Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's Off to Albany Now


By Robert Press

BRONX, NEW YORK, Januaru 17- Our headline refers to back to back inaugurations of the two newest members of the state assembly. 

Luis Sepulveda was sworn in as the new assemblyman from the 87th A.D. on January 12th, and on the very next day Mark Gjonaj was sworn in as the new assemblyman from the 80th A.D. Both new assembly members had their day to remember, and if the events are a sign of what the two new legislatures can do the Bronx is in good hands.

Assemblyman Sepulveda held his event at St. Raymond’s Church in Parkchester. This site was uniquely located that U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer rode his bicycle to the event. There was Schumer sitting in the front row in his bike attire holding his helmet on his lap. Schumer was joined by Congressman Jose Serrano, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., and many other Bronx elected officials from the city council and state legislature. Also on hand were several candidates for office this year including two candidates for mayor. Though the elected officials were on hand as were over 600 people, this was a day for Luis Sepulveda and his family to remember, it was their day. Years of hard work finally paid off in Sepulveda's election to the state assembly. You can go to my blog at to see photos of the Assemblyman Sepulveda swearing in ceremony, his lovely wife Elizabeth, 2 year old son Luis Jr., some of the elected officials on hand, the swearing in by Judge Fernando Tapia, and of course Assemblyman Sepulveda thanking all of those who helped him get elected.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj held his event at Columbus High School, and this swearing in however was very different from Assemblyman Sepulveda's the day before. Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj was to be the first Albanian American to be sworn in to the New York State legislature This was history in the making. While U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer was in attendance he did not ride his bike here, and was joined by Congressman Eliot Engel, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senator Jeff Klein, City Comptroller John Liu, and many other Bronx elected officials from the city council and state legislature. Like the day before there were several candidates for office this year including three candidates for mayor. and over 1,000 people in attendance at this event. This however was a day for Mark Gjonaj, the Gjonaj family, the people of the 80th A.D., and of Albanian American decent to remember.

Senator Klein was the first up of the elected officials to speak, and you had to wonder what was on his mind when he said “it was 18 years ago that Judge McKeon administered the oath of office to me when I became the new assemblyman from the 80th A.D.” One by one many of the elected officials who were sitting on stage got up when they were called to speak, and this time around had only words of praise for Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj. Some were the same elected officials who supported Assemblyman Gjonaj's opponent and said that he could never get elected to the assembly. Today however all were brought together as BP Diaz said it best when he said “Mark Gjonaj has exhibited the work ethic to help improve his district, and the Bronx in a way to bring people together”. 

City Comptroller John Liu congratulated Assemblyman Gjonaj as one whose family had also immigrated to the United States, but added that he (Liu) was made in Taiwan and not Albania. Liu added that he knows firsthand the struggles that the Gjonaj family had to endure. It was strange though that while City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was sitting on stage and listed as a speaker that she left early in the program. 

Another candidate for mayor in 2013 who was sitting in the audience was former Bronx BP Adolfo Carrion Jr. I got to ask Carrion now that it looks like it will be a lot tougher than he thought to get the Republican nod for mayor if he was going to run for Public Advocate or Comptroller as he announced in his aborted 2009 run for citywide office. Carrion told me “It's City Hall all the way”, but we shall see. Check my blog for more on this event, and the many photos.

Over the weekend I saw many of the people who have opened up campaign committees or have been named or rumored to be running for the 15th City Council seat. Current 15th council seat holder Joel Rivera would not comment on who he might be supporting, and while speaking to Albert Alverez his current Chief of Staff (who has announced his intentions to run for the 15th seat) Albert said that he was running even if another Rivera entered the picture. Current 80th A.D. Male District leader Kenny Agosto said that he is running for the 15th council seat, and knows that he will have lots of company. I won't mention a few others as they said that they had not fully made a decision on if they were running or not, and all predicted a crowded field in the race. One interesting note was that when I asked who each candidate who was the front runner in the 15th council race all but one said Radame Perez, the owner of the C-Town supermarket on Crescent Street in the Belmont section of the 15th council district. I attended the Annual coat drive that Mr. Perez partners with Health Plus to give out to those who need in the neighborhood a warm coat, to talk to him about the 15th council race. When I entered the recently renovated C-Town on Crescent Street it looked like I was in a beautiful gourmet store somewhere else that could not be here in the Bronx. I found Mr. Perez who told me the C-Town renovation has taken up most of his time, and that the store will have its official grand re-opening in early February. He added that he wants to run for the council seat, but will not make a decision until after the C-Town reopens in February.

Don't forget to check my blog at for photos of the two inaugurations mentioned in this column, other items that did not make it into this column, or items that may have come in after the deadline. If you have any comments about this column or would like to have an event listed or covered in this column or on my blog you can e-mail us at or call 718-644-4199 Mr. Robert Press.

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