Hope Reichbach, political rising star, is dead at 22

The Brooklyn Paper
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Hope Reichbach, a rising star 22-year-old in city politics and a key aide to Councilman Steve Levin, was discovered dead inside her Schermerhorn Street apartment on Thursday.

An “acquaintance” of Reichbach’s made the emergency call to 911 at 2:37 pm, and police arrived at the apartment near Hoyt Street to find Reichbach, the daughter of prominent Judge Gustin Reichbach who was just starting her own political career, lying on a bed. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of death was not immediately released, but a source said Reichbach died of an overdose of prescription drugs. An autopsy was scheduled to take place on Friday.

Reichbach’s father broke down and told one well-wisher on Friday that he was “supposed to die before her.” The criminal court judge has been bravely battling with pancreatic cancer for several years — but his daughter’s death came “out of the blue,” according to one friend.

Reichbach was last seen at her last act of official civic duty, overseeing Levin’s Boerum Hill traffic task force meeting at the Belarusian Church on Atlantic Avenue on Wednesday night.

Reichbach was a lifelong resident of Boerum Hill, though some wrongly labeled her as a young interloper when she challenged the Brownstone Brooklyn political establishment last year by running for district leader against Jo Anne Simon. Reichbach lost, but not by the usual landslide.

On Friday, Borough President Markowitz offered his condolences.

“All of Brooklyn’s thoughts and prayers are with Hope’s parents, Judge Gustin Reichbach and Ellen Meyers, her friends, and of course, my condolences to Councilman Levin and his staff,” Markowitz said. “Here at Borough Hall we had the good fortune of working with Hope, who was a committed and passionate public servant. She truly will be missed.”

Meanwhile, at Levin’s Atlantic Avenue district office, Reichbach’s fellow employees sat stunned and declined to comment. Levin canceled several community events, including a rally in Greenpoint set for Sunday afternoon over a proposed homeless shelter.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Levin put out a joint statement calling Reichbach “a wonderful, vivacious and tough young woman, a beautiful soul who cared deeply about her community and her family.”

Reichbach was not only known for her public service. She was also popular at Gleason’s Gym, where she not only trained, but once held a boxing-themed political fundraiser.

Her trainer, David Lawrence, said he was “overwhelmed” and “totally bewildered” by the news. Lawrence said he saw Reichbach earlier this week at the DUMBO institution and said she was “happy, solid and in no way negative.”

“She’s such an intelligent, upwardly mobile girl,” said Lawrence. “This is devastating to everyone who knew her. She wasn’t a degenerate kid. She was the straightest kid I knew.”

A memorial service is scheduled for noon on Sunday, May 1 at Congregation Mt. Sinai (250 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights). In lieu of flowers or food the family has requested that donations be made to the Nicholas Heyward Memorial fund, named after the young man who was killed in the Gowanus Houses.

Updated 5:22 pm, May 2, 2011: Now includes more information on her last whereabouts and funeral arrangements.
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Reasonable discourse

Doug Biviano from Brooklyn Heights says:
We were lucky to meet and get to know Hope last summer when she was campaigning. She was a lovely person, smart, compassionate, engaging and beautiful. It was obvious that she loved politics because she truly cared about everyone in the community.

We are so sorry to hear
and offer our condolences to the Reichbachs.

The Bivianos
April 29, 2011, 6:24 am
Mere from 11211 says:
This is so very sad. My condolences go out to her family, friends, and colleagues.
April 29, 2011, 8:46 am
Enzo from Park Slope says:
Such sad news. My condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.

A 22-year old, intelligent, attractive, strong family and community ties, two feet on the ground.

Was this very untimely death an accident? Overdose of prescription drugs? Why does a smart kid overdose on prescription drugs? I don't get it.


April 29, 2011, 11:40 am
J. Shain from Ditmas Park says:
Shocking news. My daughter went to middle school with Hope. I can't imagine the hell her parents are going through. I pray that they are able to find some peace.
April 30, 2011, 12:21 pm
Greg from Red Hook says:
Hope was about change. Why would her colleagues cancel events that will bring change due to her death. Now her death will be the reason not to perform for current Brooklyn residents. I encourage communities to gather together and get along.

I'm pissed that she is gone and I believe it's foul play.
April 30, 2011, 2:38 pm
Captain Obvious from CaCoBo says:
Her death is sad and tragic because she’s so young.

But to anyone exaggerating or belittling her persona because of her political role, get a grip. The Vito Lopez connection perverts this whole mess and the issue whether the pressure of being “used” means anything. But the politco’s who she worked with are shady, are questionable and a mature and discriminating eye needs to be turned to their role in potentially putting pressure on this poor kid that nobody should have.

