met Gary when he was a popular activist.
After his decision to run for the State Senate, I very willingly
He became a state senator from my district and was very effective.
When he ran for Congress, my district worked hard for him
and never regretted it.
I always remember Gary speaking in my district and telling
heartbreaking stories about starving Ethiopian Jews and helping
them to emigrate to Israel.
I remember one story about a starving woman and her child.
Gary told us that when she was finally offered food,
she asked if it was kosher. Upon finding out it was not, she
It was a sad day when Gary was drawn out of my district after
a reapportionment. We were delighted, however, when Gary’s
district was again redrawn to include parts of Corona and
He is our congressman again and we could not be more proud.
Manheim - Longtime
known Gary Ackerman for about 50 years.
We grew up in the Pomonok Housing project in Flushing, went
to elementary school at P.S. 163, and after Gary finished
high school at Brooklyn Tech ( I went to Stuyvesant), we
both enrolled at Queens College.
At Queens, Gary excelled, not in the classroom, but in all
things extracurricular. He became the editor of a student
newspaper, the president of his senior class and a big man
around campus in more ways than one.
His quixotic humor and hunger for a good meal at anytime
day or night took us to most of the diners in Queens.
At the end of 1969, he came to me with an idea for a community
newspaper that he wanted to start. Despite my meager income,
I became the financial backer and a partner in the new Flushing
Tribune, later to become the Queens Tribune.
For all the years that I have known Gary, the traits that
have made him a very unique individual are his courage,
charisma and compassion. From organizing an airlift of food
to Ethiopia, to helping hundreds of constituents in need,
Gary always came through.
From fighting against censorship in the libraries of District
25 to arguing for freedom of speech on the floor of Congress,
Gary has shown his courage. His charismatic personality
has persuaded others to join him in supporting causes, such
as low cost public housing in Queens and freedom for oppressed
Jews in the old Soviet Union.
If you had asked me 50 years ago if Gary Ackerman would
one day become a well known respected member of Congress,
I would have answered, “of course”.
Thomson - Former
Queens Representative To The New York City Board Of
the years, Congressman Gary Ackerman has played the role
of statesman, teacher, community organizer and activist,
and those of us fortunate enough to have worked with him
know that he is someone with an astounding ability to accomplish
the seemingly impossible. I first began working for then
State Senator Ackerman in 1980 and for the next ten years
witnessed first-hand how one person could truly have an
impact on the community and help average citizens solve
their problems. The stories of how he resolved the everyday
concerns of his constituents are endless:
• There was the little girl who wrote to Gary about
the older kids throwing rocks off the train trestle. Not
only did Gary make sure that a fence was installed, he also
personally walked her to school.
• There was the former lawyer who testified at a Congressional
hearing about his life in a homeless shelter. Gary hired
him to work in our office, found him an apartment and helped
put his life in order.
• Other efforts that come to mind are the time he
delivered a 55 gallon drum of make-believe pollutants to
Mayor Koch at Gracie Mansion to advocate for the clean-up
of the “poison pond” in College Point; his courageous
stands to support services and housing for the disabled;
efforts to preserve our parkland by suing the Sanitation
Department to remove its trucks; or the joyful and tearful
airport scenes that occurred when Romanian families were
reunited through his personal intervention.
But perhaps Gary Ackerman’s incredible drive and his
humanity were best demonstrated by his work as a member
of the Select Committee on Hunger in his early days in Congress.
Gary traveled to Ethiopia in the midst of the terrible famine,
and I remember so vividly when he returned how haunted he
was by what he had seen. A few of us sat in his living room
that day listening to him describe his experiences and express
his commitment to doing something about that terrible tragedy.
In only a few short days, and overcoming major bureaucratic
hurdles, he organized a major fundraising campaign by New
York’s City’s schoolchildren that raised hundreds
of thousands of dollars to purchase food for the children
of Ethiopia. Always the schoolteacher, Gary spent weeks
personally delivering his passionate message to children
in classrooms throughout New York City. “Children
for Children”, the fund he created in partnership
with Save the Children, became a catalyst across the U.S.
for other school systems and organizations to raise funds.
Several months later, Gary was back on his way to Ethiopia
to personally deliver and supervise the distribution of
food to those same sites he visited earlier.
While it’s one thing to stand up and deliver a speech
about an issue or a problem, it’s an altogether different
kind of person that goes the next critical step and finds
the real solutions and concrete actions that change people’s
lives. And while Gary can do quite a speech when called
upon (does anyone remember his famous Chanukah speech in
a sleet storm in downtown Flushing?), the true measure of
this great public servant is his record of accomplishment
for his constituents. I know I speak for everyone who has
worked with the Congressman in saying how proud I am to
have had the opportunity to learn from Gary Ackerman.
R. Gold - NYS
Senate – Retired
reason why so many people in American hold politicians in
low regard is that most people who hold public office consider
themselves successful if they “hold on to their seat”
for a substantial period of time. These individuals don’t
care what they do with the seat and measure their success
by holding on to the seat.
