sacrosanct ...The best way I can both be a good DA and stay connected to communities is direct voter contact ...There’s no filter there. You get it straight from the voters what they’re thinking about,” said Quart, who first started canvassing 16 years ago during a run for City Council and who says he’ll continue to pound the pavement ahead of the June 22 primary.
“I can’t solve every problem ... but when I talk with them, I think, ‘How I can change this office to make a difference in their life?’ And that’s something I know I can do.”
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