NYC lawmakers maintain ties with convicted child sex abuser who unleashed racist tirade at hearing

A child sex offender affiliated with a progressive advocacy group remains tight with some lefty lawmakers — despite a racist tirade he unleashed at a 2022 City Council hearing.


Several Council members this month were seen on video and in photos schmoozing and protesting with Douglas Powell, despite the ex-con’s anti-Asian tirade in December while testifying on behalf of VOCAL-NY in support of a controversial tenant background check bill.

“Did you see those Asian people that just were talking?” he said in videotaped remarks, referring to two women who testified before him. “I live in Rego Park now. That’s the most racist neighborhood I’ve ever been in, and it’s nothing but Asians.”


“If you go into a store, they will follow you around like you’re getting ready to steal something,” Powell, 59, added. “They don’t want black people living in black people neighborhoods. Because it’s not their neighborhood, because they’re from China, they’re from Hong Kong. We from New York.”


Despite a raft of lawmakers denouncing Powell’s vitriol afterward, VOCAL-NY — a nonprofit focused on “ending the AIDS epidemic, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and homelessness” that’s gotten at least $4.4 million in city funding and contracts since 2014 — refused to part ways with Powell after his racist remarks.

Powell was listed as a Level 2 sex offender after a 2012 conviction for an attempted criminal sex act with a victim under the age of 15 in 2008.


Susan Lee — one of the women on the receiving end of Powell’s December vitriol — told The Post some of the same lawmakers who denounced him then seem fine with him now, saying pictures of Council members alongside Powell this month “speaks volumes about where their priorities are.”


“To see those photos, it’s like my hurt doesn’t matter,” she said.


At a May 4 holiday gathering hosted by the Jewish organization Tidorf, and attended by VOCAL-NY members, Powell can be seen leaning back in his chair across the table from Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who in December decried the ex-con’s remarks as “inappropriate and unacceptable in Council Chambers and everywhere.”

Councilwomen Gale Brewer, Shahana Hanif and Sandy Nurse were also seated at the table with Powell, while fellow Democratic pol Pierina Ana Sanchez appeared with the ex-con in another photo.

Days later, at a VOCAL-NY memorial rally for Jordan Neely, Councilwoman Sandy Nurse stood in the front row with Powell — a move that drew some public criticism at Wednesday’s Council budget hearing.


In February, City Councilman Ari Kagan (R-Brooklyn) joined the Council’s other Republicans and moderate Democrat Robert Holden in voting against reallocating funds for VOCAL-NY.

“Any council member who claims to support [the] Asian American community and condemns racism should stay far away from this bigot,” Kagan said.


Two months earlier, Holden (D-Queens) wrote a letter to the Council speaker demanding the legislative body stop funding an organization that had engaged “in such radical and deplorable rhetoric.”


“Elected officials should denounce these comments and hold VOCAL-NY accountable instead of standing with these extremists at rallies and giving them taxpayer dollars,” Holden recently told The Post.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, the City Council allocated $642,000 in discretionary funding to the nonprofit to bankroll various progressive causes, including $350,000 for opioid prevention and treatment measures and $5,000 for education workshops on housing and housing rights.

A Council spokesperson said Mayor Eric Adams had been attending the Tidorf holiday celebration to discuss housing issues and had no control over who had been invited. She noted “interfaith and cross-cultural engagement amongst New Yorkers is a pathway to increased understanding and respect of one another.”


Powell declined to comment, saying only: “I can’t help you.”


VOCAL-NY did not respond to multiple requests for comment, nor did Hanif, Nurse, Sanchez or Brewer.

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