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ALBANY _ An Assembly debate Tuesday over a bill to provide CPR training to students turned into a teary, hug-filled tribute to the bill’s sponsor, Assem. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who is retiring after 25 years.
Weisenberg, 80, a former police officer and lifeguard, was praised for being an impassioned advocate for disabled youths and adults.
“I would like to rise and congratulate Harvey Weisenberg on one of the most successful tenures in the New York State Assembly we have ever seen,” said Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn).
“I don’t think there is a larger persona who has helped the developmentally disabled in New York State,” he said. “They are going to sorely miss you ... those kids and those adults who have who have no voice, except for you.”
“You have done us proud,” Lentol said.
Weisenberg will retire to spend more time with his family and his wife, Ellen, who sat with him at his Assembly chamber desk Tuesday behind a fresh bouquet of flowers he bought her.
A year ago he led a rare effort to restore $120 million to care for developmentally disabled children that was dropped in state budget negotiations through agreement by his own Democratic majority. Republicans flocked to his support summed up by his simple plea to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative who made the cut: “Where are our values?”
Weeks later, the funding was restored.
Some of his greatest praise came from Republicans, a rarity in highly partisan Albany.
“You leave a great legacy,” said Assemb. Edward P. Ra (R-Franklin Square). “Thank you behalf of our county, Long Island and all of New York state.”
Assemb. Steven F. McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke), called Weisenberg “a friend and mentor,” while Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester) thanked him for “his extraordinary service to the state of New York.”
It was an emotional day for Weisenberg on the floor of the “the people’s house,” where he said “the diversity of our population” work together to try to help other people.
But his ire flared when asked to judge New York politics over 25 years, which has included the rise of deep-pocketed lobbyists.
“It’s diminished greatly,” he said in an interview. “It appears that politics has taken over government, and dollars are more important than people. And it’s upsetting.”
But he said he has hope when he sees his new, younger colleagues, like Assmb. Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) who said Weisenberg “always led by example.”
“I have hope,” Weisenberg said. “The young people today certainly have the ability to move forward and provide the resources to people. These are good people ... It’s about helping those who need help.”
His bill to require high school students to learn CPR, a voluntary practice that has already saved the lives of teachers, mothers and fathers, passed 120-0.