About Cordell Cleare
Chair, Committee on Women's Issues
New York State Senator Cordell Cleare was raised in Harlem and her family has lived there for four generations. Cleare is a product of the New York City public schools, including Brooklyn Technical High School. Today, she is best known for her fight for Women's Issues, Disability Issues, Affordable Housing, Quality Schools, Access to Healthy Foods, Economic, Environmental, Restorative and Racial Justice. She entered the New York State Senate on an express train from Upper Manhattan, bringing fresh ideas and legislation proposals to make New York, the state of the whole people.
Cleare’s activism and advocacy spans decades but peaked when she served as a tenant organizer and Chair of the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning. In these years and civic leadership roles, she fought hard to protect children from the life-threatening dangers of lead paint, leading to shaping a significant public policy - The Childhood Lead Poisoning Law (2004). This law is now a national model.
Senator Cleare has served as Board President of Community School District 3 (Upper Westside and Central Harlem) and when the New York State Decentralization Law of 1969 ended abruptly and changed how communities had power over their local schools, she continued as the President of the Community Education Council in the district. From activist to public schools leader, she was always able to find her voice and a platform to stand on. For nearly two decades, starting in 1997, she tirelessly served as Chief of Staff to Bill Perkins, during his time in the New York City Council and New York State Senate.
Senator Cleare has recognized that political organizing through community education and engagement is the bedrock of a sound democracy. At the core of her past civic achievement was leading the rallying cry to troops as well as keeping critically needed schools and senior centers from closing in the poorest parts of Manhattan. Cleare is one of the Founders of the Michelle Obama Democratic Club. Going high and never low. She has represented two assembly districts, covering East Harlem and Central Harlem, as the Democratic District Leader, working tirelessly to ensure numerous neighbors get to serve and lift their voices as elected party and public office holders -- district leader, county committee member, judicial delegate, federal, state, and municipal legislative roles.
In New York State, Senator Cleare was one of the first Democratic Party officials to support, in 2008, the presidential campaign of an unknown United Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. He won two terms.
Senator Cleare remains active during the COVID pandemic. Up to now and before her tenure in the state legislature, Cleare oversaw and coordinated a much-needed pantry operation, distributing PPEs, fighting for more vaccine, and testing sites throughout the Greater Harlem area. Simultaneously, she has assisted hundreds of individuals in completing their census forms and registered thousands of neighbors to become active voters in party, special and general elections. Cleare recently ran in highly New York City Council and State Senate contested races. After placing 4th among 14 candidates in the New York City Council Primary Election in June 2021, she was encouraged by her democratic party colleagues, District Leaders and County Committee Members, to seek the vacated Senate seat left by Brian Benjamin, who stepped down to fill another vacancy as New York State Lieutenant Governor. She overwhelmingly won the County Committee nomination and then won the special election in a crowded General Election ballot with almost 90% of the vote.
Senator Cleare is currently serving in her first term from District 30, representing Central Harlem, East Harlem (El Barrio), West Harlem, Upper Westside, Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights neighborhoods. Cleare is one of only two women to hold the seat. The late Manhattan Borough President, Federal Court Judge and friend of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, was the first woman, winning the seat almost 60 years ago. Both are the only black women elected to the New York State Senate from Manhattan. Brooklyn (Kings County) is the only other borough (county) in New York State that elected black women to the State Senate.
Senator Cleare was recently assigned to serve as the Chair of the Senate Women's Issues Committee as well as memberships on several committees: Health, Cities 1, Disabilities, Consumer Protection as well as the Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business. As a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Caucus (BPHA), she chairs its sub-committee on Housing and is an active member of the Cannabis Task Force. Whether in the Senate or legislature caucus, Cleare is already pushing out a plethora of legislation that can stop the fear and hopelessness of the future in her district. Some bills address quality and safety issues in housing, stronger efforts to create programs that can prevent criminal behavior and ensuring a fair share of New York resources.
Senator Cleare will continue to use her position to demand fairness in housing, education, healthcare, equitable distribution of business opportunities, address income equality and the creation of wealth for black families. Cleare is dedicated to preserving families by focusing on workforce development, job creation, ending gun violence in our streets and domestic violence. She is proud to serve and is strongly committed to fighting for social equity.
Senator Cordell Cleare will continue to use her voice to bring much-needed resources as well as services to her district and in general, communities of long-standing need.