Hundreds of Albanians and even many non Albanians (such as myself) helped Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj celebrate the 102nd Anniversary of the independence of Albania at Maestros in the 80th Assembly District. Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj is the first person of Albanian decent to be elected to the state legislature.
Elected officials on hand included Assemblyman Gjonaj's good friend and counterpart in the State Senate State Senator Jeff Klein. Gjonaj represents the assembly district that Klein held man years ago before being elected to the state senate in 2005.
There were performances from The Albanian School of the Bronx and Alba Life School in Brooklyn. Assemblyman Gjonaj gave out 3 citations for those who have helped the Albanian community the most. The first citation went to the Service Workers Union 32 BJ for having 20,000 of its 145,000 members being of Albanian heritage. The second citation went to the Bronx Jewish Community Council for its food pantry that services over 400 local people in the 80th A.D. area. Assemblyman Gjonaj was shocked to learn that of the 400 people serviced by the BJCC about 100 are Albanians. The third citation went to Mr. Zeqir Kukaj who helped set up the Albanian community in the Bronx. Gjonaj said to him 'Zequir 'Without you this could not have been possible'. Gjonaj said that there will soon be a new community center in the Pelham Parkway area. He said it will be for senior citizens, children, and the community as a whole.
Political buzz at the event- I spoke to a high ranking 32 BJ union official (who asked to remain anonymous) about Mayor de Blasio. The 32 BJ person said that they believes that de Blasio will be a one term mayor only, and we agreed on many of the reasons. We spoke of just who might challenge him in 2017, and Controller Scott Stringers name came up. Public Advocate Tish James was mentioned, but we agreed that she and de Blasio both in the race would hurt each other. We then went to who would run for City Controller should Stringer run for mayor. The names of 2 current borough presidents came up. Eric Adams of Brooklyn, and Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx. I asked which of the 2 would 32 BJ endorse, and I was told since both BP's are very close friends of the union that 32 BJ might not endorse either of the 2 BP's.
Senator Jeff Klein seemed confident that he and the IDC would have a seat at the table in January when the new state senate convenes. When I asked him if he was worried what may happen in 2 years, he looked at me and said 'look at what happened this year'. He added 'this was the year that Democrats were going to win the State Senate'. 'Democrats did not gain any seats, Democrats lost seats' he said harshly.