NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, a 15-term Democrat who has held key committee posts that help shape foreign policy in the Middle East and oversee the regulation of financial institutions, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election.

WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack With Rep. Ackerman

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The congressman, who has represented diverse communities in Queens and part of Long Island, said in a statement that although new congressional boundaries were extremely favorable he would not seek another term.

“I have been truly privileged to have had the opportunity to fight for the beliefs of my neighbors,” said the 69-year-old lawmaker, who lives in a houseboat while in Washington, D.C., and regularly wears a white carnation on his suit lapel.

Ackerman told WCBS 880 anchor Pat Farnack that he won’t sit on the sidelines in the race to replace him. He also said he is looking forward to whatever comes next in his life.

Ackerman is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
and has been outspoken on several global issues, including U.S. support for Israel and the threat it faces from Iran. Prior to his tenure in the House, he served as a New York state senator.

Ackerman also serves on the Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the banking system.

In 2009, during a hearing to assess the multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme orchestrated by disgraced Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff, he lambasted officials with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission when he perceived that he was not getting answers to his questions.

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“Your value to us is useless. Your value to the American people is worthless. Your contribution to this proceeding is zero,” he said in a clip of the hearing that became popular on YouTube. “Our economy is in crisis. — We thought the enemy was Mr. Madoff. I think it’s you. You were the shield. You were the protector. And you come here and fumble through make-believe answers that you concoct and attribute it to executive privilege.”

Madoff pleaded guilty to fraud and is serving a 150-year prison sentence in Butner, N.C.

Ackerman said he was making the announcement on the eve of a federal court decision of new congressional boundaries for New York. Ackerman, whose term in office is set to end Jan. 2, joins 23 other Democrats and 16 Republicans not seeking re-election.

Last October, Ackerman traveled to Israel to bring home a U.S.-Israeli citizen and constituent detained in Egypt for four months and accused of espionage.

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