“He can never speak, can’t cry and is blind. And he changes people’s lives.”
I recently biked the boardwalk in search of oystercatcher photos, construction photos, the issues of the day in Long Beach, NY.
I came upon News channel 12 doing interviews at the New York Blvd end of the Long Beach woodwalk. The reporter, Diane Campbell was looking for opinions on the disruption of beach life in our City by the Sea due to the current construction.
Diane interviewed me. But my interview didn’t make the cut for the evening news.
I spoke with Mark Evangelista, whose did. He’s the owner of the Overlook restaurant which overlooks the beach at New York Blvd. Mark said that he and businesses like his were not included in talks about the impact of the construction on local businesses. He said it was only very recently that the decision was made to have New York Blvd a staging area for all the boulders and equipment to move through. We looked out over boulders, trucks, cranes and debris. Not a pleasant sight for a restaurant to “Overlook”. Sounds like Mark had a very valid complaint.
Finally I met well-known local legend…Harvey Weisenberg.
I often see Harvey trekking the boardwalk, or swimming at our Long Beach Recreation Center. Harvey’s performed a bit of service for Long Beach. He’s a former Long Beach Police Officer, PBA president, teacher, Long Beach lifeguard, Long Beach City Councilman…and a twenty-five-year NY assemblyman. Yeah, you might say he’s been civically involved. But Harvey had little to say about his views on construction or oystercatchers. But what he did say pierced my heart like an oystercatcher pierces a clam shell.
Harvey has been a long time advocate of aid to direct caregivers, he has a special needs son, Ricky, a man in his fifties.
Direct caregivers are workers who care for those who cannot care for themselves. As Harvey says, “They are people taking care of people, people with disabilities, who need trained staff to take care of our family members.” He told me these caregivers are woefully underpaid making $9:00 to $11.00 per hour.
Harvey said, “They can’t pay their bills and they were starting to leave the non profit agencies. These direct caregivers are working two shifts, or two jobs..” He said, “ We have Jonathon’s law that was a twelve-year-old child that lost his life because he was actually restrained and died. And the man, (the caregiver) worked ten consecutive shifts. So he ended up in jail and we lost the child.” He said, “You want trained professional people to be caring for those who need it the most, you have to pay them a living wage.” Harvey said, “These are Godlike people doing God’s work.”
Harvey continued, “So I went to the governor and asked him, in his upcoming budget, to be a hero and put forty five million dollars in there and give these people a living wage. He put in zero.” Harvey said, “The consequences were so great that I did what I had to do as a former assemblyman, ….I relied on my ability to have legislators be the voice of those who have no voice, and to put money in the budget.”
Harvey said, “We had press conferences all over the state. We gave out T shirts, I spent my pension money.” Harvey told me, “I had on the T shirt, Ricky holding my hand and it said, ‘Special People Do Give Love.’ We waved the T shirts all over the place to show people that special people can and do give love.”
He said he got a response from every legislator in the state saying they wanted to do the right thing. “The governor didn’t but our legislators did. The Assembly and the Senate, Democrat and Republican…The people spoke again,”
Harvey said, “…and I got a call from the governor’s budget person just hours ago, that they are putting fifty five million dollars into the budget as we speak. They (the caregivers) won’t have to work double shifts.” He looked very happy when he said, “Politics didn’t take over government, government took over politics.”
Harvey told me, “I have a special child, an angel God gave me. Ellen ( his wife, who died April 18th 2016) and I had an angel. He can never speak, can’t cry and is blind. And he changes people’s lives.” Harvey’s voice quavered with emotion as he spoke, “God gave me a mission to help others.” I told him I heard a real passion in his voice. I often hear a person’s heart in their voice…maybe that’s why hear is part of heart?
Harvey said, “I have a resource center on the internet,” and he gave me his card. The Harvey and Ellen Weisenberg Foundation: http://harveyandellenweisenberg.com
“It’s national and it’s all free. They get any information they need to try to advocate for their son or daughter or other family member,” he said.
Harvey said when he went to Albany, legislators spoke of his wife, Ellen. He told them, “Ellen is right here in my heart, we are one person.”
He said, “If a special child goes on a medical visit he has to have an advocate go with him. In a hospital there has to be someone there to feed him. In my life experience, Ricky was almost starved to death, scalded to death, he ended up with abdominal surgery, a broken hip and he survived. Someone has to be with the child 24/7. Who’s going to feed him? If a person can’t speak how do you diagnose something? That’s why you need an experienced person to tell if a child doesn’t feel good or is in pain.
I told Harvey I was so glad to have come upon him and his personal experience. I told how I came to the boardwalk this day to take photos and about my comparatively insignificant effort to protect the oystercatchers.
He responded, “ There’s a lesson to be learned there. When they nest and lay their eggs, we protect them. You watch them take turns sitting on their eggs. They take care of their chicks better than people take care of their own. When it’s too hot they take the chicks into a shady area.” He compared the oystercatchers to humans, “We’re the intelligent human beings? Are you kidding me!?
Harvey had told me, ” I have a special child, an angel God gave to me.”
I think God gave Ricky an angel too.
And Harvey had been told, “You are the voice of those who have no voice.”
Harvey Weisenberg certainly is that. And I clearly see that Ricky, although he can never speak, can’t cry and is blind, finds powerful expression through his dad’s heart. Ricky’s voice speaks so that others like him might not be starved, scalded or suffer broken bones.
So yes, Ricky unquestionably does…change people’s lives.
See my sister blog: https://wherethesundontshine.net