Tag Archives: Mario Cuomo

Op-ed: Farewell to Mario Cuomo, a longtime friend and dedicated public servant


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY CLAIRE SHULMAN

We were so young and energetic and believed we could solve the problems of the world.

Such was one evening many years ago at Jeantet’s restaurant in Corona.

We frequently congregated there to discuss serious issues of the day.

Around the table eating pasta were Mario Cuomo, Marino Jeantet, Steve Tromboli, Mike Dowd and me, all planning board aficionados.

I remember Mario, the young lawyer full of zip and vinegar who never changed from that young, idealistic warrior for the rest of his life.

What Mario would eventually do considering his early history is anything but amazing.

Two hard-working parents operate a grocery, raising their children above the store. And as in so many immigrant homes, English was not spoken until children entered grade school.

But the parents’ strong values were imbued into the children at an early age and left a decided imprint on Mario’s mind. He remained faithful to his beliefs without apology.

The beautiful thing about Mario was his bearing as an honest, down-to-earth guy. Yet behind all that was an incredibly brilliant and analytical mind.

Whether it was the Corona 69 or the resolving of the problem around the Forest Hills low-income housing, Mario worked hard and won.

Creating a structure for the new concept known as the Forest Hills low-income co-op was not easy but certainly necessary.

A board was formed, consisting of community people and clergy. Across the table from an African American minister was a rabbi — and a plan was created that would solve the tenancy question — a place for seniors, veterans and community folks from the neighborhood ZIP codes was selected that would please the board members. At the end of the day and after much negotiating when the plan was finally approved, the minister and rabbi shook hands.

What Mario started finally ended successfully.

He dedicated his life to making things better for the most vulnerable and at the same time keeping our great city stable and secure.

Whether as secretary of state or governor, he never lost the energy and excitement in trying to improve conditions for everyone.

He understood how to use the incredible power for good and he had the gift of language to explain it so all could understand.

And so now that Mario has gone, his aura of gentleness and kindness still hovers over us. Perhaps we can grab it and hold on forever. So rare.

This week, Courier publisher Vicki Schneps and I went to the wake. Hundreds of people were lined up around the building. But we managed to get there early as we were instructed to do by his wife, Matilda. As we approached the receiving line it was apparent that the whole family was there. When I reached Matilda, we hugged and hugged tearfully, remembering all the good times we had as young people.

Gov. Mario Cuomo in the political world was a unique individual. Who will ever forget the stirring speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention when the whole world was introduced to the great Mario Cuomo.

Our neighbor, our friend from Jamaica, was and still is the American Dream.

Claire Schulman served as borough president of Queens from 1986 to 2002.

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Former Gov. Mario Cuomo eulogized as advocate, crusader


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo via Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Flickr

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo was laid to rest Tuesday after a funeral that was attended by hundreds, including the state’s leading political figures, who mourned the passing of a three-term governor who rose from humble roots in Queens to become a standard bearer for Democrats across the nation.

The funeral at Manhattan’s St. Ignatius Loyola Church was attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Mayor Bill de Blasio and dozens of politicians from both sides of the political aisle who heard his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, deliver the eulogy.

Gov. Cuomo, during remarks that were broadcast live on TV, described his father as more of a humanist than a politician.

“At his core, he was a philosopher. He was a poet. He was an advocate. He was a crusader. Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The most prominent political figure to come from Queens, Cuomo died on New Year’s Day at age 82 only hours after his son,  Andrew Cuomo, delivered an inaugural address for his second term as New York’s governor.

Holder attended the funeral as a representative for President Obama. A day earlier, several national figures attended Cuomo’s wake, including Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo’s former Republican rival George Pataki, who defeated Cuomo in a 1994 race for governor.

Most knew Cuomo for his role as governor and a lone voice of opposition against Ronald Reagan’s conservative vision for America. But Cuomo first gained recognition in Queens, where he was born, when a bitter dispute arose in 1972 over a proposal to build low-income public housing towers in Forest Hills. Then Mayor John Lindsay appointed Cuomo to mediate the dispute and he was ultimately successful, gaining him the title of the great facilitator.

“It’s to his credit to care enough about lower income New Yorkers and put that housing in such a nice area,” said Diane Shaffer, who lived in Forest Hills during that time. “He left a wonderful legacy and I wish there were more people like him in government.”

Cuomo lost two early political contests — first a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 1974 and then the 1977 Democratic primary for mayor of New York City when he was defeated by Ed Koch. He won his first campaign in 1978 in the race for lieutenant governor.

He ran for governor four years later, defeating Koch in the Democratic primary before going on to win the general election.

Cuomo graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School and attended one year at St. John’s University before he was lured away from college by an offer to play baseball for a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But after suffering a serious injury when he was hit in the back of the head by a baseball, he returned to St. John’s University.

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Former Gov. Mario Cuomo dies at 82


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Kenneth C. Zirkel /Wikimedia Commons

Updated Friday, Jan. 2, 5:26 p.m.

