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Grodenchik touts diversity as he takes assembly oath

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“There is one Flushing for everybody here and one standard for all...

By Alexander Dworkowitz

Surrounded by many of the state’s most powerful politicians, Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing) took the oath of office Sunday to become Flushing’s new representative in Albany.

“There is one Flushing for everybody here and one standard for all people,” said Grodenchik at his inauguration at the Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center on Kissena Boulevard. “I have only one standard, and that’s a standard that as I said we all move forward together.”

The influential figures who attended — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Queens Democratic Party Chairman Tom Manton, among others — were a sign of the political support Grodenchik enjoyed over the course of the contentious election for the new seat in Flushing.

As the only non-Asian on the ballot for a newly formed majority Asian district, Grodenchik faced criticism from some in the Asian community and was called an “outsider” by Flushing businessman Jimmy Meng, one of his opponents in the race.

Grodenchik, 42, had spent many years working as an aide to Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows) and former Borough President Claire Shulman.

In 2001, the native of Pomonok Houses decided to seek office, but he lost his city council bid to Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

Pledging to campaign harder, Grodenchik made a last-minute decision to run for the Assembly in Flushing, promising to move from his Hillcrest home into the district if he won. He earned the backing of the Queens Democratic Party for the seat, which centers on downtown Flushing and includes parts of Queensborough Hill, Cedar Grove, Murray Hill, North Flushing and East Flushing.

As one of the two new assembly districts in Queens, the Flushing seat attracted a lot of attention and was considered up for grabs at the start of the race.

In a crowded field which included district leader Ethel Chen, Meng and attorney John Albert, Grodenchik narrowly defeated Meng to win the Democratic nomination.

Grodenchik went on to handily beat Republican Meilin Tan, Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou and Chen, Meng and Albert running on minor-party lines in the general election.

Both Meng and Chen showed up at Sunday’s event as well as Taiwanese representative to the United States Andrew Hsia and Chinese Consulate General Hong Xi Zhang.

Grodenchik and other speakers emphasized themes of racial unity in one of the nation’s most diverse communities.

“Each and every one of you will get the respect that you deserve from your assemblyman,” Grodenchik said.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), the first Asian American to sit on the City Council, praised Grodenchik, whom he had supported during the campaign.

“I just want to clarify one thing: Barry, you’re not Asian,” Liu joked. “But in this town of Flushing, that really doesn’t matter.”

After being sworn-in by Silver, Grodenchik thanked Mayersohn and Shulman for helping him in politics.

“If you are lucky in life, you have one really good mentor, and I’ve been blessed with two,” Grodenchik said.

Saying she knew Grodenchik as well as anyone other than his family, Shulman beamed as she described her former staffer.

“He is a very decent, a very intelligent hardworking person with enormous integrity,” she said. “He will serve this community in a marvelous way. ... There isn’t much money around this year, but he will find it.”

Schumer, who came to know Grodenchik while representing Queens as a congressman, said he won “the old-fashioned way.”

“He just worked as hard as he could for people,” Schumer said. “He did it in a nice way, in a kind way. ... He has really tilled the field.”

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) offered similar praise of Grodenchik.

“He may be a short little guy like me, but he’s got a giant heart.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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