Gary Ackerman is an extraordinary public servant who understands
that with the power given him by his constituents, he can
do good for them even if it risks his holding on to the
What Gary realizes is that the courage to “risk”
the loss of a seat by standing up for principles and fighting
for individual rights, is what makes him a success and why
the people flock to his side to support his legislative
I have known Gary since his days as a teacher, saw him progress
as an outstanding member of the New York State Senate, and
admire greatly what he does for his constituents and our
country as a member of the United States Congress.
Any day of the week, give me an elected official who cares
about people and whose priority is their well being…and
that is the person I want.
Too many people in public life live for their Sunday press
conferences in the hopes of being in Monday morning’s
newspaper, and lose sight of the fact that the seat which
they hold is an opportunity to do good. Gary Ackerman does
good “everyday” and maintains a Washington office
and a local district office which exudes the same sensitivity
towards human beings as does Gary himself.
Congressman Gary Ackerman should be a role model for what
a great public official should be. He is my friend; he is
strength in government; and for everyone who loves Rita
Ackerman, he is our idol.
E. Schumer - NYS
me great pleasure to join the Queens Tribune in recognizing
you for your endless contributions to the Queens community.
Approximately thirty-four years ago, you embarked on a career
move that resulted in the founding of this great paper,
one of New York City’s most well-respected publications.
Gary, as my colleague and friend, I am honored to recognize
all that you have done on behalf of the residents of Queens
and the North Shore of Long Island. Throughout your career
you have served as a champion of issues close to your heart
and of importance to your constituents. As a tireless advocate
of consumer rights and a fighter for financial community
reform, you have helped to improve the quality of life for
countless New Yorkers, young and old.
Congratulations Gary and thank you for your commitment and
dedication to our great City and State. I wish you the very
best and I look forward to continuing to work with you to
make New York a better place.
Rodham Clinton - United
delighted to join The Queens Tribune in paying special tribute
to my good friend, Congressman Gary Ackerman.
Before Congressman Ackerman was first elected to public
office, he started a weekly community newspaper in Queens
in 1970 called The Flushing Tribune – known today
to its readers as The Queens Tribune.
Now serving his eleventh term in the United States House
of Representatives, Congressman Ackerman had dedicated his
public service to the well-being of his constituents in
Queens. His history of thoughtful and devoted service has
served his constituents well.
Through his work on the House International Relations Committee
and the Banking and Financial Services Committee, Congressman
Ackerman brings integrity, passion and commitment to the
families and citizens of Queens. He has successfully worked
on many legislative initiatives, such as securing millions
in federal dollars for education, hospitals and our first
I thank Congressman Ackerman for his tremendous leadership
and service on behalf of his constituents and the great
State of New York. I look forward to continuing to work
with him in the weeks and months ahead.
Shulman - Former
Queens Borough President
can I say about Gary Ackerman?
This is not a difficult assignment.
I first met Gary when I went to work at Borough Hall.
He was, as he is today, an endearing, sympatico and sweet
natured person, whose interests were both varied and
He fooled people very often as being superficial, but that
is not the real Gary. He went from the State Senate to the
Congress wearing the proverbial carnation, which played
a part in peoples’ impression of him.
He has the ability to focus and has a serious mind.
His interests and ability in foreign affairs is excellent.
Going to Israel with Gary was an experience.
His humor kept us all in stitches.
I would be right in describing Gary as a tragic comedian,
who fully understands the perils we face and can still maintain
his sense of humor.
He really has an interesting and compelling personality
and is doing an excellent job in Washington.
Crowley - U.S.
great pleasure in congratulating my colleague, Congressman
Gary Ackerman, on his 20 years of service in the U.S. House
of Representatives. During his two decades in Congress,
Gary has proven himself dedicated to the people of the 5th
Congressional District of New York, and served as an exemplary
representative for others in Congress.
As the Dean of the Queens-Long Island delegation, Gary has
established himself as a true champion of the people of
Queens and Nassau. His service to the area dates further
into the past than his time in Federal office. He is the
founder of this community newspaper, has taught in Queens
junior high schools, and was an accomplished State Senator.
Gary and I also share something in common – we are
proud graduates of Queens College!
Congressman Ackerman’s time in Congress has allowed
him to deepen and expand his efforts to improve the health
and safety of Queens families. He has worked to protect
and clean the land and air in his district, and to protect
the people of Queens from the harmful effects created by
pollution. He played a critical role in obtaining $20 billion
in disaster relief for New York after the events of 9/11,
and established a fund for the families of rescue victims
through the “Heroes” stamp commemorated to the
fallen and injured rescue workers of 9/11.
I have had the privilege to work with Gary on many New York
City issues. I worked alongside him as he fought to protect
the public from the harmful effects of pesticides and petitioned
Congress with him to obtain higher standards of equity for
public education funding in Queens. Gary was a key factor
in our success of keeping the high-density rule in place.
Gary and I achieved a victory in obtaining funding for the
soundproofing of public schools, protecting schoolchildren
from noise and air pollution during their school day, and
increasing the quality of their learning environment.
Gary is known in Congress as an instrumental supporter of
key social and financial community reforms.
