My grandfather, Harvey L. Strelzin, was born in Brooklyn in 1906, the son of Russian Jews who fled turmoil in the Ukraine. He grew up in a tenement on Grand Street in Williamsburg.
Overcoming polio, he found work in a restaurant while seeking education. He graduated from City College, and attended Brooklyn Law School. In his 20s, he entered local politics, aligning with the powerhouse Seneca Democratic Club. He was appointed an Assistant Attorney General in 1933, and continued his law practice.
He made headlines in 1951 when he stopped a man from jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1955, Mayor Robert F. Wagner appointed Harvey the Chairman of the Board of Assessors of the City of New York. This photo, featuring Mayor Wagner and Harvey’s wife, Marie, was taken at City Hall when Harvey was sworn in.
Harvey’s role on the board helped him influence municipal improvements in communities that had been neglected. He excelled; one newspaper called Harvey “one of the most fastidious dressers” in government.
However, as the McClellan Committee in Washington investigated labor racketeering, Harvey’s name came up. Years before, he’d invested in a private garbage carting firm with an individual who was later linked with crime syndicates. The business partnership was dissolved, but in 1957 Harvey was called to testify. Despite committee staffers’ misgivings about Harvey’s involvement, he was grilled by Robert F. Kennedy. Although nothing linked Harvey to wrongdoing, the publicity was enough to prompt Mayor Wagner to ask him to step down.
So Harvey returned to his law practice, earned a Doctorate from New York Law School, and from 1968 to 1980 served as a State Assemblyman. Colleagues called him the “Conscience of the Assembly,” and recalled that he scrutinized every pending bill, going so far as reclining in his hotel bathtub with legislation as reading material.
Into his mid 80s, Harvey was a judge in the Brooklyn Court of Claims. He died in December, 1993. ~shared by @mhermannphoto
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