Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Leading Progressive Voice and Longest-Serving Legislator in NYS History, Will Not Seek Re-Election

Richard Gottfried, first elected in 1970 and Assembly Health Committee Chair since 1987, is an outspoken champion for progressive values, comprehensive health care, human rights, Manhattan’s West Side

After more than half a century in public service, New York State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried (D/WF – Manhattan), a champion of progressive values and the longest-serving State legislator in New York’s history, will not seek re-election next November and will retire at the end of 2022.

“I am grateful to my talented staff (present and past), hundreds of dedicated colleagues in the Legislature, nine governors (each with a distinct personality), and countless advocates and experts. Their commitment to solving problems is why we have been able to accomplish so much for the people of New York.Most of all, I thank my amazingly supportive and loving family. It hasn’t been easy – particularly during the endless days and nights of budget and end-of-session. None of this would have been possible without them,” Assembly Member Gottfried said.

“I will continue to fight for the district and my constituents and for New York State until my term ends at the end of 2022,” he said. “That includes helping New York recover from the public health emergency, fighting for justice, reproductive choice, human rights, and enacting the New York Health Act.”

Serving in the Assembly since 1970 and as Chair of the Health Committee since 1987, Gottfried is widely considered one of America’s leading state policymakers.The sponsor of over 500 laws, his influence has helped make New York State one of the most progressive states in the country. Among his many legislative achievements, Gottfried sponsored:

  • LGBTQ Rights: The first bill to legalize same-sex marriage (2003): which was the basis of New York’s 2011 same-sex marriage law. Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) (2019)
  • Hudson River Park Act: Catalyzed the development of the Hudson River waterfront into a vibrant park from the Battery to 59th Street (1998)
  • Illegal Hotels Law: Bans using residential apartments as transient hotels (2010)
  • Drug Law Reform: Marijuana decriminalization for possession of under 25 grams (1977); medical marijuana law (2014); syringe decriminalization (2021)
  • Child Health Plus: Ensured that children had access to health insurance and health care (1990); became the model for Clinton Administration’s Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Protecting Health Care Decision Making: Includes laws that enable people to designate health care proxies and that allow family members to make health care decisions when an incapacitated person does not have a proxy (1991, 2015)
  • Medicaid Expansion: Numerous laws and major funding to ensure availability of equitable health care services to low-income New Yorkers.
  • Criminal Justice & Crime Victims: START Act to protect human trafficking survivors (2021); Reforms of rape laws to protect victims, grand jury reforms, crime victims’ rights (1977-81); Comprehensive reforms of juvenile justice and child welfare laws (1975-76).
  • Campaign finance reform.Sponsored first bill for public campaign financing (1979), which became a model for New York City’s public campaign finance law.

Gottfried sponsors the New York Health Act to create universal publicly funded single-payer health coverage, and consistently fights to protect and increase health care funding and patient autonomy, especially in reproductive and end-of-life care.

Governor Kathy Hochul said, "Assemblymember Dick Gottfried has served his district and our state with dedication, tenacity, and care, and I am grateful for his service to New Yorkers. As Chair of the Health Committee, Assemblymember Gottfried advocated for increased access and compassion in our health care system, especially for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. The impact of the laws he authored and of his leadership will be felt by New Yorkers for generations."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, said, “Dick Gottfried represents all that is good in public service and has been a strong fighter not only for the district he represents but for all of New York State. He has championed countless landmark laws and he has left an indelible mark on our state's history. I have always said Dick is a living encyclopedia when it comes to health care policy in New York, and his keen intellect and ability to analyze complex issues will be difficult to replace. Dick has set the standard for what it means to be a true citizen legislator, and I will greatly miss his wise counsel and friendship. I am grateful that he will continue to serve in the coming year as his expertise is particularly vital as New York continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Cornell University, and Columbia Law School, Gottfried was first elected to the Assembly in 1970 at the age of 23 as part of a wave of progressive reformers who successfully challenged the political establishment on Manhattan’s West Side and strongly opposed the Vietnam War. 

He represents the 75th Assembly District in Manhattan, which includes Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, the Flatiron and NoMad Districts, Union Square, Midtown, and part of the Lincoln Square area on the Upper West Side.

He is married to Louise Gottfried, a retired nursery-school teacher, and has a son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. In his spare time, Gottfried practices and studies Chinese calligraphy, with some of his works appearing in galleries and books, and attends Torah study regularly at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“When I was 13 years old, John Kennedy inspired me to seek a career in public service.In 1970, at the age of 22, I announced my candidacy for the State Assembly,” said Assembly Member Gottfried.“After a hard-fought primary, I got elected.As I enter my fifty-second year in the Assembly, I am announcing that I will be retiring at the end of the current term, which ends December 31, 2022.”

“Long ago, my parents taught me social values,” he said.“I carried those values with me to the Assembly, and it’s been a gift and an honor to have been able to advance those values, to do the work I dreamed of on behalf of my constituents and New York State, and retire from a career while I’m still loving it.”