As a senior member of the House International Relations
Committee, Gary has made history. Danger poses no barriers
to Gary in his major leadership roles in national security,
nuclear proliferation and terrorism issues. In October of
1993, he traveled to North Korea in efforts to cease the
building of nuclear weapons. During this trip, he became
the first person since the Korean War to cross the DMZ (Demilitarized
Zone) into South Korea. This border between the two Koreas
was background to a military confrontation that included
guerrilla warfare, sabotage and terrorism directed against
the people of South Korea and the Americans serving there.
Today, it is the most heavily fortified border in the world.
I only hope to someday follow in the bravery Gary has demonstrated
in his efforts for a greater good.
One of my favorite memories of Gary was when he came out
to campaign with me for my first campaign for the New York
State Assembly. Gary has stood at my side fighting for Queens
ever since. He has ingratiated himself to his colleagues,
constituents and friends through a combination of intellect
I wish my friend from Queens all the best. May health and
success follow him in the many years to come.
Moskowitz - Chief-of-Staff
Tribune readers are aware that Gary Ackerman is known for
wearing a fresh carnation in his lapel every day. This floral
adornment has become a trademark, and has been incorporated
into his campaign logos. We’ve even made some re-election
buttons with nothing on them but the instantly-recognizable
carnation. The flowers are a personal statement, and a bit
of a ritual for the Gary: He wears a fresh one each morning—even
when traveling abroad—stopping by the florist shop
nearly every day. (Sometimes he get a two- or three-day
supply.) Most people are surprised to learn that the Congressman
gets his own flowers, but this is far too important a task
to be delegated to interns.
The most frequent comment I hear about the carnation is
a simple question: Why? Like all simple questions, there
is more than one answer.
Gary’s campaign strategists will tell you the carnation
symbolizes a breath of fresh air that Ackerman brings to
public policy. That’s a nice epigram, but the carnations’
appearance predates our use of the metaphor as a campaign
Historians deduce that, since Gary was part of a 10-member
freshman class in the New York State Senate (in 1979, out
of a total of 60 members), the carnation was a unique way
for Gary to call attention to himself. This has the ring
of truth: Gary was quickly recognized by the staid security
officers who guarded the portals of the mahogany-and-leather
Senate chamber. But a quarter-century ago, Gary sported
a goatee, a Jewish afro, and considerably more girth than
he now carries, and so the carnation was somewhat lost in
the visual clutter. Besides, Gary wore the carnation throughout
the Senate campaign, long before we knew that there would
be any other freshmen elected that year.
Gary himself will tell you that he started wearing the carnation
on a whim while teaching at Shimer Junior High School in
South Jamaica back in the sixties. His students thought
it was Gary’s birthday, or some other special occasion,
but Gary told them the flower marked no milestone. “Every
day is special,” Gary told his students. A wonderful
philosophy, and no doubt a true story. But that’s
not the answer.
The real reason Gary wears a carnation every day is because
we wouldn’t let him wear his outlandish hats any more.
Back in the 1970s, Gary was known for his distinctive headwear.
Stetsons, fedoras, bowlers, top hats, sombreros, construction
helmets—Gary had and wore them all. I particularly
remember a bright yellow number with a striking brown headband
and a large feather, which made it seem as if Gary were
destined for a different profession.
When serious planning began for Gary’s 1977 City Council
campaign, we told him that he needed to put the hats away.
Gary resisted. He was known for his hats, he argued, and
this was just a Council race in Queens; a little eccentricity
was acceptable. No, his campaign crew argued, the hats were
a distraction, and he didn’t need to become Queens’
answer to Bella Abzug. “But the hats are my trademark,”
Gary exclaimed. “How can I run without my hats?”
Like a breath of fresh air.
Oats - Former
(Re-printed from the Queens Tribune 08/21/03)
Gary Ackerman, founder of the Queens
Tribune and current U.S. Congressman, stands with former
Tribune editor David Oats and current Tribune publisher
is correct in stating that the only missed Tribune deadline
in the paper’s history was due to a snowstorm in early
1978. But at least I’m proud to say it wasn’t
for want of trying. The blizzard that hit the City was reminiscent
of the famous ’69 storm that blanketed and shut down
Queens, and almost destroyed Mayor John Lindsay’s
political career when Manhattan streets were cleared but
Queens remained unplowed for days. (Only the 1969 Miracle
Mets victory helped boost Lindsay to an almost miracle-like
re-election later that year.) I remember enjoying the vast
whiteout of ’69 - but the ’78 storm seemed as
big and presented an almost impossible task on deadline
night. But a hearty group of Trib staffers stayed until
the paper was done (with paste-up and “computers” that
were “modern” to us but dinosaurs by today’s
The paper was completed – but there was one problem.
Our printer (Joe Wollf’s International Press in Long
Island City) was so snowed-in they could not get their doors
or gates open. Hence, we had a paper – but no printer.
I wish we had saved the original “boards” of
that edition – the only one that never saw the light
of ink! Unable to walk to my home on Roosevelt Avenue in
Flushing, I remember staying at the Trib office for almost
two days, grateful to the “Good Food Store”
across the street on Kissena Boulevard, which was able to
open. A crew of volunteer photographers who braved the cold
and snow provided the pix for the next-published Tribune.
