Newly elected state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Jamaica) is anxious to get to work and at least one of his priorities from his City Council days remains the same.
“The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is still being felt by many New Yorkers including the Rockaways,” Sanders said in an email. “I am anxious to continue my work in the New York State Senate to help bring relief to these people who have suffered so much.”
Sanders is temporarily conducting business out of his predecessor Shirley Huntley’s office, located at 161-10 Jamaica Ave. in Jamaica, but that will be changing soon as the lawmaker plans to open offices in Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village and Far Rockaway.
Sanders is also in the process of picking his staff. So far, Tajuana Hamm, has been named office manager and Donovan Richards, who was Sanders’ City Council chief of staff, is now doing the same job on an interim basis for the newly seated senator. Richards has been endorsed by Sanders in the Feb. 19 special election to be his successor.
“It’s a transition period, in terms of this office,” Richards said. “But we are still here working.”
In the meantime, for constituents in Sanders’ former 31st councilmanic district, his two offices, one in Laurelton, and the other in Far Rockaway, will remain open. They are being manned by constituent liaisons who had worked for Sanders, according to Richards, but are now employed and overseen by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).
“It’s as if Sanders is still there,” Richards said. “The office is still working the same way it did prior to him taking the Senate seat.”
Asked if any constituents have come to Sanders’ office expecting to find Huntley, Richards said only a handful of walk-ins have done that. “Everyone seems to know there’s a new sheriff in town,” Richards said.
The state Senate website has been updated to reflect that Huntley is the former representative and those who visit the page are immediately greeted with a popup window that states, “This senator is currently inactive, and this content is provided to you as an archive.” Sanders has a Senate page, but there is no photo or content as of yet. Hamm said “it will be updated shortly,” but did not have an exact date.
There will be a ceremonial district inauguration on Jan. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Academic Core Building at York College, which is located at 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica. All are welcome.
Sanders’ old seat will remain vacant until the Feb. 19 to select a replacement, who will serve out the rest of the term, which ends on Dec. 31. Running in that race so far, besides Richards, are Marie Adam-Ovide, the district manager of Community Board 8; Jacques Leandre, a lawyer and founder of the Rosedale Jets Football Association; Earnest Flowers, who runs a communications and marketing firm; Mike Duncan, a community activist; and Selvena Brooks, a public relations specialist.
Pesach Osina, community liaison for Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway), is considering entering the race, but has not made a final decision yet.