By Rebecca Henely
Gathered together on stage at the Museum of the Moving Image and surrounded by their mentors and colleagues in government, Astoria’s federal and state legislators — one returning to a long-held post, two ascending to new ones — were ceremonially sworn in last Thursday.
“All the legislators standing before you are champions,” said Bishop Mitchell Taylor, founder of the East River Development Alliance, who gave the invocation. “They have worked to change the city for the better.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1993; state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), a 10-year former member of the state Assembly who recently won the seat left open by outgoing Sen. George Onorato; and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), a former Community Board 1 member who once volunteered for Gianaris’ campaign, all took their oaths of office at the renovated museum on 35th Avenue at 36th Street.
Since the 112th Congress took session Jan. 3 and Gianaris and Simotas’ new positions began Jan. 1, the swearing-in was ceremonial. Several members of the Assembly from Queens and beyond, city councilmen, district leaders and other prominent Astorians attended the event.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), whose home on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is in Maloney’s district — which also includes Astoria, Long Island City and Roosevelt Island — swore in the representative. In her speech, Maloney laid out projects she plans to continue to fight for during her new term, from national issues such as health care, environmental protection and strengthening America’s ties to Greece to local issues such as the renovation at Queens Plaza and working to repair the seawall along the East River near Queensbridge.
“Running for re-election is always a humbling and an uplifting endeavour,” Maloney said.
U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis swore in Gianaris. After being ceremonially inaugurated, Gianaris touted accomplishments during his 10 years in the Assembly, such as shutting down the Poletti Power Plant, helping create the airline passenger’s bill of rights and creating a film industry tax credit for the area. He also promised to work to bring reform to state government through independent redistricting and budget ethics reform, make sure important services are not cut in solving the $11 billion budget deficit and stimulate job growth.
“I could not be here without the support of each and every one of you,” Gianaris said.
Judge Nicholas Tsoucalas of the U.S. Court of International Trade, whom Simotas once law clerked for, swore in the new assemblywoman. In thanking the voters for support, she said she planned to push for issues such as redistricting, ethics reform, campaign finance reform, job growth, health care, affordable housing, environmental legislation and marriage equality.
“I believe that government can work for working people again,” Simotas said. “It can still be a positive force for New Yorkers.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.