Remembering Anthony Weiner before Twitter
Editor's note: Online Content Editor Alysha Sideman shares her memories of now former Rep. Anthony Weiner when their paths crossed in New York City years ago.
I remember the public servant Anthony Weiner, not the punch line of off-color jokes. I remember the city councilman. The neighborhood guy from Brooklyn.
I first knew Rep. Anthony Weiner 15 years ago when he was a councilman and I was a reporter covering Queens for a local newspaper.
I was 25 and just beginning my journalism career. Weiner represented his Brooklyn and Queens constituents at many of the meetings I covered. I admired his fiery approach to getting things done and his off-the-cuff remarks that held people, agencies and the city accountable.
You could say we had an amicable reporter-politician relationship. He was one of those politicians you could actually get on the phone. He spent time explaining his ideas and point of view and the “why” behind them. He was always ready with a great quote, especially on deadline. I really appreciated that. Unlike many other politicians, he was engaged, engrossed and even hyperactive.
To be fair, there was no Twitter and Facebook then, but I always found Weiner professional and respectful.
In his resignation speech on June 16, he said he was proud of being a middle-class guy who served his neighbors. Although that sounds like political rhetoric, that’s really how I remember him serving Queens and Brooklyn in the 1990s: a down-to-earth man, bright man who never put on airs and was willing to go the extra mile to help people.
But what I remember most about Weiner happened when he was a newly elected congressman in 1999. It entailed a local community fight to get funding for a very busy, dilapidated park in south Queens. By that time, I had settled into my job and started holding politicians accountable. You could say I had become a bit jaded about politicians not following through on promises.
Charles Park was the only park in an area populated by hundreds of families. The once-vibrant grounds became dangerous for kids with its rotting playground equipment, cracked sidewalks, broken lighting and crumbling fences.
In spite of this, it was a beautiful spot on the water and the center of many community activities. To see it fall into disrepair was depressing.
At a community meeting about the park, Weiner promised he would secure $1 million in appropriations by a particular date to fix it. As the weeks went on and there was no change, I’d give him a call to ask for a status update. No progress.
As the community got louder about the topic, I became relentless and wrote a series of stories about the park on what was and wasn’t being done. I did story after story until he kept his promise. The money was finally there, the repairs were finally made, and the neighborhood was thankful.
I won a community service award for the newspaper series. Although it was from the local civic association, Rep. Weiner presented it to me at a fancy awards dinner.
Weiner thanked me and told the Queens residents that my series motivated him to get the job done sooner, rather than later. I thought to myself, I was just doing what I learned by covering him. Be relentless. He seemed delighted by the challenge I gave him, not annoyed by it. He earned my respect that way.
The congressman told me he was proud of me and encouraged me in my career. When I moved on to work for another newspaper, he wrote me a letter of congratulations.
So while many out there are searching for the next joke at his expense, I just feel sad. Yes, he did a stupid thing. But the career of good man has ended.
Posted by Alysha Sideman on Jun 17, 2011 at 7:23 PM