The State Senate honored former Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg on June 12 for his work advocating for people with developmental disabilities and in the Long Beach community.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky presented him with a rare bipartisan honor on the Senate floor.
“What Harvey is known for is an unceasing, unflinching, dogged advocacy on behalf of those with developmental disabilities who cannot speak for themselves,” Kaminsky said during a speech on the Senate floor. “Harvey has moved mountains. He has done things for, not only for that community, but others that no one has thought possible because he did what his heart told him to do.”
Weisenberg, 85, was an educator for more than 20 years before entering politics. He has dedicated the majority of his life to public service, including 25 years in the State Assembly. He previously worked as a Long Beach police officer, lifeguard, special education teacher and elementary school principal. He also served in the Long Beach City Council, sitting as the board’s president. Weisenberg was first elected to office in 1989 and helped pass more than 300 bills, including legislation assisting people with special needs and creating stricter DWI laws — an example is Leandra’s Law, which requires those who are convicted of drunken driving to use ignition interlocks in their vehicles.
During his time in the Assembly, Weisenberg secured millions of dollars in state aid and grants for schools in the 20th District. He fought to improve the water quality of the Western Bays and to protect the Lloyd Aquifer. In the Legislature, Weisenberg served as Chair of the Assembly’s Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee before being named Deputy Majority Whip and Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore of the State Assembly.
In 2017, Weisenberg helped secure $55 million in the state budget to raise the wages for direct caregivers.
“The best way you can help people is by advocating for those who need it the most,” Weisenberg said.
Weisenberg’s son, Ricky, who has cerebral palsy and cannot speak, was a driving force in Weisenberg’s fight to help those with developmental disabilities. Weisenberg’s late wife Ellen, who died in 2016, was a constant presence by her husband’s side throughout his career in public service.
“It’s all about love — the love that Ellen and I had for each other and the love that we had for the institution,” Weisenberg said. “God gave me an angel, a saint and mission. Ricky is my angel, Ellen is my saint and I have a mission that I’m doing God’s work.”
Ellen and Ricky were both an inspiration for Weisenberg’s book, “For the Love of a Child: My Life, My City & My Mission.” He spent nearly four years working on the book and published it last year.
The money collected from book sales benefited the Harvey and Ellen Weisenberg Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for people with special needs, their families and caregivers. The foundation was launched in 2015. Weisenberg said he gave out 200 copies of his book to City Hall employees.
“I love my city and I love people who take care of my city. They’re all like my family,” Weisenberg said. “Everybody I met in my life is part of my family.”
Harvey’s work was recognized by many, including former colleague and friend, State Sen. John Flanagan, a Republican from East Northport.
“Harvey has taught me, and I think a lot of us, about life, about perspective and about pure unconditional love,” Flanagan said during a speech. “I’m so deeply grateful for your service in making New York State, without question, a better place because of your service.”