The message from Sheldon Silver to his constituents in Lower Manhattan during the past several days has been clear. In spite of his indictment on federal corruption charges, Silver is at least for the moment trying to project the image of an attentive assemblyman tending to the needs of his district. Last week, he attended Lunar New Year events in Chinatown. Last night, his Lower East Side liaison was present at Community Board 3’s monthly meeting, chatting with local activists and briefing members on neighborhood happenings.
In a portion of the meeting routinely set aside for updates from the offices of local elected officials, Zach Bommer, a longtime Silver staff member, took his turn at the podium. He began by saying that “Assemblyman Silver was proud to have made it to the (Lunar New Year) parade” held Sunday in Chinatown and he noted that Silver was looking forward to attending other new year events in the coming weeks. Bommer also highlighted the recent announcement by Mayor de Blasio that ferry service would be coming to Grand Street, something Silver has been “fighting for for a long time.”
Then, he got to the point, addressing the dramatic developments that began unfolding in January with his boss’s arrest and subsequent resignation as assembly speaker after 20 years as one of New York’s most powerful political figures. “As you know,” Bommer said, “there have been a lot of changes in Albany,” but he asserted, “Sheldon Silver is still committed to being the Lower East Side’s and Chinatown’s assemblyman.” He concluded, “Call us anytime.” Silver and his staff, Bommer said, “are going to be fighting for the neighborhood.” Following his remarks, there was fairly robust applause.
Just hours earlier, Silver appeared in federal court in Lower Manhattan, pleading not guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud and extortion charges. He has vowed to beat the charges and, through his attorneys, accused U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of depriving him of a fair trial.
Silver was re-elected to his seat in the 65th Assembly District this past November. No date has been set but it’s looking like the trial will not take place before next fall. The assemblyman would be forced to resign if convicted.