Let’s not point fingers, but let’s not be naive. Levin, you worked closest with her recently. Come clean for her humanity and not her political gain. And if there is nothing to hide, prove it.
April 30, 2011, 2:45 pm
dorothy siegel from cobble hill says:
Capt. Obvious,

You are clearly an ignorant turdblossom. Hope was totally dedicated to Levin's council duties, and gave her all to solving community problems. She was a true believer in the power of politics to change the world, for the good, and she was determined to be part of that change.

I knew Hope for her entire life. She was not CAPABLE of being "used." She was just too smart, politically. I've been involved in politics for decades, and I NEVER met someone with such political savvy and human compassion in someone so young.

And to suggest that Steve Levin needs to prove he has "nothing to hide" is scurrilous and despicable. It is so easy to cast aspersions when one is a sad sack, which you obviously are.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

You should apologive to Councilman Levin and to Hope's family.
April 30, 2011, 7 pm
steve ben israel from soho says:
i knew hope her whole life..she was great young lady
i will always remember her for this...steve ben israel
April 30, 2011, 7:11 pm
roz payne from Vermont says:
My daughter Sierra and I were visiting from Vermont years ago and spent a wonderful time with Hope and her parents. I am shocked , sad , and have tears in my eyes to hear that she died.
Hope was so kind to us when we were there.
And, her parents how sad to loose a child. Nothing can be worse that that. Roz Payne Vermont
April 30, 2011, 11:37 pm
Captain Obvious from CaCoBo says:
Dorothy Siegel, I do not have to apologize to Hope’s family. I did not insult her family or speak ill of her family. Their loss is tremendous and this is a horror that I hope they have the strength to deal with and get through. I realize they have friends in the community as well and I hope their friends help as well.

But as to the political issue, ignoring the fact that she was suddenly and bizarrely pushed into the political spotlight for running for the obscure post of “district leader” is simply naive. 100% nobody I know even understands what a “district leader” is or why she was suddenly pushed into the role of running for it. And for what reason? Why?

Levin? Maybe I am too hard pushing on him. But the fact is she worked for him, this death is bizarre, her sudden spotlight in Brooklyn politics is strange.

May she rest in peace.
May 1, 2011, 12:40 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:

what really happened and who she was. Not some mindless conspiracy theory from paranoid dolts.
May 1, 2011, 1:42 pm
jj from Brooklyn says:
Uh, Captain Obvious, you've missed an obvious fact: Hope was not the only just-over-20 running for district leader in North Brooklyn last year.

Political affiliations — good or bad — do not minimize HER positive contributions to people in our community, no do they take away from the fact that she touched many for someone so young.
May 1, 2011, 1:48 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
May 1, 2011, 1:56 pm
Age Pjetergjoka from Strong Place Day Care says:
I've known Hope for two years and I've been in several meetings with her. She also came a couple of times to Strong Place Day Care. She worked very hard not to let Strong Place close and not to cut the childrens' services.
She was a very clever, kind, and determined young lady. I know that she'll forever be a part of Strong Place. She's going to be missed not just from Strong Place, but by the community of Brooklyn.
I am so sorry to hear and offer my condolences to all her family and friends.
May 1, 2011, 2:32 pm
Captain Obvious from CaCoBo says:
Sid, the article you link to is an op-ed that says the following: “…what authorities believe was an accidental overdose of medication…”

There are no facts in the article past the family’s grief and sadness which is undoubtedly, unquestionably real. And I do not deny it. And it is 1,000% tragic and I wish them strength and good wishes in this tragic time.

But 100% nobody new what the frak a “district leader” was before the campaign that pushed her in the local political spotlight and nobody understands it now.

Sid there is no conspiracy here. There are no facts revealed about the cause of death and the whole “district leader” campaign was bizarre to say the least.

Also, the article states ‘…as she grew from a toddler who sported a “Question Authority” T-shirt into a 2-year-old who told people “Vote for my daddy!”…’ Wow. So she was forced into a political role before she could vote or even walk? Is there any article out there that talks about Hope as a human being and not politics? I care about human beings and the loss of a human life is sad. My condolences to the family.
May 1, 2011, 5:13 pm
Sid from boerum Hill says:
Cap what are your facts? do you just make it up? You can't even wait until she is buried before you attack her family for pushing her into politics. You sir and I use the term "sir" loosely- as you surely don't deserve it - are an insensitive dolt. I knew what I district leader was. She was a lovely person. you didn't know her, you really didn't know her family and friends and it is time for you jstfu.
May 1, 2011, 5:20 pm
Captain Obvious from CaCoBo says:
Sid, considering your opinion of “facts”, how do you feel about this very clear and reported fact in Park Slope Patch:
“The cause of her death has not yet been revealed, though no criminality is suspected.”

