Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick (D) has not had an easy life. His experiences have heavily shaped his current bid to succeed City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, West SoHo, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron, Upper West Side) as District 3’s City Council representative.
A native of the poor Cleveland suburb of Elyria, Fitzpatrick was born to a single white mother and an openly gay black father. The night before his nineteenth birthday, muggers murdered his father in the parking lot of a gay bar.
“Because my father was black. Because my father was gay, finding my father’s killers was never a priority for the police department or the detective, so it actually still remains a cold case,” he said.
A few months later, Fitzpatrick moved to New York City in search of new opportunities and a more progressive political climate. In the roughly twenty years since, he has operated three small businesses while raising his daughter. He decided to launch a bid for the City Council bid after observing the city and state’s dysfunctional management of the COVID pandemic.
Fitzpatrick hopes to draw attention to the vast socioeconomic inequities between the district’s white residents and its residents of color. He blames this in part on its consistently white representation on the City Council, which he called “very problematic.”
“Why is there a huge disparity in wealth between black and brown people? Why does the 1 percent always seem to get ahead?” he asked. “Why is there never enough equitable housing for black and brown people? There seems to be racism in our police department. So if you don’t feel like someone is there to represent your needs, then are you really gonna go out and vote in local elections?”
Fitzpatrick plans to deliver on this call for racially just representation and hire a more diverse staff than Johnson has hired.
“You can’t talk about tackling racial and wealth inequality, when your own staff is currently made up of a majority of white men who make six-figure salaries,” said Fitzpatrick.
On policy, he criticized rampant de facto segregation in the public school system and the defunding of nonwhite majority schools; his goal is to ensure all students in the city have the resources they need to live a high-quality life. Fitzpatrick tied this into support for defunding the police, which he acknowledges would not be an easy sell in his district.
“Would making an enemy of the NYPD, which is the second most powerful institution give me pause? Well no, because the first most powerful institution is the New Yorkers that we’ve been elected to represent, especially those who feel disenfranchised, and there’s a lot of them,” he declared.
Fitzpatrick also cautioned against prioritizing optics in local politics over substantial policy changes.
“We as New Yorkers have a really important decision to make,” he said. “Do we want to be a progressive city only in ideology, or do we want to be a progressive city in action?”