Holiday Plans? Senators Will Be Stuck in Albany
ALBANY — On Saturday afternoon, from the peaks of the Adirondacks to the sands of Coney Island, New Yorkers will be celebrating the Fourth of July with picnics, softball games or a dip in the ocean.
But as the power struggle in the State Senate concludes its fourth week with no sign of resolution, 62 senators will be stuck in the Capitol, far from home, hearth and hot dogs, leaving lawmakers to frantically juggle schedules, appease aggrieved spouses and page through event guides, looking for ways to pass the time.
“I’ll read all the computer mail that I got,” mused William T. Stachowski, a Democrat from the Buffalo area. “If there’s anything else that I have to read to catch up on, maybe bills that I wanted to read that I haven’t had a chance to.”
With Gov. David A. Paterson calling the Senate into extraordinary session every day through Monday, many lawmakers said they planned a quick trip home — whether to march in a Fourth of July parade, pack fresh clothes or see their children — between the Friday and Saturday sessions, both of which start at 3 p.m.
A few mulled plans for a last-minute Albany cookout or some other get-together. Some chose to find solace in the dreary weather that has afflicted New York for the last month: At least they would not be stuck inside on a warm, sunny day, though the forecast, calling for scattered thunderstorms, does not look that bad.
“Deep down inside, you don’t feel like you’re missing too much anyhow, if the weather’s really rainy,” said José M. Serrano, a Bronx Democrat.
Mr. Serrano, whose father served in the State Assembly for 16 years when budget negotiations could last through August, said he remembered his father occasionally disappearing for the summer.
“I have in my head tried to forget that this is the July Fourth weekend,” Mr. Serrano said. “It’s unfortunate, but what can you do? I don’t want to be overly upset about it.”
Members of both parties were quick to point out that they would rather spend the whole weekend doing the public’s work. Numerous important bills have been held up by the stalemate, including a raft of statutes that expired on June 30, depriving local officials of the power to conduct everyday business, like issuing bonds or collecting taxes.
But with the Senate split 31-31, and neither side willing to acknowledge the other’s right to pass legislation or run the chamber, there is little that Republicans and Democrats are likely to do on Saturday but gavel in, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and gavel out.
Some, like Pedro Espada Jr., the Bronx Democrat whose alliance with Republicans has deadlocked the Senate, held out hope for a productive day of work.
“I plan to be in Albany at the extraordinary session called by the governor, with the hope that in the spirit of democracy and the July Fourth holiday, my colleagues in the Democratic conference will join with the new reform coalition Senate and do the important legislative work that the people of the state are counting on us to complete,” Mr. Espada said in a statement. “My family is joining me this weekend and we will find a local event to celebrate the freedom, independence and democracy that we enjoy as citizens of this great country.”
Martin J. Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, said that he did not like staying in Albany more than a few days in a row — “You start to get the heebie-jeebies,” he said — and that he had been making the round-trip drive every couple of days since the stalemate began. This weekend, he had hoped to join his extended family in Hampton Bays, N.Y., where golf, swimming and a local road race were on the agenda.
“I like to read the newspapers and hit the pool,” Mr. Golden said. “I’m a terrible golfer, but I like to go for the company.”
Now, Mr. Golden said, he was on the lookout for something else to do.
“I understand there are good fireworks on July Fourth in Albany,” Mr. Golden said. “I am going to try to see that.”
Senate veterans recall at least two recent instances when the Senate was in session during the Fourth of July. In 2004, the budget ran so late that it was still being hashed out. And in 1993, some lawmakers recall, they could hear fireworks blasting out over nearby Empire State Plaza as they haggled over the final details of legislation to extend New York City’s rent regulation laws.
“I’ve been here on Palm Sunday; I’ve been here on Good Friday,” said Mr. Stachowski, who was elected to the Senate in 1981. “It’s not, like, earthshaking.”
Some senators insisted that the extended stay in Albany posed no particular headache or inconvenience.
“I don’t have parents, I’m not married, and I don’t have children,” said James S. Alesi, a Republican whose district encircles Rochester. “What were my original plans? No plans. So this is perfectly fine with me. I have no problem being here. You have to be there somewhere. It might just as well be in the Capitol.”
A few minutes later, Mr. Alesi approached a reporter to venture a further thought.
“If the governor had any class, he’d invite us all to the mansion for a barbecue,” Mr. Alesi said. “Failing that, I’m going to the laundromat.”