For someone who states “…what are your facts?” you don’t want to face the facts as they exist right now: Mysterious overdose with no clear cause and a mysterious person who calls the cops and is not identified.

Also, you state “I knew what I district leader was.” The vast majority of folks in Brooklyn who are not connected to extreme local politics were and are clueless. It’s an unpaid position that somehow became a very oddly public fight with the last election for reason that are not clear.

Sid, you clearly knew her, knew the family and perhaps have some connections to the Brooklyn political world she was involved in. If you want to disprove the political connection, your behavior is proving to be a horrible barometer.

I’m sure as the days, weeks and months go on the truth of what happened will come out. So stop obsessing over me or anyone asking basic and valid questions unless you know something we don’t.
May 1, 2011, 7:02 pm
Sid from Boerum says:
hey smuck, just because you think you know doesn't mean I have to go into how I know. You are an insensitive oaf with no consideration of the parents who you accused of pushing her into the politics which she loved. Do I know exactly what happened? but I know it was something I chose not to speculate about now. I don't want to tell you how I know but I promise you its first hand. I was present at the meeting on Wednesday night. The precinct commander was there and he was at the apartment on Thursday(after the 911 call). His detectives have begun an investigation and I promise you that the statement that no criminality is suspected is correct.
May 1, 2011, 7:16 pm
Facts from Brooklyn says:
Even as we mourn Hope's sudden death, we still face people coming up with conspiracies. I am sure that Hope's loss took a tremendous toll on Hope's mental health, which is why she was on pills. What Hope died from is not as important as the fact that she is, unfortunately, no longer with us.

Moreover, why anyone would connect this death to Assemblyman Vito Lopez or Councilman Stephen Levin is totally beyond me and amazingly shocking to me.

That Hope did not know what the roles and responsibilities of a District Leader were is absolutely false. Hope's family being involved in local politics for over a decade coupled with her top notch education at NYU exemplify her political capabilities and acumen.

Let us instead focus on what Hope would have wanted us to do: get involved in your community, donate to the Nicholas Heyward Fund (, find a cause, get others involved, have "Hope for Brooklyn," our city, our state, our Nation, and our world!
May 1, 2011, 11:55 pm
dean from crown heights says:
Capt. Obvious: if you actually knew Hope, you would know that no one could push her into anything, much less running for District Leader (side note: just because your friends don't know what a District Leader is doesn't mean there was a vast conspiracy- it just means you need smarter friends). Politics was part of Hope's DNA- she didn't just enjoy campaigning, she relished in it. Most articles talk about her political life because it was such a large part of who she was. However, it wasn't just politics that defined Hope's life. If you did know her, you would know that she was a fierce advocate for the disenfranchised, a loyal friend, a creative mind who's potential had not been fully tapped, and a smart, decisive daughter of incredibly generous and loving parents. She was the one who said "yes" when everyone else said "no." When others gave up, she dug in. She was hope, personified.

For all who knew Hope-- and over the last few days, I've come to believe that all of New York knew and adored her-- this is a time of mourning, of questioning, but mostly it is a time of reliving and celebrating the short time we had with her on this Earth. If you didn't know her, your insinuations and your accusations are simply disgusting.

Captain Obvious (although that is quite the misnomer, in my opinion),you might be able to attain anonymity online that makes you feel like your comments are somehow worthy or necessary, but I assure you, they are neither. I respectfully request that you conduct yourself (online and off-line) with a little bit of decency and a substantial dose of humanity. Our loss of Hope is tragic and the story ends there.
May 2, 2011, 12:43 am
Ashley Milne-Tyte from Park Slope says:
I'm curious about why there hasn't been any follow-up reporting on Hope Reichbach's death. You reported back in May that she died of a prescription drug overdose, but that's it. Surely the death of a public figure, albeit a fairly new one, merits more reporting? I met her briefly last year while she was campaigning in Park Slope, and was shocked to hear she had died. I can't believe I'm the only person who wants to know more about why. I wonder if there is pressure on you not to report because of her father's position? Anyway, I've kept coming back over the months to find out more, always to be disappointed. Why no follow-up?
Sept. 13, 2011, 7:55 am

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