By Sabina Mollot
An East Midtown Plaza resident and former chair of Community Board 6 is now turning his attention towards public office. Lyle Frank, an attorney who works for the City Council, is running for Civil Court judge for the second municipal court district. His campaign was officially kicked off last week with a fundraising party at the Stuy Town home of Tilden Club President Mark Thompson.
Frank, who’s also from Stuy Town originally, has lived at EMP for 38 years, now raising his six-year-old twins Gavin and Catherine there with his wife, Elyssa Kates. She, too, is an attorney, with the firm BakerHostetler.
This week, Frank spoke with Town & Village about his campaign, and how his desire to become a judge was inspired by his father, Louis, who was also a judge.
“I’m very fortunate that the jobs I’ve had I’ve enjoyed,” said Frank, “but my father was an administrative law judge. He handled a lot of workers’ compensation cases; these were people who got hurt on the job, and he had a great temperament and he was everything you’d want in a judge.”
That’s when Frank realized serving as a judge was “just a great job and very rewarding. It’s just a dream of mine.”
He also believes he’s the right person for the job, meeting a requirement of at least 10 years of experience as an attorney (he’s got over 17), including seven as an arbitrator, helping many cases get concluded in Small Claims Court.
If elected, Frank could end up in Civil, Family or Criminal Court in any of the boroughs, depending on where there’s a need, and he’d serve a 10-year term. To be able to vote for this race, which concludes on November of this year, voters have to live in the second municipal district, which includes the East Village, the Lower East Side and Lower Manhattan as well as parts of Soho and Greenwich Village. So far, Frank is the only announced candidate and has already gotten the endorsements of multiple elected officials. His local supporters include State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez, Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin as well as judges he’s worked with. Other support will likely come from the Tilden Democratic Club, of which he is a 25-year member and was at one time its vice president. His role as chair of CB6, of which he’s also been a member for 21 years, was from 2006-2009.
Frank’s experience with the court system has, along with the arbitration in Small Claims Court, included serving as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn (from 1998-2003) and working for private litigation firms. From 2003-2005, he worked for a firm called Callan Koster Brady & Brennan and then for Wilson Elser, a firm that is known for lobbying work (although Frank did not do lobbying there) until 2007. After that, Frank became counsel for different committees of the City Council, helping to draft and edit legislation. Nine months ago he was promoted and given the title of assistant deputy director of the Human Services Division, a role in which he supervises around 20 attorneys and policy analysts. He also, since 2011, has worked for Baruch College, teaching classes like Governing New York City and Introduction to Public and Non Profit Management.
On his accomplishments, he noted his work with CB6 — he’s especially proud of having helped to save Bellevue Hospital’s Sobriety Garden from becoming a parking lot and making the community’s voice a little louder on the issue of “sensible development” at the Con Ed Waterside site as well as on public policy. During his time as chair, he said, it wasn’t uncommon for politicians to call him and “bounce (ideas) off me. I got to know people and they trusted me to be someone they could talk to.”
Then there were smaller projects he spearheaded through the board like advocating for a median on Avenue C and 16th Street to make crossing the street to Murphy’s Brother’s Park safer for Stuyvesant Town Little Leaguers (which Garodnick secured the funds for) and getting pedestrian ramps installed in street intersections.
He’s also gotten proclamations from the New York Assembly and City Council for his community service and currently chairs the LGBT and Civil Court Committee on the New York County Lawyers Association.
Despite 2015 being a quiet election year, Frank is hoping voters will still turn out for the judicial races.
“I’m not going to delude myself and think it’ll be 90 percent turnout, but I think people will want to pick a qualified candidate,” he said. He also noted that there are some voters (such as himself) who do religiously head out on any Election Day. “They’re called super primes,” he said.
Still, he noted, he soon plans to pound the pavement around the district to pitch his candidacy and remind New Yorkers that Civil Court judges are elected, not appointed.
“It’s the forgotten branch of government,” said Frank, “but it is an equal branch.”