Congressman Gary Ackerman, who has represented parts of Queens and Long Island in the House of Representatives for 15 terms, announced to a Democratic Party gathering in Hollis Hills, Queens on Thursday that he will not run for re-election.
The 69-year-old congressman informed Democratic Party leaders, his family and staff earlier Thursday of his decision to not running for a 16th term of office.
Next week, Ackerman was to be redistricted into a new area, slated to be heavily Asian-American. With that district in mind, Ackerman said less than two weeks ago that he was ready to run there.
Then Thursday evening, he abruptly reversed himself.
"To every time there is a season. I think it's time," said Ackerman.
He brushed off any suggestion that demographics were behind his decision.
"Zero. As a matter of fact, I've seen that speculated in the press. The district that I have currently, unlike the district that I'm slated to run for, is more Asian-American by a percentage and a half," said Ackerman.
It was not so when Ackerman took over in 1983. The former school teacher and newspaper publisher quickly established himself a foreign policy expert, specializing in Israel, Asia and Africa.
He also prized constituent services and his decision shocked neighbors.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement Thursday night that reads in part, "The borough of Queens – and the people of Israel, Africa and so many other areas of the world – have rarely had a stronger ally in Congress, and our entire nation will miss Gary's encyclopedic knowledge of foreign policy and so many other issues. I wish Gary, his wife Rita and his entire family all the best."
Ackerman's term ends on January 2, 2013. His approaching departure set off political jockeying, as Assemblywoman Grace Meng, for instance, has expressed interest in running for the seat. No doubt, other names will surface before June's primary date.