The Board of Directors and staff of Neighborhood Defender Service mourn the passing of former New York State Senator and New York City Council Member Bill Perkins, a champion for justice and a pillar of the Harlem community. He died on May 16 at age 74.

“Bill Perkins was a relentless champion for the people of Harlem and a fearless warrior for civil rights and social justice throughout the country,” said Rick Jones, CEO of NDS, Inc. “He was dedicated to combatting racism in all its forms and to uplifting the Black community through advocacy and activism. He will be greatly missed.”

Perkins served in the New York State Senate from 2006 to 2017. According to his New York State Senate bio, Perkins, a lifelong resident of Harlem, “started his political career as a community activist and known for his tenacious and unyielding commitment to serving the community. The young, elderly and the most vulnerable New Yorkers have always been Bill’s legislative priorities. Prior to his Senate election, Senator Perkins served on the New York City Council. During his eight-year tenure, he was the third highest ranking member of the Council serving as the Deputy Majority Leader. As Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Perkins was the prime sponsor of the Childhood Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Act of 2004 which protects children from the deadly effects of lead paint in their homes. Thanks to his efforts, New York has the strongest lead paint prevention law in the country.”

The Nation magazine cited Perkins as one of the most effective progressive city leaders in the country, a tribute he acquired after his formidable stand for the Central Park Five and against Donald Trump’s call for the death penalty for the wrongly accused teens.

The legacy Bill Perkins leaves behind has lifted up generations and will continue to lift up generations to come. We extend our deepest condolences to the Perkins family, and to the Harlem community he served with dedication and love.