Two days before she will be sworn in as New York’s junior senator, a smiling Kirsten E. Gillibrand said Sunday that she planned to “hit the ground running.”
“It’s thrilling,” said Ms. Gillibrand, the 42-year-old Congresswoman from the sprawling 20th Congressional district around Albany. “You will see me everywhere in the state. You will see me wherever you want to see me.”
Ms. Gillibrand spoke to reporters after finishing a congratulatory lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York with the newly minted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Charles E. Schumer, the state’s senior senator, and New York Governor David A. Paterson, who appointed Ms. Gillibrand on Friday to fill Ms. Clinton’s vacated senate seat.
Ms. Gillibrand said that the four discussed foreign policy and how to best stimulate the flagging economy, and Ms. Clinton had offered her some practical advice on how to be an effective senator. The governor joined Ms. Gillibrand at the news conference that followed, but Ms. Clinton and Mr. Schumer did not appear.
'Big shoes to fill'
“The senator knows that she has very big shoes to fill,” Governor Paterson said, adding that while the state would miss Ms. Clinton, “we will be in a position where we are well served, because Ms. Gillibrand, as a congresswoman, has been outstanding.”
Mr. Paterson hand-delivered the paperwork for Ms. Gillibrand to become senator to the Secretary of Senate in Washington on Sunday afternoon, said Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for the governor. Her actual swearing in, however, won’t take place until Tuesday, an aide to the Congresswoman said.
At the news conference, Ms. Gillibrand defended her pro-gun legislative stance, saying that she would “always support hunter’s rights” and that the pastime is part of “heritage and culture” of New York state.
But she also said that now that she represented the entire state, urban gun control issues would become part of her advocacy work.
“There’s a lot of concerns in many of our city communities about gun violence, about keeping our children safe and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals,” she said. “Those are concerns I share.”
One of her immediate priorities, she said, is making sure the state benefited from President Obama’s $825 billion stimulus plan that is due to come before Congress this week.
High-speed rail line to Buffalo
With Ms. Clinton and Mr. Schumer, Ms. Gillibrand said she discussed the possibility of creating a high-speed rail line that would run north up the New York State Thruway corridor, cross the state to Buffalo, then head back south, forming a triangle that would allow more jobs to move to the state’s northern regions.
While much of the high-speed rail plan would not be “shovel ready” within a few months’ time —a requirement to be considered under the Obama stimulus bill, she said — “there are some things we can do.”
The bulk of Ms. Clinton’s advice to her, she said, was about how to organize her office to best serve the many requests that come from constituents across the state. She said she would follow Ms. Clinton’s example so that she could “hit the ground running.”
On Saturday, Ms. Gillibrand went to Harlem and southeast Queens, meeting with black leaders and seeking to win over a constituency that might have been skeptical of an upstate congresswoman whose district is 2.7 percent black. Her down-to-earth style seemed to make a good impression on those she met face to face.
Mr. Paterson also broadly addressed the ongoing speculation over why Caroline Kennedy had withdrawn her name from contention for the Senate seat, but he did not say whether she would have been his choice had she remained in the running.
“She had gotten no signal from me that she had to withdraw, and no signal from me that she wouldn’t be selected,” he said. “The reality is that she is a great New Yorker, a great friend of mine, and there was nothing that would have prohibited her from serving.”
Joel Stonington contributed reporting.
This article "Gillibrand Meets with Clinton, Schumer and Paterson," first appeared in The New York Times.