There is almost certainly no one in New York with as long a record of political activism as Marie Runyon. The former state Assemblywoman, housing advocate and Inside City Hall guest is turning 100. NY1's Bobby Cuza had a chance to catch up with her this week and filed the following report.
Marie Runyon can be forgiven for forgetting her last arrest.
"God, I can’t remember when it was. It’s been a little while," she said.
It’s not that she's 99. It’s that Runyon, by her count, has been arrested 30 or 40 times.
A member of the anti-war group the Granny Peace Brigade, Runyon was among those arrested at the Times Square military recruitment center in 2005. Media attention followed, including on NY1, where her spitfire activism was on frequent display.
"You let them know that we're not going to put up with this," she said in 2006.
"I trust him as far as I can throw the Empire State Building," she said in 2007.
"Five years is far too much!" she said in 2008.
But Runyon, whose life was chronicled in a 2011 documentary, first became an activist in the early '60s, when the apartment she still calls home was threatened with demolition by Columbia University. Runyon refused to vacate.
Runyon ultimately prevailed, and in 2002, after battling for more than 40 years, the two sides made peace, with Columbia even installing plaques renaming the building in Runyon's honor.
In the '70s, she was elected to the state Assembly, clashing often with the Democratic leadership.
"I would never do necessarily what they told me to do," she said.
She lasted just one term. Later, she would found the Harlem Restoration Project, a community housing group. Over the years, Runyon even accumulated an FBI file.
Less physically active these days, Runyon nonetheless keeps mentally engaged here in her home office, keeping tabs on politics.
"If you want to get down to specifics, I would love to see a lady president," she said. "I've written to Hillary Rodham Clinton and saying, 'Hey, whatcha doing, kid? Come on, let's get you in the White House.'"
Next Friday, she'll hosting a big birthday party at her home, a virtual museum of liberal politics.
"I'll be 100 in a few days, and I think it's going to be kind of fun," she said.