ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A new Republican New York state Assemblyman took his seat in the chamber Wednesday despite the threat of being blocked by Democrats who question whether he meets residency requirements.
Lester Chang became the first Asian American elected to represent Brooklyn’s growing Chinatown in the state Assembly by defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent Nov. 8. But after the election, Democrats in control of the Assembly questioned whether Chang lived in Brooklyn for a year prior to Election Day, as required by law, or in Manhattan.
Chang says his current residence is his Brooklyn childhood home, where he lives with his 95-year-old mother and visually impaired uncle.
While Assembly Democrats have debated whether Chang should be seated, they took no action on first day of the new legislative session. Chang took his seat on the floor with his nameplate on his desk.
Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Democrats, said action could still be taken in the future.
“They can challenge me anytime, if they want to,” Chang said after the session. “But I want to keep it civil. We have people’s business to do.”
Chang is a 61-year-old retired U.S. Navy reservist who worked in the global shipping industry. He defeated Assemblyman Peter Abbate, who’d been in office for almost 36 years, to represent Brooklyn’s 49th Assembly District.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie last month called for the chamber’s judiciary committee to review Chang’s eligibility. A recent report to the committee by a special counsel likened Chang to a “visitor” to Brooklyn in the year leading up to the election, with multiple documents indicating a Manhattan address.
Chang’s lawyers responded that he lived with his wife in Manhattan before her death in 2019, but that the Brooklyn home his family has owned since 1972 was where he maintained a “personal presence.”
“I invite the Assembly leadership to come over to my home, have coffee and talk about war stories on campaigning,” Chang said, “… and check out all my clutter, 50 years of stuff.”