A Farewell To A Harlem Icon: Bill Perkins, Resolute Advocate, And Beloved Resident

May 16, 2023

Harlem is mourning the loss of Bill Perkins, a stalwart figure in the community, who dedicated his life to public service and the betterment of his beloved neighborhood.

Perkins, a longtime Harlem elected official and lifelong resident, passed away at the age of 74, as confirmed by his wife Pamela Green Perkins in a poignant statement on Tuesday morning.

For an impressive span of 25 years, Perkins represented Harlem with unwavering dedication and passion. His political journey commenced in the City Council, where he served from 1998 to 2005. He then shifted his focus to the State Senate, becoming the influential voice of the neighborhood from 2007 to 2017. Returning to the City Council for one more term from 2017 to 2021, Perkins continued to champion the causes close to his heart.

“After a lifetime fighting for justice, equality, and amplifying the voices of our community, my husband, former City Councilman and State Senator Perkins, passed away at our Harlem home—the very community he cherished and fought for throughout his remarkable life,” expressed Pamela in her heartfelt statement. “May he rest in peace and power.”

Born on April 18, 1949, Perkins grew up under the loving care of his mother, alongside his two brothers and a cousin. He received his education at the esteemed Collegiate School on the Upper West Side before attending Brown University, where he further honed his intellect and leadership qualities.

Perkins embarked on his political journey as a community activist and tenant leader, earning the trust and support of the people. His service in the City Council was marked by notable achievements, earning him the respect of his colleagues who appointed him as Deputy Majority Leader and Chair of the Government Operations Committee. In a moment that showcased his unwavering commitment to justice, Perkins stood alongside the Exonerated Central Park Five during their challenging times, exemplifying his unwavering belief in the principles of fairness and equity.

Among his significant accomplishments, Perkins spearheaded the successful fight to pass the Childhood Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Act of 2004, a vital measure aimed at safeguarding children from the detrimental effects of lead in their homes. Notably, Perkins was also a survivor of colon cancer, inspiring countless others with his resilience and determination.

The details of Perkins’ funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, leaving the community in mourning and anticipating an opportunity to pay their respects to a true Harlem luminary.

Harlem has lost a giant,” expressed Mayor Eric Adams in a heartfelt tribute. “Bill Perkins was not only a legend in the New York government but also a dear friend. I will deeply miss his company and the wise counsel he provided.”

Congressman Adriano Espaillat, representing Upper Manhattan, also shared his condolences in a heartfelt statement, reflecting on the passing of his “friend and fellow public servant.”

“NYC Councilman Bill Perkins was a friend and fellow public servant who left an indelible impact on the lives of countless New Yorkers,” Espaillat expressed. “Today’s news of his passing deeply saddens me, and his absence will be felt by all who called New York City home.”

As Harlem mourns the loss of Bill Perkins, his enduring legacy as a tireless advocate and dedicated servant to the community will continue to inspire future generations. The impact of his work and the imprint he left on the hearts of Harlem residents will forever be cherished.

Photo credit: Seitu Oronde.

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