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About Brian

Representing 317,000 residents of the 26th Senate District in Lower Manhattan and the western part of  Brooklyn Waterfront, Brian Kavanagh has worked to reform State government and make it more responsive to the needs of all New Yorkers.

He has focused on legislation and policy changes to support affordable housing, protect the environment, promote economic and social justice and a more humane society, prevent gun violence, create a fairer and more open political process, and provide for greater accountability in the ways government provides services and spends our tax dollars.

Elected to the Senate in 2017, Brian is the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Elections Committee and also serves on the Banks; Consumer Protection; Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Environmental Conservation; Investigations and Government Operations; Judiciary; and Social Services Committees.

Formerly a member of the State Assembly representing Manhattan's East side, Brian previously chaired the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection., He has also chaired the Commission on Government Administration, and the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement, and co-chaired the Assembly Workgroup on Legislative Process, Operations, and Public Participation. In the Assembly, he served as a member of the Standing Committees on Housing, Environmental Conservation, Energy, and Election Law and the Puerto Rican / Hispanic Task Force.

Brian is founder and chair of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention and co-chair of New York Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention. He also chairs the New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators and sits on the Executive Board of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. He serves as Treasurer of the American-Irish Legislators Society and is a member of the Council of State Governments Energy and Environment Committee.

During his time in the legislature, Brian has sponsored legislation and worked with colleagues to extend and strengthen tenant protections; increase New York's commitment to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources and greater efficiency; prevent people from being exposed to toxic chemicals; increase the minimum wage; ensure equality in civil marriage laws; strengthen laws intended to keep guns out of the wrong hands; and promote cleaner, fairer elections by modernizing voting and closing loopholes in campaign finance laws.

In 2011, Brian passed legislation and negotiated a deal between the State and the City to create $200 million worth of new parkland and open space on Manhattan's East Side, including a mile-long esplanade from East 60th Street south to 38th Street, which will close the last major gap in the greenway circling the island. He sits on the Eastside Greenway and Parkland Board, convened to oversee implementation of these projects. He also commissioned, with then-Borough President Scott Stringer, the East River Blueway Plan, a community effort to improve access and resiliency along the East River Waterfront from 38th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brian's work has earned him the League of Conservation Voters Eco-Star Award, top ratings each year from Environmental Advocates of New York, the City University of New York's Baruch College Legislator of the Year Award, the Samuel J. Tilden Club's Democratic Leadership Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club Award, and a perfect rating from the League of Humane Voters of New York City. 

Brian was originally elected in 2006 by defeating an incumbent Assemblymember. In the most recent Assembly election, in November 2016, he was reelected to his sixth term, on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, with 82% of the vote.

Before serving in the Assembly, as Chief of Staff for then-City Councilmember and current Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brian negotiated enactment of several significant new laws, including the Domestic Worker Protection Act, promoting the rights of housekeepers and caregivers, and laws to foster the use of technology to make government more accessible and efficient. With then-Councilmembers Bill Perkins and Brewer, and dozens of their colleagues on the Council, Brian helped to draft and secure passage of Council Resolution 549, opposing the imminent invasion of Iraq.

Brian began government service as an aide to Mayor Ed Koch and has served in three mayoral administrations. After the infamous Happy Land Social Club fire claimed the lives of 87 people in 1990, he helped coordinate the city's response to the tragedy on behalf of Mayor David Dinkins, co-designing a task force that shut down the most grievous fire code offenders. At the Mayor's Office, Brian also played a key role in launching the Department of Homeless Services, and he then served as the agency's first Policy Director.

Brian is admitted to the practice of law in New York State and in the federal courts. As an attorney at Kaye Scholer and Schulte Roth & Zabel, two of New York's top law firms, Brian's work included enforcement of antitrust laws and extensive pro bono representation of victims of domestic violence, immigrants, and community organizations. He successfully represented employee benefit funds against employers that refused to pay the pension and health benefits their workers had earned, and he was part of the legal team that won death row clemency for a Virginia inmate. Previously, he performed critical research for a lawsuit that resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict against corporate polluters.

He also worked as an attorney and advocate at Demos, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, on a nationwide effort to secure the voting rights of low-income citizens, and was a member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York's Election Law Committee.

Brian served as a counselor, volunteer, and board member at the Lower East Side's Nativity Middle School and Community Center, on advisory boards of several other schools and nonprofits, and as a board member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which places college graduates in full-time volunteer positions promoting social justice and community empowerment.

One of six children of an Irish-immigrant police officer and a community leader who worked at the Staten Island Advance newspaper, Brian is a lifelong resident of New York City. He attended Regis High School and Princeton University on scholarship, and earned his law degree from New York University, where he was a Dean's Scholar.

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