Mario Cuomo Remembered as ‘Giant’ in New York

Mario Cuomo
Mario Cuomo was first elected governor of New York in 1983. He served three terms as NY’s chief executive. (Photo: Creative Commons/ Kenneth C. Zirkel)

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum paid tribute Friday to former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a champion of liberal policies known for his soaring oratory and as a national presidential favorite among Democrats—a prospect that never came to pass.

Cuomo died of heart failure Thursday evening, just hours after his son Andrew took his second oath of office as governor of New York, a position he himself had held for three terms between 1983 and 1994. Cuomo’s family was at his side, according to a statement from the governor’s office. He was 82 years old.

All across Long Island and New York State, lawmakers who knew him paid tribute to the man who more than once flirted with the idea of running for president but decided to remain in New York.

“Mario Cuomo was a giant of New York government and politics,” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said in a statement. “As much as anyone he understood and appreciated the mosaic that was New York. All who knew Mario Cuomo were better for it. My thoughts and prayers are with the Cuomo family. RIP.”

“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,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement.

State Senate Co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) called Cuomo a “legendary figure” whom he always had a deep and “profound” respect for.

“With his passing, New York has lost a dedicated leader and committed public servant, and one of the great orators of our time,” Skelos said. “He will be deeply missed.”

Long Island’s two county executives also expressed their condolences.

“He was a man of passion, principle and dedication who inspired so many New Yorkers to pursue public service, including me,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We are a better state and a more just nation because of him.”

“Mario Cuomo had much to be proud of, but I’m certain, he was most proud to know that his son, Andrew Cuomo, was sworn in for a second term as New York State Governor today,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican.

Before being elected governor, Cuomo was recognized for resolving a low-income and racially charged housing controversy in Forest Hills in 1972. He was appointed Secretary of State of New York three years later and was elected lieutenant governor in 1978.

His keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention put him on the map nationally.

Andrew Cuomo was sworn in for his second term as governor on Thursday. In his speech, he noted his father’s absence, saying “he is not well enough to come.”

“We spent last night with him, changed the tradition a little bit,” Andrew Cuomo continued. “We weren’t in Albany last night; we stayed at my father’s house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second-termer. See, my father is a third-termer. But he sends his regards to all of you. 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, 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.”

In honor of his father, Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered all flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff.

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