Then there was the Blackout of 1977. Again, I had fond memories
of New York’s first great Blackout in November 1965.
It was a frighteningly beautiful night for the City –
full of the same grace-in-crisis spirit we saw this year.
But the ’77 Blackout was a very different story.
At the Tribune we were in a dual-mode. At that time we were
not only attempting to put the paper out, but much of the
staff was happily moonlighting on another task – getting
the Trib’s founder and publisher Gary Ackerman elected
to public office. He was running for the first time –
for a now-discontinued position of Councilman-at-Large.
This was a major borough-wide elective post (later ruled
unconstitutional by the courts – another story). It
was an energetic, grassroots, exciting campaign in which
the paper was very much a vehicle.
After a day of work at the paper I went out with one of
my “reporter/campaign worker” for relaxation
at Bacciagalup’s Restaurant on Main Street in Flushing
to talk about the campaign and also the Trib’s coverage
of the Son of Sam case that was terrorizing Queens
and the City in a time later to be known as “The Summer
of Sam.” At about 9:30 p.m. on that July 13 night,
the lights flickered in the restaurant, and then went dark.
As you recounted in your column, at first it’s all
very local to you – until Larry Reich and I went out
the doors and saw it wasn’t confined to Bacciagalup’s.
All of Main Street – Flushing – was dark and
transistor radios were able to break the news that, once
again, all of New York – and beyond – was out.
I remember it was only a few minutes before we also realized
that this was not going to be another placid New York night
as in ’65. We watched as within seconds, the plate
glass windows of a fashionable men’s clothing store
on the corner of Main and Kissena were shattered and looters
were pulling everything from the store. Then, minutes later,
the sounds of shattered glass were heard at the large appliance
store across the street... and on and on.
Frustrated by not having any cameras with us we walked the
darkened streets back to the darkened Trib storefront where
we attempted to coordinate some kind of coverage of that
It was a very hot and humid night (no moonlight as in ’65)
and the City was already paralyzed in fear by the mysterious,
bloody rampage of “the Son of Sam.” In fact
it’s said that many actually believed HE, whoever
he was, caused the blackout. In the end, the early scenes
we saw in Flushing were repeated – in huge scale –
all around the tense city.
All the lights were not turned on until about 10:30 the
next night. But there had been 3,400 arrests, 558 cops injured,
851 fires – $1 billion dollars in damage. A nightmarish
night that makes our most recent Blackout of ’03 stand
as a model of civic pride.
By the early light of the next morning (still without electricity)
Gary, myself and some other staffers were trying to make
the best of our time to come up with ways to get an original
story out of this – and get Gary in the news. In a flash,
so to speak, it came. They were saying a lightning bolt
hit the big ConEd plant up in Westchester, causing the blackout.
Paul O’Dwyer, then the City Council president, doubted
this scenario and saw it as a big ConEd cop-out for other
major failures. So we decided to drive up to the plant upstate.
Gary went to a local store and, when everyone else was searching
for batteries, flashlights, etc., he was looking for a kite!
The idea was to get into the facility and have Gary fly
the kite, a la Ben Franklin’s famed lightening experiment,
and tell ConEd to “Go Fly A Kite!” with their
Needless to say some incredulous guards turned us away,
but we got the shot of Gary, the kite and the plant in the
background and our “Ackerman to ConEd: Go Fly
A Kite” headline on the next Tribune front page. To
think, from this, future great newspapers and Congressmen
Fresh from our victorious journalistic-political coup upstate,
we returned late afternoon to a still powerless Queens.
We decided to pick up a few other reporter-campaign volunteers
to ride around the borough with Gary in his old red, white
and blue van which was our rolling campaign headquarters.
We stopped to pick up one of our people at his home in Fresh
Meadows to join our boroughwide jaunt. Now this was a quiet,
residential, one-family home street on a day where everyone
is trapped at home and there are really no sounds or activity.
Except for the red, white and blue Acker-Van as we called
it – blaring John Philip Sousa march music from a
loudspeaker on top and a huge car-top sign for ACKERMAN AT
As we pulled up, some young children playing in the street
are fascinated by the arrival of this blackout-day diversion.
The circus had come to town! Residents were looking
out their windows at the unusual scene as we waited to pick
up our worker. Then, Gary decided it’s hot –
we ought to all be wearing the Ackerman t-shirts we had
just made up. So Gary got out of the van, and proceeded
to take his shirt off to change into the t-shirt.
The little kids stared in wonderment at this large man from
the red, white and blue truck – loudly blaring Sousa
march music – apparently undressing in the street.
The bemused residents also watched from their windows. In
the middle of a blackout afternoon! And then, quite unexpectedly,
Gary raised his arms to put on the shirt – and his
pants fell down!
Quickly pulling them back up, Gary smiled and waved at the
kiddies and neighbors, and we all piled back in the van
which in music and signs loudly proclaimed to anyone within
seeing and hearing distance: ACKERMAN AT LARGE!
Needless to say Gary lost that election. The position
was later abolished. But the fact that Gary was wearing
an extra large pair of boxer shorts that day may have saved
the whole political and newspaper history of Ackerman
and the Trib from ending on that blackout day with
a case of public lewdness.