Former three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo, once a leading and passionate voice for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and one of the most important political figures to come from Queens, died on Thursday. He was 82.

Cuomo, who was raised in Jamaica, passed away only hours after his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was sworn in for a second term during an inauguration held in Lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center.

The elder Cuomo had been ill for months. His last public appearance was on Election Night when he was with his son during a victory celebration.

Gov. Cuomo spoke about his father during his inaugural address Thursday morning, noting that “we’re missing one family member.” Cuomo spent New Year’s Eve with his ailing father and family, even reading him his speech.

“He couldn’t be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here,” Cuomo said pointing to his head and heart. “And his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point. So let’s give him a round of applause,” Cuomo said.

According to the governor’s office, Mario Cuomo “passed away from natural causes due to heart failure this evening at home with his loving family at his side.”

Cuomo was remembered as an important voice in both state and national politics.

“From the hard streets of Queens, Mario Cuomo rose to the very pinnacle of political power in New York because he believed in his bones in the greatness of this state, the greatness of America and the unique potential of every individual,” said Sen. Charles Schumer.

“My prayers and thoughts are with the governor, the whole Cuomo family, and all who knew and loved Mario,” Schumer said. “Our hearts go out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who gave a great speech today that I am certain his father was proud of.”

In a statement issued by the White House Thursday night, President Obama paid homage to Cuomo as “an Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents,” who “paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service — and we are all better for it.”

“He rose to be chief executive of the state he loved, a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity and opportunity,” Obama said in his prepared statement.

The son of Italian immigrants who owned a grocery store in South Jamaica, Cuomo cut his political teeth in Queens.

Cuomo first rose to public prominence in 1972 when he was appointed by Mayor John Lindsay as a mediator during bitter a dispute over a proposal to build low-income public housing towers in upper-middle Forest Hills. Prior to that, he had successfully represented Queens homeowners in high-profile disputes with the city and private developers.

Cuomo lost two early political contests — first a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 1974 and then the 1977 Democratic primary for mayor of New York City when he was defeated by Ed Koch. He won his first campaign in 1978 in the race for lieutenant governor.

He ran for governor four years later, defeating Koch in the Democratic primary before going on to win the general election.

Cuomo graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School and attended one year at St. John’s University before he was lured away from college by an offer to play baseball for a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But after suffering a serious injury when he was hit in the back of the head by a baseball, he returned to St. John’s University.

Cuomo went on to earn a law degree at St. John’s, where he continued to teach part-time while he practiced law in both the private and public sector before entering politics.

As a Democratic governor during President Reagan’s administration, Cuomo was among the few in his party to challenge the then-popular president. He became the leading voice for the party’s liberal wing even as the nation skewed conservative in the 1980s.

It was his stunning keynote speech during the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco that fueled speculation that Cuomo could seek the presidential nomination down the road. Cuomo himself continued to stoke the speculation until the last hour before the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary in 1991.

But he remained a prominent voice within the party, known and admired for his soaring oratory.

Cuomo came up in 1993 as a potential Supreme Court nominee by President Clinton. But then in his third term as governor he removed his name from consideration for the top court.

Cuomo is survived by his wife of 60 years, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, his children Margaret, Andrew, Maria, Madeline and Christopher, and 14 grandchildren.

A wake will be held for Cuomo on Monday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, located at 1076 Madison Ave. in Manhattan, with calling hours from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m. The following day, a funeral service will take place at the St. Ignatius Loyola Church at 980 Park Ave., also in Manhattan, at 11 a.m.

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Matilda Cuomo signs her book in Howard Beach


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Matilda Raffa Cuomo said she wants her book, “The Person Who Changed My Life,” to help those who may feel down on their luck, so they know they are not alone.

The mother of Governor Andrew Cuomo and wife of former governor Mario Cuomo appeared at the office of Scott Baron & Associates, P.C. in Howard Beach on Thursday, May 31 to sign copies of her book, which is in its third edition. This updated version features stories from Dr. Mehmet Oz and former President Bill Clinton — among several others. All proceeds from book sales will go to Mentoring USA, the program Cuomo founded and chairs.

“It’s a handy device to have for people who are down on themselves or feeling neglect or rejection,” Cuomo said of her book’s goal. “It’s unbelievable how a mentor can pick you up and give you the self-confidence and the sense of well-being that you never thought you had.”

Cuomo, a teacher by profession, began Mentoring USA in 1995 to guide children lacking a positive figure in their lives. Born from an initiative when Cuomo was New York State’s first lady, the original program was statewide and school-based; after Mario Cuomo lost the 1994 election, her son Andrew urged her to revive the program and take it nationwide. In 1999, her daughter Madeline suggested she compile a book of people’s stories and how a mentor guided each to success.

Cuomo said she brought a philosophy from teaching with her into the program. Her three pillars for success for a child are: the home, the school and the community. All of these, she said, must stay strong in order for a child to succeed.

“It’s an honor to have the current first mom and former first lady of New York State here today,” said Baron. “Her message of mentoring is very appropriate as an example of being a fine American.”