Sanders sworn in at York

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State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (front r.) places his hand on a Bible held by his father, James Sanders, as Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (front l.) performs a ceremonial swearing in. Photo by Christina Santucci
Assemblywoman Michelle Titus gives her remarks. Photo by Christina Santucci
State Sen. James Sanders Jr. speaks about economic power. Photo by Christina Santucci
Assemblyman David Weprin (l.) shakes hands with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Photo by Christina Santucci
Former city Councilman Archie Spigner addresses the crowd. Photo by Christina Santucci
State Sen. Malcolm Smith speaks about his new Senate colleague. Photo by Christina Santucci
State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (r.) hugs Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Photo by Christina Santucci
State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (l.) is joined by Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, Assemblyman David Weprin (third l.), Joan Flowers and Neville Flowers. Photo by Christina Santucci

State Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica), fresh off his first few days in Albany, celebrated his inauguration with a ceremonial swearing-in at York College last week.

Sanders was officially sworn in Jan. 9 and spent the first two days last week in session in Albany, where he voted to pass the state’s new assault weapons ban.

He returned to his district Jan. 20 for a ceremony in the atrium at York where he was joined by his friends, family, constituents and colleagues in government.

“My friends, never have so few owed so much to so many,” Sanders said. “I am perhaps the most blessed of men.”

Donovan Richards, who served as Sanders’ chief of staff and is running to fill his vacant seat in the Council, recalled a story about how his boss one time told him to hang some curtains in their office. Richards said he did not know how to hang curtains, and Sanders told him there is only one way to learn.

“But that speaks of the character of him. Instead of him pointing me in a direction to directly do it, he said ‘You gotta try. If you don’t try, how do you know you can’t accomplish it or you can accomplish it?’” Richards said. “That’s the sort of man you’re getting in the state Senate.”

Sanders served 11 years in the City Council representing Far Rockaway, Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens before being elected to the Senate in November. As part of his campaign strategy, he made an aggressive play to court voters in the diverse South Asian neighborhoods of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.

“Queens is the most diverse county in the United States. We’ve got a little bit of everybody in Queens,” he said. “And it was a rainbow coalition that came together that decided that we need a new day in our district.”

Facing term limits, Sanders challenged former Sen. Shirley Huntley, who just days before the September primary was indicted by the state attorney general on obstruction charges.

At the swearing-in, Sanders asked the gathered crowd to take a silent moment of prayer for Huntley’s daughter, who was having health problems.

Joining the new senator were his colleagues in the state Legislature, Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck); Councilmen Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) and Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens); and Democratic Conference Leader Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers), who administered the oath.

Sanders said he continued to live by the lessons he learned in church and through the struggles of his parents, and then invited his guests to “break bread” with him.

“My roots are Southern,” he said. “We don’t do a meal where you have to go and get a meal. We don’t do finger food. We do two handful food.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 12:00 am, January 28, 2013
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