In fact Gary went on the next year to be elected to the
State Senate and, eventually, the hallowed halls of the
U.S. Congress. And the Trib went on to reach a ripe
As the old cliché goes: Only in America.
R. McNuly - New
York 21st Congressional District New York
Ackerman is my best friend in Congress.
From the time I was elected in 1988 until now, he has been
the person I’ve consulted the most for advice –
both professional and personal.
Gary’s extraordinary combination of intellectual brilliance,
human kindness, and common sense – coupled with his
precious sense of humor — make him a truly unique
I also admire Gary’s priorities.
His wife, Rita, and their children Lauren, Corey, and Ari,
are always at the center of his life.
His success in business and politics, while significant,
always rank behind his role as a loving husband and father.
In addition to benefiting from his advice and counsel, my
companionship with Gary also takes me to the best restaurants
on a regular basis.
He’s my own private nutritionist.
You know, therefore, that I will never go hungry!
Friends like Gary are few and far between.
I shall always be grateful for the day I met him.
Dogle - Political
Gary in the summer of 1977.
He was engaged in his first and only losing campaign for
I was coordinating a “get out the vote” effort
for one of his opponents. A short three months later, I
pledged to support Gary in his future campaigns.
My experience is not unique. Gary’s ability to convert
former foes into friends in legendary.
His ability to laugh at himself and the world around him
makes him likeable but his willingness to stand by his friends,
to do the right thing and to speak up for those in need
makes him lovable.
It is a pleasure to congratulate Gary and his paper the
Tribune on 34 years of service to the people of Queens.
Floyd Flake - Former
the distinct pleasure of serving in the United States House
of Representatives for 11 years with the Honorable Gary
He distinguished himself in several ways.
One, being that he was the only member of Congress who wore
a fresh flower in his lapel, daily; and the second was his
extraordinary gift for diplomacy.
Congressman Ackerman has the ability to diffuse the most
volatile situations by saying the right thing at the appropriate
times or offering a witty phrase that would cause people
to feel less tense.
Congressman Ackerman’s commitment to foreign affairs,
especially the sustainability of Israel as a sovereign nation,
was never debatable.
He was not parochial by merely focusing on Israel, but could
be counted on by the Congressional Black Caucus for favorable
support of Africa.
On a personal note, Gary and I did a number of Black/Jewish
dialogue meetings at Queens College and other places in
One year, we had a joint Seder meal celebration at The Allen
Gary shipped enough Matzo to serve the 1,200 or so people
in attendance, with plenty left over.
That event clearly defines the spirit of the Honorable Congressman
Sandomix - New
York Times Columnist
sweltering August day in 1978, I was assigned to photograph
Gary greeting President Carter inside City Hall after the
president signed the loan guarantees that assured New York
Unfortunately, as I waited for Gary to arrive on the second-floor
landing, a Secret Service agent told me sternly to leave.
As I was escorted out, Gary shouted, “Richie!
Richie! I’m here!” I persuaded the agent to
let me return, but when I did, I had to remove the lens
cap and refocus.
By now, Gary had been shaking Carter’s hand for far
too long. “Who are these guys?” Carter muttered
to Ed Koch, as he held Gary’s hand and I fumbled with
“What do you expect?” Koch said, “they’re
from the Queens Tribune!” The next issue of the paper
carried my blurry photo of Carter, Koch and Gary, under
a caption that read something like “Heads of State.”
Sommer - Editor,
New York Times
Ackerman and Michael Schenkler initiated me into the
world of professional journalism 34 years ago, and helped
teach me an important lesson.
Mike is my cousin and, in good times and bad, Gary has often
seemed like one. When they started up the Tribune together,
I was in my senior year at John Bowne High School on Main
Street in Flushing, and was editor of the school newspaper.
They needed reporters; I was eager to help out.
New York City high schools were fertile ground for journalists
in those days of antiwar protest and social unrest, and
Bowne was no exception.
Drugs, from marijuana to heroin, had entered the schools.
At Bowne, the
administration had locked the school’s bathrooms to
prevent students from using them to exchange drugs.
Students could obtain a bathroom key from an assistant principal.
I described the mood on campus in lighthearted tones for
the school paper, and did a more straightforward job for
To my surprise, the article appeared as the lead story of
one of the first editions of the Tribune. As I recall, the
headline, which I didn’t write, was “Drug Bust
The morning after publication, I was summoned into the principal’s
office. She was furious, saying that I had damaged the school’s
reputation. I was abashed. Until that moment, I’d
never really considered the impact of a newspaper story.
I wondered, briefly, what Gary and Mike had gotten me into.
Then I began to smile as I realized that my article was
entirely accurate. In the end, the truth may be infuriating,
but it is reason enough to be a journalist.
Braneiforte - Editor
of Good Times Magazine
I first started Queens College in 1963, I wanted to be on
the school newspaper, The Phoenix. Someone told me that
I should go down to The Castle newspaper office. It was
the official newspaper of the house plans on campus. In
those days Queens College had a one newspaper policy…there
could only be one official newspaper on campus. The Castle
was a way to a get around those rules.
