Hundreds gather to honor memory of Andrew Sandler

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He never wanted to run for public office, but Andrew Sandler couldn’t stay away from public service.

The former Community Board 7 district manager and longtime staffer for several local elected officials, died Aug. 5 after a battle with cancer, according to his family. 

He was 31. 

Most in Riverdale knew Sandler as a community liaison, first for Councilman Oliver Koppell, and then his successor Andrew Cohen. In that position, Sandler garnered a reputation among elected officials, fellow staffers and residents as someone who made resident concerns his concerns. 

In his eulogy delivered Monday at Riverdale Temple, Koppell shared how Sandler was a positive influence for the very synagogue they had gathered in —helping the shul cut through government red tape to use the kitchen in its basement. 

“It was all very Kafkaesque, truly Kafkaesque, the number of phone calls that he made, to the buildings department, to the fire department, to the plumbers,” Koppell said. “I got a lot of credit for that, but it was Andrew who deserved the credit.”

A lifelong Riverdale resident and Manhattan College alum, Sandler got his start as an intern for U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, before going on to work for Koppell and Cohen. 

In January 2016, Sandler was hired as the district manager of CB7, which covered primarily the Norwood area, a job he said at the time could help “bridge the gap” between elected officials and residents to bring services and resources where they were needed most. 

Yet Sandler was happiest playing his role behind the scenes, leading to an air of irony at his funeral where eulogy after eulogy praised Sandler’s work.

“As much as he would have said that he hated it, I know that he would have loved it and appreciated it that every single one of you was here to honor him,” Sandler’s sister, Stephanie, said. 

For those who knew him, Sandler was defined by his profound dedication to his job, his sister said, and his willingness to help anyone.

“As a kid Andrew loved superheroes,” Stephanie shared. “In particular, he loved Mighty Mouse, and I remember him at 4 years old running around in a cape shouting, ‘Here I come to save the day!’ Andrew spent his entire life trying to save the day.”

Childhood friend Jason Casimir mused about watching his father and Sandler engage in lighthearted, though well-thought, political debates. 

“Andrew was not married to any political party, but relentlessly dedicated to his ideals,” Casimir said. “He stayed true to himself — not really himself, but to his friends, his family, and his ideals.”

Sandler had a commitment to issues affecting quality of life, landlord-tenant, and really any complaint that crossed his path, Koppell said. And that is what almost anyone who worked with him will remember. 

“That was the unique person Andrew Sandler was,” the former councilman said. “He loved people. He loved doing the right thing.”

After his cancer diagnosis last January, Sandler took a leave from his district manager job for months, determined to take on that role once again. This past June, he did just that, albeit part-time. However, he couldn’t overcome his illness, and officially resigned three weeks ago. 

Sandler’s work in the Bronx and in Riverdale was so well-known, even Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted his condolences Sunday afternoon.

“I am sorry to hear of the passing of Andrew Sandler,” the mayor said. “His work as an advocate for the Bronx will not be forgotten.” 

Cohen, for whom Sandler worked for two years, said he came to the funeral with a heavy heart for his former staffer. 

“I know he was Jewish, and we are in the Riverdale Temple,” Cohen said. “But if there are Pearly Gates up there, no one deserves to go through them more than Andrew Sandler.”

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