By Rebecca Henely
About 40 protesters, most of them senior citizens, held up signs and chanted, “Ackerman’s got to go!” in front of the congressman’s Bayside office at 218-14 Northern Blvd. Saturday morning.
The protesters, many of them affiliated with conservative and Tea Party organizations, said they were against Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) support of government bailouts, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, cap and trade energy taxes and other policies supported by him and President Barack Obama.
“We think the current Congress and Gary Ackerman are leading the country on a path to destruction,” said Richard Greenbaum, 58.
Ackerman, who has been in the House of Representatives for 27 years, is up for election in November. He faces two Republican challengers in this election: Dr. James Milano and attorney Liz Berney.
“These folks have the constitutional right to peacefully express their political opinions to their elected representative and that is what they did Saturday,” Ackerman said in an e-mailed statement. “I fully support that right. On different weeks they rotate between the offices of Democratic congressional members Tim Bishop, Steve Israel, Carolyn McCarthy and me.”
Greenbaum said he believed Ackerman’s policies were anti-business, anti-personal freedom, pro-government, hostile to the United States and oriented toward ever larger government. Like many at the protest, Greenbaum held up a sign supporting Republican candidate Milano. Greenbaum said he supported Milano for his opposition to the Patient Protection act and his strong stance against terrorism.
Phil Orenstein, 62, said he believed Ackerman no longer listens to his constituents and said he refused to come to any town hall meetings held by the residents, which Orenstein called “despicable.”
“He’s become very arrogant and is running away from his constituents,” he said.
Orenstein, a member of various conservative groups, said the national criticism of Tea Party organizations are unfounded and based on name-calling.
“I don’t know a single racist in the Tea Party movement,” he said.
John Procida, who said he was in his 70s, held up a sign that read, “Dump Gary Ackerman: Elect an American.” Procida said while he knew Ackerman was an American citizen, he said he considered Ackerman a socialist and thus did not consider him an American.
“Any progressive, any liberal hates the American Constitution,” Procida said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.