Former Congressman donates personal papers to Queens College

Rep. Gary Ackerman, shown here during a visit to the TimesLedger newsrrom in 2012, ias donating his papers to Queens College.
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Naeisha Rose

Former Queens congressman and Queens College ‘65 alum Gary Ackerman announced he will be donating 12 boxes of artifacts detailing his more than 30 years in public office to his CUNY alma mater located in Flushing.

This will be the 10th compilation of Personal Papers archives for Queens College’s Special Collection to be recorded at the school.

Ackerman, who was always wearing a white carnation in his lapel, represented parts of northeast Queens, including Flushing and Fresh Meadows, along with sections of Nassau. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in public housing in Flushing.

He will leave a compilation of photos, albums, scrapbooks, audio and video material to be donated to the school’s Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, according to Maria Matteo, a spokeswoman for Queens College.

“As a child of immigrants, I benefited enormously from the opportunity to attend and graduate from Queens College,” Ackerman said. “I can never fully repay the debt of gratitude to the college for equipping me for the challenges that were and still are to come. I am delighted to contribute my personal and professional papers to my alma mater with the hope that this at least satisfies the requirement of the papers that were overdue.”

Other objects, like campaign memorabilia will also be donated, according to Matteo.

Once at the school some of the items will be digitized and made available online.

In 2012, after serving the borough for 15 terms, he shocked the Queens political scene by announcing he was not going to seek re-election. In the redistricting process of 2012, Ackerman’s 5th Congressional District was redrawn and a newly created 6th Congressional district was created serving much of his coverage area in northeast Queens. Grace Meng, a former assemblywoman from Flushing, won the seat in the new 6th CD. She was endorsed by Ackerman.

Before he entered politics, Ackerman served the Queens community in several other roles, including as the publisher of The Flushing Tribune, which later became the Queens Tribune.

“Congressman Ackerman has mightily contributed to the best interests of our city, this borough and the college throughout a long and distinguished career in the roles of school teacher, businessman, newspaper publisher and media executive, elected official and alumnus,” said Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.

One of his most groundbreaking acts as both a teacher and congressman was establishing the right of unpaid paternity leave for childcare, according to time.com.

As a teacher in 1969, Ackerman sued the city’s Board of Education for not allowing him an unpaid leave of absence to spend time with his first-born daughter, and he succeeded. A quarter century later, the congressman signed the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which now allows both parents to take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons across the country.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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