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Bill Perkins, former state senator, City Council member, dies at 74

Longtime Harlem leader Bill Perkins dies at age 74
Longtime Harlem leader Bill Perkins dies at age 74 01:22

NEW YORK -- Former New York State Senator and City Council member Bill Perkins has died. 

Perkins represented Harlem's 9th District on two occasions. 

He was in the state senate from 2007-2017. 

His wife Pamela Green Perkins said he died at his home in Harlem. He was 74.

Perkins spearheaded the fight against lead paint and stood in support of the five young men once facing rape charges in Central Park. One of them, Yusef Salaam, is now running for the city council seat Perkins held, crediting him for their eventual exoneration.

"Bill Perkins was a giant in this community who dedicated his life to Harlem, and I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Pam and his children," Salaam said in a statement. "He fought for change, and his lead paint law has undoubtedly saved countless lives. But I will always be grateful for his support of the Central Park 5. In our darkest hours, when it seemed like the whole world was against us, Bill Perkins bravely stood behind and with us. His bravery and commitment to justice were unwavering, and he is a big reason why we were eventually exonerated. Rest in Power, Bill Perkins."

"Bill Perkins was a lion of Harlem, a real champion of the people," added Assembly member Al Taylor in a statement, who also aims to follow in Perkins' footsteps in the City Council. "For more than three decades, Bill fought for our neighborhoods, built up our communities, and defended our people. Truly, no words suffice to honor the life and triumphs of Bill Perkins. I have had the honor and privilege of working alongside Bill for many years, as a community activist, a reverend, an elected, and a friend. I can only hope that I can carry on his mighty legacy of good work for our people. I pray for peace for his family and loved ones and upon this whole community that owes so much to him."

"It was shocking to hear of Bill's death this morning," said Assembly member Inez Dickens, who rounds out this year's council primary. "My heart goes out to his wife, Pam, and all of his loved ones. He was a fierce advocate for the village of Harlem, and although we did not always agree on everything, our goals have always been linked to the fight for the betterment of our neighborhoods. Harlem has lost a great warrior today - a giant. I'd like to thank him for his decades of contributions and tenacity."

"He was a very dear friend," added Mayor Eric Adams. "We served together in the state Senate. We would ride back and forth from Albany on a train together. And I just have so many fond memories of a person who dedicated his life on uplifting people and fighting for justice. He had a very balanced approach. He would feel extremely comfortable standing here to talk about ridding guns from his lovely village of Harlem. And he was also very proud to stand up the fight on behalf of those who were wrongly accused like the Central Park Five. He has a very rich history and legacy and we lost a very strong, committed fighter for justice in the city. I wish his family well and I'm going to miss him again. He was a very dear friend."

"Bill Perkins was a fierce advocate for justice and a steadfast voice for his community throughout his career," Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. "My thoughts are with his wife, Pamela, and his loved ones."

"I am deeply touched by today's news of his passing and his loss will be felt by all. In his work, Councilman Perkins made a difference in his leadership, utilizing his voice to bring about change and to improve the lives of others. He came to the defense of the Exonerated Five and took on Donald Trump in the face of injustice," said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. "Councilman Perkins showed courage during difficult times and was a fearless advocate for the vulnerable. He treated all with the respect, equity, and justice that they deserved, and he demanded change when and where it was needed the most. He and I served together in the New York State Senate, and during a critical time when I needed him the most, he was there, and his support remained unwavering throughout the years." 

Perkins retired after losing his city council seat to Kristin Richardson Jordan in 2021. She announced Tuesday she will not seek re-election.

No cause of death has been given, and no funeral arrangements have been announced. 

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