The Bronx has its first New York State Assembly Speaker in Assemblyman Carl Heasite.
The north Bronx assemblyman, described by colleagues as a quiet and thoughtful man, was elected to the position on Tuesday, February 3.
The post is widely described as one of the three most powerful positions in state government, along with the senate president and the governor.
Heastie replaces former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is facing federal criminal charges and relinquished the role after consulting with assembly members.
“I am proud of the vigorous debate and discussion among all of my colleagues that brought us to today,” said Heastie a day before his election.
Heastie is also its first African-American leader. Heastie has been the chairman of Bronx Democratic Party since the Rainbow Coalition ousted longtime chairman Assemblyman Jose Rivera.
Other candidates gradually dropped out of the running in the days before his election. Among the other members who were running earlier on in the process were assemblymembers Keith Wright of Manhattan, Jospeh Lentol of Brooklyn, Catherine Nolan of Queens, and Joseph Morelle of the Rochester, NY region.
Colleagues in both the upper and lower chamber of the New York State Legislature – the senate and assembly – said that Heastie is low-key, and not flashy.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said that Heastie has slowly gained the respect of his colleagues in the years he has been in office.
Heastie was first elected in 2000, and represents the 83rd Assembly district, a slice of the north Bronx that including parts of Wakefield and Williamsbridge, Baychester and Easthchester.
“He is a a good listener; he hears what you have to say,” said Benedetto, adding “I think he will have a nice, steady hand in the speakership.”
Benedetto said that as the process of finding a new speaker unfolded, many of his colleagues got to know Heastie better and were impressed by him.
Senator Jeff Klein added that he sees Speaker Heastie as someone who is goal-oriented, and said he has always been impressed by his ability to bring people together and build coalitions. Heastie is sometimes viewed as being very serious, said Klein.
“He likes to listen to people and implement a game plan to get it done,” said Klein, adding “he is someone who is very respectful to his colleagues, a good listener, and a straight-shooter.”
Friend and former colleague in the assembly Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. noted the significance of electing Speaker Heastie during Black History Month.
“Speaker Heastie is the first African-American to hold this position, as well as the first-ever Bronx resident,” said Diaz. “The impact of Speaker Heastie’s trailblazing path to the speakership cannot be understated. ”
Diaz believes that Heastie will be a strong partner and a great advocate for the needs of New York City, the borough president stated.
The chair of the Bronx Assembly delegation, Assembly Jeff Dinowtiz, believes that skills Heastie honed as the chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party will serve him well in his new role.
“As chair of the Bronx Democratic Party, Carl has proven to be a fair, inclusive, and effective leader who understands that working collaboratively is more important than claiming credit,” said Dinowitz. “I have no doubt that he will have a similarly effective approach as leader of our Democratic conference and Speaker of the Assembly.”
A Heastie spokesman said the assemblyman would step down from his post as Bronx Democratic County chairman. As of press time, a source familiar with borough politics said a successor to Heastie in the Bronx chair’s role has not been chosen.