Saturday, April 11, 2009

Addabbo Adjusting in Albany by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) felt joining the state legislature was his calling, and he was going to answer it, even if it meant making big sacrifices.

When the former city councilman defeated 20-year Senator Serphin Maltese on Nov. 4, he knew what he was getting into. “I made a conscious decision to be in the state Senate because of the timing,” Addabbo said, noting the fiscal challenges facing the legislature and its changing political makeup. “This is where I wanted to be to see if I could effectuate some positive change,” he added.

But the decision came with a price: Addabbo would have to spend time away from his family and the district, which he said is the biggest struggle and the one thing that frustrates him.

After seven years in the council, the lawmaker had become accustomed to always being around the district and constituents. He would attend as many civic and community meetings as he could to hear concerns first hand — to be a hands-on legislator.

Being in Albany from January until the end of session in June, and focusing on putting together the state budget throughout the last month, Addabbo is forced to send representatives to meetings for him and to let his staff take over constituent interactions.

Luckily, most of the senator’s staff were with him in the council and are already familiar with that task. “That continuity has really benefitted the residents,” Addabbo said. “Legislatively, the work that we do up here in Albany has a much, much broader jurisdiction than the City Council ... so, you can do more for your residents back in the district. That gives us a great opportunity, especially in these hard times. ... How can we make [the budget] more efficient?”

The senate district is roughly twice the size of the council district and holds about double the number of constituents, Addabbo noted. Additionally, his staff is not only dealing with more people, but it’s also addressing both city and state issues.

“I really love having the opportunity of dealing with this budget,” Addabbo said, adding that in his role as a senator, he can draw from more resources. For example, there are a number of wineries in the upstate region whose business affects the products purchased and used in the district.

“That was foreign to me as a City Council member: we don’t deal with upstate businesses,” Addabbo said. “But the upstate business does, obviously, have something to do with both small and big business down in the district, which in turn affects jobs back in the district.”

The last few months in Albany have put things into perspective for the new senator. “That whole picture of the whole entire state — how does the whole entire state affect my people and my district? It’s a great opportunity,” Addabbo said.

City Council members are limited geographically and legislatively: their focus is the 150,000 or so constituents in their district and the eight million people living in New York City. State senators deal with hundreds of municipalities throughout New York, which means they must maintain a balance between big industry in Albany and small business in the downstate area, according to Addabbo.

While it’s important for the senator to learn how to strike that balance, at the forefront of his concerns is the state budget. A major issue he has had to address is raising taxes on the wealthy.

“Everybody’s going to suffer,” Addabbo said. “Because we are in the worst fiscal situation as compared to the Depression era or ever in the state’s history, we appreciate the financial assistance from everyone.”

Addabbo continued, “We are New Yorkers — we face adversity head on and we normally succeed, and, so, we’ll get through these tough times, but only by sharing the pain and working together.”

And, the senator and his staff are prepared to work together with lawmakers that represent his district at every level of government. They also plan to continue serving constituents as they have for the last seven years. Addabbo’s district office is located at 159-53 102nd St. in Howard Beach and its number is (718) 738-1111.