Greenberg explores run for State Senate District 46

— Photo from Gary Greenberg

Gary Greenberg

Democrat Gary Greenberg, a child-victims advocate, announced this week that he is exploring a run for the 46th Senate District.

His announcement comes two weeks after incumbent Republican George Amedore said he won’t seek re-election, and nearly five months after Democrats Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties and Jeff Collins of Woodstock announced their runs for the district that stretches 140 miles, encompassing all of Greene and Montgomery counties and parts of Albany, Schenectady, and Ulster counties.

Greenberg lives in New Baltimore in Greene County.

“I want to do what’s right,” he said of his reason for running.

While he was an Albany Democratic committeeman for more than two decades, from 1980 to 2004, his political activism, pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act, was inspired by an incident in his childhood.

“I was sexually abused when I was 7,” Greenberg said.

In 1967, he said, his father, Arthur Greenberg, had been a patient in the old Cohoes Memorial Hospital. When he visited his father in the hospital, Greenberg recalled, “One of the orderlies said he’d take me on a tour of the x-ray room. There was no tour. It was a half-hour of hell,” he said.

When Greenberg had tried to run away, he said, the orderly took him to the top floor of the hospital and held him over an open elevator shaft.

After that, Greenberg became a quiet boy who didn’t want to take showers. His mother pressed him and, several months after the sexual assault, he told what had happened to him. His parents believed him.

“My parents talked to the hospital. They said they knew the person. They said, ‘We took care of it.”

His parents went to the police, too, Greenberg said. “The police said jurors don’t believe children; forget any charges.”

Thirty years after Greenberg was assaulted, Louis VanWie was arrested in Troy. “I saw his picture on the news,” said Greenberg. It was a face he has never forgotten.

“He admitted what he’d done. He’s been in jail since then. He admitted to abusing over 300 kids,” said Greenberg.

“That’s when my activism started,” he said. 

Greenberg said he realized the State Senate, long dominated by Republicans, would never vote for the Child Victims Act. “I founded my PAC in 2016 to get rid of the legislators who wouldn’t vote for it,” he said of his Fighting for Children Political Action Committee.

Greenberg is 61 now and retired from his work adjudicating unemployment claims for the state’s labor department. He had graduated from Colonie Central High School in 1976 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from American University in 1980.

He returned home from Washington, D.C. to work at his father’s business, Arthur’s News Room in Albany. He became president of the business, which he ran until 1999. Greenberg than worked for two years as records manager for the city and county of Albany before getting his job with the labor department.

For the last five years, he said, he has put most of his energy into advocating for victims of child sexual abuse. He traveled across the state, he said. “My PAC held 30 rallies during the last senate election. We needed to flip the senate because, for years, they hadn’t voted for the Child Victims Act.”

Greenberg is now using that act, which opened the window for suits for long-ago acts, to sue Samaritan Hospital, the successor to Cohoes Memorial Hospital.

Greenberg said he also worked with Erin Merryn, a survivor of and activist against child sexual abuse, to pass Erin’s Law this year, which requires public schools in New York to teach children how to identify and prevent potential sexual abuse.

The bill had been stalled by the Assembly Education Committee for eight years but, with a new committee chairman, Michael Benedetto, it made it to a floor vote in June where it garnered overwhelming support.

“The public wants issues to be voted on,” said Greenberg, “not held up in committee.”

Greenberg said this week that he is creating an exploratory campaign committee. Asked why he’d set up a committee rather than just announce he was running, Greenberg said, “I want to go around to talk to different leaders, party chairs, business leaders … see what’s important to them.” He wants to meet with citizens to gauge their needs.

Greenberg said that he is “99 percent sure” he’ll run.

Asked about his goals, Greenberg said he’d like to continue Amedore’s focus on solving problems with opioid abuse. “The number of young people dying is tragic,” he said. “A lot goes back to problems in people’s childhood, including sexual abuse.”

Greenberg also said, “Upstate needs more of a fair share of tax dollars,” which he said he would lobby for.

Economic development and criminal justice issues are also important to Greenberg, he said.

Greenberg said he has a good sense of the 46th District. He was born in Catskill where his grandfather settled. He lived in Colonie and, in 1992, was appointed to fill a vacancy representing the village of Colonie in the Albany County Legislature for one year.

His wife was raised in Greene County so they live there now. His late sister, Francine Columbus, lived in Guilderland and his nieces and nephews graduated from Guilderland High School, he said.

Greenberg said he had worked with the late David Bosworth, Democratic chairman for Guilderland, on many town campaigns including those for Pat Slavick, Ken Runion, Jean Cataldo, and Rosemary Centi.

“I’m very committed to the public process,” he concluded.

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