Republican Assemblyman-elect Lester Chang repeatedly declared, “I’m a Brooklynite!” throughout a heated legislative listening to Wednesday the place Albany Democrats tried to show he didn’t meet residency necessities in a bid to cease him from taking office.
Chang defeated 36-year incumbent Assemblyman Peter Abbate in the forty ninth Assembly District overlaying Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Dyker Heights.
But Democrats didn’t problem Chang’s residency earlier than the election.
Instead, the Brooklyn Democratic Party urged Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) to analyze Chang’s residency — after Abbate’s embarrassing loss. And Heastie ordered the Assembly Judiciary Committee to undertake the extraordinary inquiry that would probably block him from serving.
The listening to Wednesday took on an particularly partisan tone, with Stanley Schlein, an election lawyer with deep ties to Heastie and the Bronx Democratic Party, serving because the judiciary committee’s particular counsel and inquisitor of Chang. A Village Voice story in 2008 revealed that Schlein helped engineer Heastie’s takeover of the Bronx Democratic Party.
Chang’s residency case can be being intently watched by New York’s Asian-American group, whose voters in southern Brooklyn helped propel him to office.
And if Democrats block Chang from being seated over such a authorized technicality, they run the danger of enraging Asian-American voters who’ve been more and more voting Republican in latest elections over disgust with the Democrats’ dealing with of crime and schooling.
“I’m a Brooklynite! I’m a Brooklynite!” Chang repeated throughout his emotional testimony.
While defending his residency, he mentioned his career as a retired Navy reservist and getting psychological well being remedy for PTSD, the demise of his spouse from most cancers in 2019 and aiding his 95-year-old mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s illness.
He additionally talked about his mother and father transferring to the US from China to supply a higher life for him and his two siblings and famous he attended elementary and center faculties in Brooklyn and graduated from Midwood High School.
Chang mentioned he’s been residing at his childhood house on East twenty ninth Street in Midwood for over a year.
“I meet the electoral residency requirement,” Chang insisted. “I made history on Nov. 8 as the first Asian-American elected in Brooklyn to represent the growing Asian American community.”
But in the course of the listening to, Schlein argued that each one of Chang’s residential paperwork signifies that the Republican failed to point out he resided in Brooklyn for the year, as required throughout a redistricting year.
Chang put in a for a change of handle from an condominium in Manhattan’s Chinatown to the Midwood house in February of this year. Schlein mentioned he needed to have modified his authorized residence by Nov. 7, 2021 to have met the residency requirement.
He additionally mentioned Chang’s different data with the town Board of Elections — the place Chang served as a ballot employee — and from the Navy in addition to his drivers’ license and automobile registration and insurance coverage all record the Manhattan handle.
Chang additionally voted in Manhattan in November 2021 and donated to Lee Zeldin’s marketing campaign for governor on Nov. 29, from the Cleveland Place handle in decrease Manhattan. He mentioned he modified his license and automobile registration data final month.
Schlein and Democratic lawmakers additionally discovered it troubling that Chang maintained the rent-stabilized Chinatown condominium as a stabilized condominium is meant to be the tenant’s major residence.
Chang mentioned the condominium is now vacant.
“I was registered to vote in Manhattan. …But my physical intent was in Brooklyn,” Chang responded throughout cross-examination.
He mentioned the failure to right away file a change of handle was “just a matter of convenience. It’s as simple as that.”
Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, a Brooklyn Democrat, requested Chang a sequence of obvious gotcha questions, which the Republican was capable of deal with simply.
“Where do you go to the supermarket?” she requested.
“In Brooklyn, it’s Key Food. In Manhattan, it’s iFresh,” Chang answered.
“Is there a subway line or bus stop you frequent?,” she adopted. Chang responded, “Flatbush Avenue, last stop or Avenue N or Avenue J [in Brooklyn].”
He additionally mentioned he takes the “Spring Street No. 6 or the Canal Street station from Manhattan.”’
She then requested if he makes use of a hospital emergency room, to which Chang mentioned, “I use the VA hospital.”
One of Chang’s attorneys, John Ciampoli, mentioned a voter can have one residence for “electoral purposes” and one other for a mailing handle. New York’s residency legislation is often liberally construed by the courts and a connection to a household house might be thought of ample proof, political sources mentioned.
Chang additionally submitted affidavits from his sister, Brooklyn Republican Party chairman Ted Ghorra and others, claiming that he was residing together with his mom in Midwood over the previous year.
He additionally submitted joint financial institution accounts together with his mom from the Midwood handle.
Hugh Mo, one of many Chang’s attorneys, mentioned the investigation smacked of a partisan witch hunt, saying Schlein was enjoying an “adversarial” or anti-Chang roll.
“Are we going to allow the public to be damned,” he requested, noting that Chang’s election had been licensed by the town and state boards of elections.
Democrats deciding to not seat Change “is going to send a chilling message not only in New York but across America,” Mo mentioned.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee will submit a report back to the complete, newly elected, 150-member Assembly subsequent month to advise on whether or not to seat Chang.
Schlein will put together the report and Chang’s attorneys might be allowed to submit a counter-report to be submitted to the Assembly, mentioned the panel’s chairman, Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Nassau).