Longtime Local Activist John Scott Is Honored

John Scott with Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (left) and with Independence Plaza Tenants Association President Diane Lapson, who presented him with the Downtown Progressive Democrats' Community Award. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

"This was fighting for the $15 minimum wage"…"this is raising money for the senior center"…"this one was for immigration."

John Scott was pointing out some of the photos on display at an event Friday night in the community room of Tribeca's Independence Plaza, where he was being honored by neighbors and the Downtown Progressive Democrats for his decades of political activism in Tribeca and beyond. Also honored was IPN Senior Center Director Nicole Brown.

Scott, 66, came to Tribeca in 1975, moving into IPN as as single parent with his five-year-old daughter. He arrived already with a history of activism, having organizing a rent strike in his building on the Lower East Side where he had moved at 18, a year after running away from home. In Tribeca, he was at the forefront of many of the neighborhood’s early fights—a rent strike at IPN, the struggle to obtain a new school (P.S. 234), helping to turn a dirt lot into Washington Market Park. (Scott later served on both the Washington Market Park board of directors and the District 2 Community Education Council, where he was a vice president.)

Diane Lapson, president of IPN's tenant association, gave Scott the Downtown Progressive Democrats Community Award, which described him as "the one standing in the street to get the impossible accomplished." Lapson recalled how Scott would rally her and others to meet early on weekend mornings to help gather ballot signatures for one candidate or another. She said she would plead, "'Can't we wait until one in the afternoon?'"

"He has always put the community first," she added, with a laugh, "to the point where he makes you feel guilty sometimes. He just doesn’t stop!"

"We are honoring someone who has been a preeminent participant and devotee of grassroots organizing and grassroots politics," noted Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who along with U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Margaret Chin attended the event. "I try not to do things on Friday night except put my feet up, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else tonight.""

"You have to protect [neighborhoods and communities] because there are too many greedy bastards who have been empowered and encouraged and they are undermining our city and hollowing it out," Glick went on to say. "And we need champions and folks with heart and commitment and a smile and dedication and there isn’t anyone who fits that bill more than my friend John Scott."

In presenting Scott with a City Council proclamation, Chin extolled Scott's "extraordinary service and enduring contributions to Tribeca" and the rest of Lower Manhattan. "We need more people like John," she said.

When it was his turn to speak, Scott wasted little time before promoting his latest cause. "We need the governor to step up and put some money in the till to help seniors to stay in their homes," he declared, "because seniors have given to the society. We gotta fight for the seniors!"