The first day I met the editor, Gary Ackerman, he gave me
my first assignment, to cover a basketball game. “And
don’t call me chief,” he called out as I left
his office. “Too much Superman,” I thought.
I turned in my first article and he returned it to me. He
had crossed out where I wrote, “After the game, the
team headed to the boy’s room,” and replaced
“boy’s” with “men’s”
room and the comment, “You’re in college now!”
Forty years later I still remember this.
Over the years, we became good friends. Gary, me and Mike
Chatoff would go to the printers in Bethpage and after we
put the paper to press, we would head to a local Italian
restaurant that Gary knew.
Gary would always order the dinner for two for himself because
it was on sale.
We were hogs.
Sometimes we would go to the Lemon Ice King of Corona on
the way home, which was really out of the way.
Once, Gary conducted a mock funeral on campus. Castle had
been banned by the school administration since it was starting
to look more like a second school paper. Gary got an empty
coffin, filled it with Castles, and hundreds of houseplan
members carried it through the campus to Colden Center where
Gary told us, “We have come here to bury Castle, not
to praise it.”
The administration gave in. This was probably Gary’s
beginning in power politics.
Gary was president of a house plan called Playboy’s
Penthouse, and he never ran for office but enjoyed maneuvering
behind the scenes.
In one of our great moves, I became president of Central
House Plans. Mike Kamarow of the Penthouse was my vice president,
and my houseplan, Kingston House, got Lenny Schutzman as
the candidate for student government president with Ben
Fine, who was from Playboy’s. It was during this time
that Gary sharpened his political skills.
In 1969, after I had graduated from Columbia Business School,
I approached Gary with the idea to start a community newspaper
for Jamaica, Queens.
He was the only person I knew who was interested in newspapers
and was a teacher at the time.
One night Gary took me, my girlfriend Leslie Morales and
his wife, Rita, to Chinatown to talk over the idea. As we
walked up and down the street looking for a Chinese restaurant
called Wo Fat, we only found a skyscraper at that address.
It seems that Gary had this address in his wallet for 10
years or so and the place had been torn down. Instead, he
drove us to Kennedy Airport, where we watched the planes
come in and plotted the overthrow of the Long Island Press.
The Jamaica paper turned into a Flushing paper called the
Flushing Tribune. I dropped out before the first issue came
out because I was doing my own music paper and didn’t
find community news interesting. I gave back my 30 percent
of the stock.
Gary turned the Tribune into a powerhouse in Queens, and
Mike Schenkler took it to the next level.
To this day, whenever I run into Gary, I still call him
Berry, Fior Rodriguez, Susan Grath - Staffers
Ackerman is not the only one in the office who comes to
politics from the world of newspapers.
My family has long been involved in the newspaper business,
but one thing changed when I took this job. I was no longer
just reading the stories that were reported and written
by my nearest and dearest. I was involved in them.
In our district office, when we read how somebody needs
help and doesn’t know where to turn, when community
groups need assistance with a project, when there is a wrong
that needs to be made right, we can, and do, have an impact
From cutting the time of highway construction to life and
death situations, it’s all in a day’s work at
the Fifth CD.
We of the Ackerman staff still remember that day over 10
years ago when Gary decided to do something personal about
the famine in Ethiopia. He began his own campaign
to ask every school kid in the city to give all the pennies
they could lay their hands on to help the little kids of
Visiting one public school in a very poor part of the Lower
East Side, Gary gratefully accepted 4,800 pennies from a
class leader, a tiny 10-year-old who looked like she could
have used a few good meals herself.
He couldn’t resist asking: “Why are you doing
The little girl looked up at the big important visitor with
the nice white flower in his lapel and said: “I’m
doing this because I hope some day somebody will change
my life too.”
Intrigued, the Congressman found the little girl was the
oldest of two kids being raised by their single mom in a
one-room flat that could have used a little dose of
foreign aid itself.
Typically Ackerman, he mustered his staff, found a neat
two-bedroom apartment in Queens, got the kids into new schools,
and using Gary’s family van, the Congressional staff
spent two days moving the little family into their bright
Ten years later, at a formal reception, our long-time caseworker
Fior Rodriquez spotted a beautiful 20-something young
woman and said: “You look familiar – were you
one of our interns?”
“No,” she said with a smile, “I’m
Jenny, the girl from the Lower East Side you guys helped
years ago.” From the mean streets of Alphabet City
she had gone on to college (even her mother had gone back
to school) and Jenny had indeed started on a new life all
because a good-hearted Congressman decided to collect pennies
to help save kids 6,000 miles away in Africa.
Today, Gary is still the motivating force behind our staff’s
efforts to really make a difference in people’s lives. The
Ackerman tradition continues...
Gershuny - Life-long
Friend and Political Operative
run for elected office for any number of reasons. Some like
the idea of being addressed as “Honorable.”
Some get a rush from both the real and imagined power they
believe they possess. Some like the trappings. Some are
otherwise unemployable. And some want to change the world
as they envision it needs to be changed.
Gary fits into the last category. Whether you agree with
him or not, he has pursued and enjoyed a very successful
career in public service for all of the right reasons.
