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Embattled Sheldon Silver Is Not Stepping Down, his Assembly Loyalists Are Stepping Up

Sheldon Silver / Source: Grand Street News

NY State Assembly Speaker Silver is not quitting his job, the NY Times reported, he only “temporarily delegates his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members.” That means that the battle weary Silver is far from giving up, and, judging by past battles, odds are he will come out of this war, probably not unscathed but also not behind bars.

Under Silver’s plan, to be approved Monday afternoon by the Assembly’s Democratic majority (in-camera, the way Silver prefers his important meetings), the speaker is not going to “specifically step down, but step back, ” according to the Times.

“He is resolved to fight the case, but realized doing the budget while doing the case would be distraction, ” another source told the Times. Negotiations on the state budget are starting this week, with or without the Speaker, because the budget has to be finished by April 1.

So, while Speaker Silver is taking care of his legal battles, five loyal Democrats will lead the 150-member Assembly for him, according to the NY Daily News: Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Rochester, Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Manhattan Assemblyman Herman Farrell Jr., Queens Assemblywoman Cathleen Nolan and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie.

Silver will stay in office, officially, and should he be found not guilty of the federal charges, he could potentially reclaim his post.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is accusing Silver of concealing an estimated $4 millions in kickbacks as legitimate income from a law firm he was not professionally qualified to work for (See: The NY Times Finally Gets Its Man: Shelly Silver to Take a Perp Walk).

At his court appearance last week, Silver said very little, other than to promise reporters he is going to be “vindicated.”

Now, as much as Sheldon Silver is hated by the media, which resent his old school style of politics, it is important to remember that the Speaker is the most popular politician in his home district, in Lower Manhattan, where Wall Street meets Hester Street. Silver has been a force for stability and prosperity in a district that’s only second in Manhattan to Harlem in its poverty rate. The fact that the rich and the poor of the southern tip of the island have been able to rely on the strongest man in Albany, has been crucial to the recovery of the district after 9/11, and then after the crash of 2008.

You replace Sheldon Silver with a newcomer, and all the privileges of power enjoyed by the district go out the window.

Such a move would also spell a dire loss of clout for the Lower East Side’s Jewish-identified community of several thousands. An area that boasted a million Jewish residents between the water and 14th Street will likely continue to its Jewish institutions, at a higher pace.

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