No expulsion vote for Brooklyn GOP Assemblyman Lester Chang, Dems referring residency issues to authorities

ALBANY — Assembly Democrats have decided to refer residency issues raised about Brooklyn Assemblyman Lester Chang to authorities rather than expel the Republican lawmaker.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said Friday that the chamber will be forwarding information it collected about Chang’s Manhattan rent-regulated apartment and government subsidies he accessed to “relevant criminal, civil and administrative authorities for further review.”

Chang, who defeated longtime Democratic lawmaker Peter Abbate to represent Brooklyn’s 49th Assembly District in November, was sworn in and seated in the Assembly earlier this week despite concerns about his failure to meet residency requirements.

Questions were raised post-election about whether the Navy veteran had lived in Kings County for a full year prior to the Nov. 8 contest, as required by law.

Heastie said that despite having “more than enough votes” to expel Chang, Dems decided against the idea.

A report released by the chamber’s judiciary committee last week detailed a mountain of evidence showing that Chang predominantly resided at a rent-regulated apartment in Manhattan.

Voting records show Chang first registered to vote using his Manhattan address in 1994, and he voted in Manhattan through 2021.

In February 2022, he updated his registration with a Brooklyn address and voted in Brooklyn in both the June primary and November general election last year.

Chang conceded during a hearing last month that he lived with his wife in lower Manhattan until her 2019 death, but maintained that he remained a Brooklyn resident and spent the majority of his time in recent years in the borough caring for his elderly mother.

“I am a product of Brooklyn, I am a product of Brooklyn public schools,” Chang told the committee. “I lived there for at least one year before being elected by the people.”

During that same hearing, Chang was asked whether he was aware he must maintain his Manhattan pad as his primary residence to comply with rent-stabilization laws.

“Yes,” he answered, adding that he still pays rent on the apartment although he claims it is unoccupied.

Democratic lawmakers met twice this week to discuss the matter and weigh whether to vote to remove Chang from the chamber.

Heastie said that “given the totality of the evidence” he and his fellow Dems decided to send along the information collected to authorities for “further review and any action they deem necessary.”

Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Oswego) celebrated the decision and said any attempt to expel Chang would have “set a terrible precedent.”

“The issue of electoral residency is a matter to be dealt with during the designating petitioning process, not after the votes have been counted,” Barclay said in a statement. “The people have spoken. Lester Chang has served his community and country with distinction and I know he will continue to do so as a member of the Assembly.”