A New York Assemblyman-elect whose victory is being challenged over residency issues insisted that he is from Brooklyn in a legislative hearing on Wednesday, according to reports.
Lester Chang, a Republican, won the Nov. 8 election to represent District 49 in the state Capitol. Securing 52 percent of the votes, he beat Democratic incumbent Peter Abbate, who had held the office for the last 36 years.
The Board of Elections unanimously certified the result earlier this month. However, the office has remained in contest as the Democratic-led Assembly questions Chang’s eligibility over residency issues.
Chang, a Lower East Side native born to Chinese immigrant parents, was registered to vote in Manhattan before transferring to Brooklyn only in February, reports say. This became an issue as candidates are required to have lived in the borough they are running in for at least a year prior to election.
Still, Democrats did not challenge Chang’s residency prior to the election, according to the New York Post. They only raised the issue after the GOP candidate won — a victory propelled largely by Asian American voters in the district.
At a legislative hearing on Wednesday, Chang reportedly yelled, “I’m a Brooklynite! I’m a Brooklynite!”
The Assemblyman-elect claimed that he has been living at his childhood home on East 29th Street in Midwood for more than a year. He also talked about his family’s immigration story in his testimony.
“I meet the electoral residency requirement,” Chang said. “I made history on Nov. 8 as the first Asian American elected in Brooklyn to represent the growing Asian American community.”
However, Stanley Schlein, an election lawyer with reported ties to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — the Bronx Democrat leading the investigation — argued that Chang’s papers fail to support his claims. To meet the residency requirement, Chang must have officially changed residence by Nov. 7, 2021, Schlein said.
Additional issues include Chang’s listing of his Manhattan address in other documents at the time of the election, including his driver’s license; car registration and insurance; Naval service records; and records with the Board of Elections, where he also worked as a poll worker. On top of it all, his Manhattan apartment remains rent-stabilized, which means it must be his primary residence in order to qualify for the rent stabilization program, as per Gothamist.
“Are you familiar with the fact that it must be maintained as your primary residence to comply with the proper rent stabilization laws of the state of New York?” Schlein asked. Chang responded “Yes,” adding that he continues to pay rent but insists that the place is unoccupied.
“I was registered to vote in Manhattan,” Chang said. “But my physical intent was in Brooklyn.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul is slated to call for a special election should the Assembly deny Chang the seat in January.