There’s an empty space on Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal’s (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Kew Gardens, Pomonok, Electchester, College Point and parts of Whitestone, Richmond Hill, Briarwood and Forest Hills) desk where for three years a blue plastic baby bottle sat. It wasn’t for an actual baby –– Rosenthal wasn’t a father until recently –– instead it was a playful honor presented to him by a colleague when he took office at the age of 26 in 2017.
On Monday, Rosenthal took that bottle from its hallowed space and presented it in an informal photographed ceremony. Wearing masks and standing a few feet apart in an attempt to socially distance, Rosenthal handed over the bottle and along with it the title of being the youngest sitting assemblymember in Albany to newly-elected Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens).
Anderson, 24, is the youngest Black assemblymember to be elected.
“The folks who get up here and they’re the youngest in the chamber, like, they ought to be proud of that,” said State Senator James Skoufis (D-Parts of the Hudson Valley) who started the tradition when he was in the Assembly. “If this is one sort of symbolic way to keep that tradition alive and make it known, you know, who got up here at, you know, at a young age, in their twenties, I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
Skoufis, who was 25 when he was elected to the Assembly in 2012, had the honor of being the youngest sitting assemblymember until Rosenthal came along. So, without warning, Skoufis presented the unsuspecting Rosenthal with the blue baby bottle in his first conference.
It was his wife’s idea, he said.
“I give credit where credit’s due,” Skoufis said.
He doesn’t remember where he bought the bottle but he’s glad it’s part of a lighthearted tradition. Politicians tend to take themselves too seriously, he said.
“I’m delighted to see it continue to, you know, just sort of keep things real up here,” he said.
“Right now a lot of things, the problems that we deal with are very serious and heavy so it was a way of lightening the mood a little bit,” Rosenthal said. “When I got here it was, it was done as a joke but in good faith. And it was a very welcoming and warming, you know, ribbing.”
It was a bit more difficult to organize the handover because of the pandemic, said Rosenthal, but they managed. And unlike during his own baby bottle ceremony, Rosenthal warned Anderson what was coming.
Rosenthal said that he hopes he keeps the tradition alive.
“I told him he better not lose it,” Rosenthal said. “It’s the same exact bottle.”
Anderson, who was wandering the halls after an Assembly session trying to find his way back to his office, said that young people need more representation and he’s honored to have been chosen. The baby bottle was a fun way to symbolize that.
“It’s a privilege, it was funny, and I’m excited to get to work for young people across the state,” Anderson said. “I do truly believe that young people need to be recognized.”
Anderson said he plans to continue the tradition and while he doesn’t think that time will come soon, he’s hopeful that more young people will be empowered and elected to office.
“I need to pass this thing on,” he said. “It’s lonely up here, I need more young people.”
He’s not sure where he’s going to keep the baby bottle –– maybe in his Albany office, maybe in his Rockaway district office –– but it will be displayed until the time comes.