Liu sworn in for Council as first Asian-American

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New York’s two senators and a wealth of Queens political leaders came to the Flushing Library Thursday evening to attend the installation of John Liu as Flushing’s new city council member.

“This doesn’t look like an installation,” said U.S. Rep Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside). “This looks like a coronation of a new emperor!”

Ackerman said he could not remember the last time he had seen such an array of political heavyweights. U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Queens Borough President-elect Helen Marshall were just a few of the politicians who attended the ceremony.

Many of those who spoke said the occasion was historic because Liu was the first Asian-American to become a member of the City Council.

“This is a great day for Flushing; when I come here, I am so proud,” said Schumer, speaking of the community’s diversity. “Anyone who wants to see the future of America, come to the city of New York and come to Flushing.”

Once he was finally sworn in, Liu said he was humbled by the crowd.

Like the speakers who preceded him, Liu said he was happy to finally have an Asian-American in the City Council.

“I’m very proud to be Asian-American, to be the first Asian American elected to City Council,” said Liu.

Liu spoke of his history, having immigrated from Taiwan at the age of 5 and moving to Flushing with his parents. After marrying his wife Jenny, the couple decided to start a family in Flushing.

“We set our roots in Flushing a number of years ago,” said Liu. “This is the kind of community I want Joey to grow up in,” he said of his 1-year-old son.

Liu outlined a platform he hopes to work on with the Queens council members, all of whom are replacing incumbents due to term limits. In particular, he said he wanted to fight school vouchers, create more affordable housing and increase health care access for immigrants.

Marshall, who completed her term as a Democratic councilwoman from East Elmhurst, said Liu’s installation was a feat along with her becoming the first African-American borough president in Queens and Hiram Monserrate’s replacing her as the first Hispanic councilman in Queens.

“All of this, pay attention everybody, is happening in Queens,” she said.

Marshall added that she thought diversity was the great strength of the city.

“New York doesn’t have oil wells, we don’t have gold mines,” she said. “Our natural resource is our people.”

Clinton echoed Marshall’s praise for diversity.

“There could not be any more fitting rebuke to the terrorists than what is happening in this auditorium right now,” said Clinton of Liu’s installation.

Herman Farrell, state chairman of the state Democratic Committee, noted the large number of pictures being taken of Liu.

“You are going to be on everybody’s wall,” he said. “There are children who are going to see that picture, and that’s what matters. You are, as Jesse Jackson would say it, you are somebody.”

Marshall said Liu would have to deal with high expectations.

“You’re going to get people expecting you to be a miracle maker,” she said.

Both of John’s parents, Joseph and Amy, were in attendance. Joseph Liu is set to be sentenced on Jan. 8 after being convicted of misapplication of bank funds.

In his speech, Liu defended his father, who lives in Bayside.

“I am the son of Joseph Liu, the most honest man I have ever met,” said Liu.

There were more political figures at the installation than attendees at several of the debates in which he participated. Among those figures were Thomas Manton, chairman of the Queens Democratic Organization; state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing); Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria); Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside); incoming Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis); incoming Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans); and outgoing Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans).

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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