Samuel Horwitz, a Brooklyn City Council member for 20 years, covering Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, passed away last week due to natural causes. He was 90.
A former movie theater operator, owning several movie houses in Brooklyn along with his wife, Estelle, Horwitz entered politics in 1965 as a Democratic district leader. As a member of the City Council from 1973 to 1993, representing what was then Brooklyn’s 47th District, he sponsored many noteworthy pieces of legislation, including several for the benefit of senior citizens and the disabled, including the first bill requiring that new and repaired sidewalks have curb cuts.
Horwitz may be best known for his role in the passage of City Council Bill Intro 2, the 1986 landmark gay rights bill. He held public hearings as the chairman of the General Welfare Committee and shepherded the bill out of committee, allowing its passage by the full Council and ultimate signing by Mayor Ed Koch.
The former Council member was also on the periphery of minor scandals during his tenure. In 1985, after the retirement of Councilman Thomas Cuite, Horwitz was positioned to become Majority Leader of the Council, with support from the Brooklyn and Manhattan delegations, including Councilman Robert Dryfoos. Peter Vallone went on to win the speaker position by one vote after a coalition led by Donald Manes of Queens and Stanley Friedman of the Bronx lured the support of Dryfoos to change his vote at the last minute and support Vallone. The affair became known as the Dryfoos Betrayal.
In another bit of scandal that the New York Times characterized as “bizarre,” Horwitz was arrested at the age of 74 while trying to attend a kindergarten graduation at a Brighton Beach public school without a ticket. What he claimed was the result of political infighting, with the principal of the school being aligned with a political opponent of the Council member’s, others characterized as a political stunt. The charges were immediately dropped.
When Horwitz retired from the Council, he moved to Florida. This past October, he returned to New York to celebrate his 90th birthday at the Manhattan Club, where he was joined by more than 100 family members, friends and former City Council colleagues and supporters, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and longtime friend Sol Yeager, a famed jazz clarinetist dating back to the swing-era, who performed with his band.
Horwitz is survived by his wife Estelle, son Mark, daughter Susan and four grandchildren. Donations in his name may be made to the Variety Club of New York (officially known as Variety, The Children’s Charity). For more information, call 212-760-2777.
©2009 Community News Group
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