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Queens DA Richard Brown won't seek re-election

During his tenure of more than 27 years, Richard Brown ran an office that saw a substantial decline in crime in borough of over 2.5 million people.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at his office

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at his office in Kew Gardens on May 31, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, the elder statesman of city prosecutors and the longest-serving district attorney for Queens, said Wednesday he was packing it in and will not seek re-election when his term finishes at the end of 2019.

In a statement, Brown, 86, who has Parkinson’s disease, said he made the decision to retire “after careful thought and consideration.”

“I am deeply appreciative and humbled to have had the trust and confidence that [voters] have expressed by electing me to seven full terms in office, and in the process, making me the longest serving district attorney in Queens County history,” his statement said.

Brown said he planned to work straight through to the end of his term because “we have a lot of things we want to do.”

First appointed Queens district attorney in 1991 by Gov. Mario Cuomo after the retirement of his predecessor, John Santucci, Brown won re-election every four years, most recently in 2015. During his 27-year tenure, Brown saw a substantial decline in crime in the borough of more than 2.5 million people.

Among the declines, according to NYPD statistics, were homicides in Queens — which totaled 277 in 1993 and dropped to 63 in 2018. Auto theft, which seemed to run amok in the borough, totaled 42,948 in 1993 and fell to 1,555 last year.

Brown had a staff of 340 prosecutors, hired based on merit not political connections, he said in his statement. He pioneered the state’s first Drug Court, as well as other programs.

He turned around an office that in the 1970s had been tarred with allegations of political cronyism and occasional leaks to racketeers such as those involved in the 1978 Lufthansa heist — a robbery at Kennedy Airport in which an estimated $5.875 million was stolen. 

State data showed that in 2017, the most recent year available, Queens prosecutors got convictions in 64 percent of felony arrests, second in the city only to Manhattan’s 68 percent.

Previously, Brown served as the city’s legislative representative in Albany and was a Brooklyn criminal court judge who handled the arraignment of Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz in 1977. He also served as chief legal adviser to Gov. Hugh Carey, was elected to the Queens Supreme Court in 1977 and appointed as a justice to the Appellate Division in 1982.

Until recently, Brown was known to come to the office around 6 a.m. and would show up at crime scenes. But recently, Brown privately expressed frustration that his physical condition wouldn’t allow him to move around as much, though he still presides over a myriad staff meetings and policy initiatives.  

Brown’s retirement had been expected and spurred a number of potential candidates to look at running in the November election. Among them are former Queens state Supreme Court Judge Gregory Lasak, who once worked for Brown, Queens City Councilman Rory I. Lancman and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

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