Weisenberg gets rare bipartisan honor in Senate for work for disabled

Michael Gormley for Newsday

Originally published in Newsday

ALBANY – Former state legislator Harvey Weisenberg received a rare honor this week when the Senate, where he never served, lauded him in a proclamation for his “unparalleled devotion” to people with disabilities in his long career representing Long Beach in the Assembly.

Weisenberg “built bridges of hope for those who seek human dignity and a productive role in society,” according to the Senate proclamation presented Wednesday.

Weisenberg, 85, was an early and consistent advocate for the rights of developmentally disabled children and adults and for programs to help them live fuller lives during his 25 years in office, from 1989 to 2014. The Democrat frequently drew bipartisan support for policies and funding to serve the disabled community. He was also a tireless caregiver for his disabled son, Ricky.

“Harvey is just a different type of leader who transcended party and whose advocacy for people without a voice is legendary,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who succeeded Weisenberg in the Assembly when the veteran decided not to run for re-election.

Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said Weisenberg was “a pain in the neck about everything."

 "But his passion and dedication was always keeping things moving in the right direction," Flanagan said during the Senate ceremony. "New York state, without question, is in a better place because of your service.”

Weisenberg routinely took on governors and his own party’s leadership to extract more state funding for programs and for wages for workers in the field.

“You called us to our better angels,” said Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) in lengthy discussion over the proclamation presented to Weisenberg who continues to lobby for no fee for disabled people and their care workers.

“He was a leader’s leader for people with disabilities,” Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said.