Noach Dear, Combative Brooklyn Councilman and Judge, Dies at 66


Noach Dear, who served nearly two decades on the New York City Council as an outlier, advocating on behalf of the conservative agenda of his Orthodox Jewish constituents in Brooklyn while defending himself against accusations of conflicts of interest, died on Sunday in Brooklyn. He was 66.

The cause was complications of the coronavirus. His death, at Maimonides Medical Center, was confirmed in a statement by Frank V. Carone, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association.

In 1986, Mr. Dear vigorously fought an anti-discrimination bill that gay rights supporters had been seeking for 15 years. Among members of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee, his was the lone vote against the bill, which was approved by the full Council, 21 to 14. He was also an opponent of abortion rights.

Mr. Dear was an outspoken critic of David N. Dinkins, the city’s first black mayor, accusing him of handcuffing the police and letting black people riot in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1991 after a car that was part of the entourage of the Lubavitcher rebbe, or grand rabbi, swerved out of control and killed a 7-year-old black child, Gavin Cato.

The accident touched off a rampage in which a group of black youths fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum, an Orthodox Jewish scholar from Australia.

Mr. Dinkins condemned what he called “the lynching of Yankel Rosenbaum” and admitted that the police had made tactical errors, but he denied that officers had been deliberately constrained. Mr. Dear demanded an investigation of police tactics and later sought a Council resolution denouncing the acquittal of the prime suspect.

Though enrolled as a Democrat, Mr. Dear was among those who bolted the party to support the mayoral candidacy of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, against Mayor Dinkins in 1993. Mr. Giuliani won narrowly.

Beginning in the 1990s, Mr. Dear raised millions of dollars for the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, as well as soliciting contributions for himself.

Repeated overlapping interests between his role as a councilman and politician and his business investments and charitable activities prompted several investigations into potential conflicts. His liberal allocation of campaign funds for foreign trips and personal expenses also came under scrutiny. No charges were ever filed.

In the 1980s, Mr. Dear opened a kosher restaurant that went bankrupt, and in 1993 he agreed to repay more than $37,000 to a private foundation that had financed his home telephone and trips abroad for his children.

As chairman of the Council’s transportation committee, Mr. Dear supported horse carriage drivers, many of whom were of Irish heritage, over the objections of animal-rights advocates, who sought to bar the carriages from city streets. He said he owed the Irish a great debt because they had supported the founding of Israel.

In 1998, Mr. Dear sought the congressional seat vacated by Chuck Schumer after Mr. Schumer’s successful run for the United States Senate. But Mr. Dear wound up third in the Democratic primary in which fellow Councilman Anthony D. Weiner was nominated. (Mr. Weiner won the seat in the general election.)

Term limits kept Mr. Dear from seeking re-election to the Council in 2001. The next year, he lost a primary for the State Senate in a more racially diverse district. By then he had so irked the party organization by repeatedly challenging the seat’s incumbent, Kevin S. Parker, that he had to wangle a nomination to a judgeship on the Civil Court.

On the bench he handled as many as 100 credit card collection cases a day, and estimated that in a vast majority of cases, credit card companies and banks couldn’t provide proof that any debt was actually owed.

He also declared that a law against drinking alcohol in public discriminated against racial minorities, and said the police would have to prove through laboratory tests that a beverage contained alcohol before serving a valid summons.

Mr. Dear was born on Nov. 20, 1953, the son of Sidney and Joan (Lipins) Dear. After attending Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn, he graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in 1975 and a master’s in social work in 1977. He received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1991.

Mr. Dear was district manager of the local community board, served on the Taxi and Limousine Commission and was elected to the Civil Court in 2007 despite initially being rated “not approved” by the screening committee of the Brooklyn Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He was appointed an acting Supreme Court justice in 2010 and elected to a 15-year term on the State Supreme Court in 2015.

His survivors include his wife, Rickly (Neiman) Dear, a speech pathologist, and four daughters, Rivka, Adina, Chaviva and Aliza.

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