Every two years now for 20 years, Gary has raised his right
hand and sworn, in part, “to preserve, protect and
defend the constitution of the United States.” And
then, for the ensuing two years, he has done just that.
When panderers seek to amend the First Amendment to make
the desecration of the American Flag a criminal act, Gary
not only votes against the proposed amendment, he takes
the speaking time on the House floor that his colleagues
shun to argue against its passage. How much easier it would
be for him to simply vote for the amendment and satisfy
a clear majority of his constituents.
And, just a couple of weeks ago, Gary was among only a handful
of Congressmen who were brave enough to resist yet another
assault on our constitutionally protected freedom. He voted
against a bill that will, if ultimately adopted, have a
severe chilling effect on the willingness of people to speak
their minds – even if that speech is distasteful and
America is the great nation it is because we guarantee that
assholes and malcontents (I hope the editor leaves “assholes”
in) are protected in their speech.
Gary gets it.
Mayersohn - Assemblywoman
met Gary Ackerman about 35 years ago. We were both involved
in neighborhood activities – I, as a PTA President
and Gary as a charter member of the Stevenson Regular Democratic
Club. He was about 23 years old at the time and a senior
at Queens College. Now, the average student graduates at
the age of 22, but Gary was President of his senior class
and he loved the office, so he decided to stay an extra
year. At that time, we had free tuition and his family went
along with the plan. Gary loved politics and it was clear
that this was going to be his lifetime career.
Gary truly represents the very best in the political system.
He’s effective and very aggressive on behalf of things
he believes in. And he’s very smart. Whenever I had
a tough issue to deal with, I would turn to Gary. He would
come up with the kind of creative ideas that would highlight
the issue in a way that people could understand. He was
a major player in the fight for equal rights for men and
women in our school system. It started at the time his daughter
Lauren was born. Gary, a teacher in the public schools,
applied for paternity leave and the Board of Education rejected
his application on the grounds that childcare leave was
meant only for women. Gary felt they were discriminating
against men when they turned him down and he sued the board
and won. It then became the policy of the Board of Education
to allow the family to make the choice of who cares for
the baby and who remains the breadwinner. It was a major
shift in policy, and Gary made it happen.
I have supported Gary in every political campaign in which
he has been involved – and except for his first campaign
for school board member (he lost that one), he won them
all. Gary sees humor in everything, but don’t be deceived;
he is and has always been a very serious legislator. This
he demonstrated time and time again in his voting record
and in the tough issues he takes on. To me, Gary is not
only a respected colleague, he is also a dear friend.
Livson - Political
one looks at Congressman Ackerman, one sees a dignified,
witty adult who has been in office long enough to be thought
of as an institution.
Since I am reaching the age when long-term memories are
more precise than short-term impressions, I see a different
While volunteering for my first political campaign in l976,
I noticed this “out-of-the-ordinary” person
attending conferences, events and such. He wore funny hats
and had a carnation in his lapel, and wasn’t always
respectful of those political figures that I was in awe
He was actually having fun while I was taking the whole
political process very seriously – something that
was hard to do around him. I soon learned that this was
Gary Ackerman, the publisher of a local newspaper that I
had never heard of.
Scoop Jackson won the Queens primary for President and I,
along with hundreds of others, attended a victory party.
In the midst of the tumult stood Gary in his cowboy hat
and carnation and was surrounded by others.
I must have (shyly, of course) walked over and said to this
magnetic personality that if he ever ran for office, I would
certainly want to help on his campaign as he displayed all
those characteristics I admired. He was witty, forward and
seemed so tremendously honest and real. Little did I know
what I was getting into!
Soon after, I received a call from Mr. Ackerman (that’s
what I actually called him) asking me to dinner where he
wanted to discuss his run for Councilman at Large.
I got more than involved in an adventure that was more fun
and more emotional and more frustrating than any I have
had since. We did crazy things that others never since or
Enthusiastic, committed young people who would go anywhere
and do anything surrounded me. This campaign was not run
by any book but truly by the seat of our pants. We even
campaigned in every dining room, in every hotel in the Catskill
Mountains and for a Borough campaign this was a first.
Gary has always maintained that witty aura of fun and excitement
as he has traveled the road to Congress. He is more mature
and more careful now and we all had to grow up a little.
What fun and what a learning experience that first real
Queens campaign was for me and I will always be grateful
to Gary Ackerman for showing me that side of the political
Aug - Former
Chief Of Staff
years ago, an elderly gentleman came into Gary Ackerman’s
office asking for assistance in obtaining his veteran’s
He felt he was being underpaid. Gary looked into it and
several weeks later was able to confirm the constituent
was correct. He had been underpaid. Gary was
able to present him with a check in excess of $25,000.
By chance, the constituent happened to be Gary’s Boy
Scout Troop leader.
Sheinkopf - Political
first time I met Gary Ackerman was in 1971.
That was in the last century, for those who forget time.
There he was, the man who took on the Board of Education
and sued for paternity leave.
Something uncommon then.
He was a teacher who took that skill and put it to use creating
a community newspaper, teaching to all who wanted to be
part of the adventure.
He worried about money, about how to keep it going, and
despite that fear he nurtured a generation of young people
who understood that the words “community action”
belonged not only to Manhattan’s elites, but to all
those who were like him – the son of a cab driver
with dreams for his family.
He gave me the opportunity that began my career, taking
me to campaigns from City Council to the White House, to
46 states, four continents and nine foreign nations.
His friendship gets you into the Congressional dining room,
but his heart takes you there.
He has traveled the world representing this great, thoughtful
He has met kings, heads of state, both good and bad.
But he is still the man I was so lucky to meet last century.
Still a teacher.
Still the friend you could always count upon.
And for that alone he deserves our respect, our loyalty
and our love.
Met - Friend
34 years since Gary started the Tribune? Thirty-four since
he started at Queens?
I don’t remember spending any time in the desert.
Is it possible we started in the promised land and just
But, it is over 30 years, and that should be cause for a
toast, a tribute, a celebration, or a do you remember?
Do you remember those days?
Students New Action Party?
Friday afternoon dancing lessons in the Student Union?
Al Hevesi, the big star on the varsity basketball team?
The 700 Room?
The 400 Room?
Huge Harold the waitress?
We’ve come a long way.
But neither Gary nor the Tribune have changed.
In fact, Gary is one of the few people I know who gained
his most important career skills in college.
He always cared about what was going on and he always cared
about the people around him.
If Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman were lost in the South,
he started the fasts in the North.
When justice called, he organized the protests, pickets,
marches, petitions, rallies. When there was an election,
he made sure the best man or woman had a chance to win.
When he organized, he prized communications.
He know that in Flushing, Pomonok, Electchester, Kew Garden
Hills, and Jamaica, the Times, Post, News and Journal would
only go so far.
His people needed to get the local news from local people,
to put advertisements in front of neighbors.
So, he started the Tribune and with a lot of inspiration
and perspiration and hours and hours of work, his own and
his friends, he made it work.
When a friend faced a challenge, an opportunity, a dilemma,
a trouble he was
there. He was always there for all of his friends.
Like the prairie philosopher, Gary knew and still knows
no strangers, just friends he hasn’t met yet.
Thirty-four years is a lot of Easter Sundays and a lot of
Gary and the Tribune haven’t changed much.
Their basic character is still in place.
Care about your friends, let everyone be your friend, take
care of business, take
care of the people who need a champion.
Just like Mario Cuomo said when he won his first special
election to Congress, “You’ve done well.
Now do some good.”
Phillips - Director
of Education for the Children’s Health and Education
Foundation at Touro College
the Long Island-Star Journal, the major local Queens newspaper
since 1841 folded. By 1970 local papers throughout the country
were failing and becoming extinct.
Just about that time a Queens teacher by the name of Gary
Ackerman decided to launch a local paper he called the Flushing
Tribune. Most “armchair soothsayers” (including
this writer) predicted folly and hoped he didn’t give
up his day job.
Our paths crossed in the late 70s after I rescued the then
abandoned Flushing Town Hall from the wrecking-ball and
converted it into a dinner-theater-catering establishment.
He was trying to launch a political career ( another Ackerman
folly-thought by most) and I was trying to get Town Hall
Senator Emanuel Gold, a mutual friend of the both of us,
realized the Tribune could provide the advertising that
I desperately needed and Town Hall could provide the fundraising
banquets that he desperately needed- and desperate men do
desperate things. And thus our friendship, his campaign
for councilman-at-large and my business began. Mike Schenkler,
Gary’s gutsy sidekick and campaign manager, devoted
family, friends and the staff of Town Hall gave it our all
and Gary lost his first campaign.
Having become true believers in this down-to-earth guy who
really does give-a-damn, we all rallied once again when
a state senate seat became available…against all odds….he
won and thus launched his political career. Town Hall became
a center for many political fundraisers including one of
the last for Congressman Benjamin Rosenthal.
In 1983 Queens mourned the death of Congressman Rosenthal
who had represented them for more than twenty years. State
Senator Gary Ackerman was named by the Queens County Democratic
Committee to run in the special election for the congressional
seat. Gary became a U.S. Congressman –was sworn in
at Flushing Town Hall -and finally gave up his day job.
My business plan for Town Hall did not fare as well as Gary’s
political career but the National Landmark still stands
and continues to serve the community.
Some years later I became one of the founders of the American
Institute of Nutrition and Diet. Congressman Ackerman availed
himself of some of our professional services and his success
at our center was heralded by national media. His loss was
our gain and the primary reason the Institute flourished.
In the late 1990s I faced the darkest moments of my life.
I was entangled in a very serious legal mess. I needed somebody
to attest to my character and integrity. It took all my
courage to make the phone call, explain my dilemma and ask
that he speak on my behalf. The Congressman had everything
to lose and nothing to gain. Unequivocally he stepped up
to the plate and put his hand on the bible and spoke on
With Gary’s vision and the diligence of a devoted
sidekick, Publisher Mike Schenkler, the Queens Tribune (with
it many editions) is 34 years old.
Congressman Ackerman is serving his 11th term in Congress.
I have known him through thick and thin and truly hope he
doesn’t give up his day job.