In former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s opinion, at least one brash, pugnacious heir to a vast New York real estate fortune had no business serving in high elective office.
But nearly 70 percent of New York’s voters elected then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as the state’s governor in 2006 so what could Senator Bruno do? In Keep Swinging: A Memoir of Politics and Justice, Bruno’s recently published autobiography, he vividly recalls the turbulence of the state legislative battles of 2007 and early 2008. Relative claim returned to Albany after then-Governor Spitzer resigned amid reports he was known in certain circles as Client Number 9.
Nassau’s readers who have an interest in New York State history and politics will be drawn also to the book’s passages on how Senator Bruno became the state Senate’s majority leader in late 1994, a post Bruno held until he stepped down in 2008.
Nassau state Senator Ralph Marino (1928-2002), a Republican who lived in Muttontown, was the Senate majority leader in 1994. The 87-year-old Bruno recalls in his memoir how Marino did everything within his power that year to deny then-state Senator George Pataki the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Marino wanted Herb London to head the Republican statewide ticket in 1994, even though London had lost badly as the Conservative Party’s gubernatorial nominee in 1990. In the end, London ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for state comptroller in 1994 alongside then-Senator Pataki, who was elected governor. With the first Republican governor in a generation about to take office, Bruno explains how he maneuvered behind the scenes to oust Marino as the state Senate’s majority leader.
Senator Bruno, a Glens Falls native who resided in Brunswick (Rensselaer County) while in office, freely admits he used his position as majority leader to boost the Capital District, pointing to improvements he brought about at Albany’s airport, its Amtrak station and Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The latter institution appreciated Senator Bruno’s efforts so much they named a minor-league baseball stadium built on its campus after him.
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium is today home to the Tri-City ValleyCats, an affiliate of the Houston Astros. Stadium-naming is clearly a ‘thing’ among state Senators. The State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook Seawolves play their football and soccer games at a facility named after state Senator Kenneth L. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).
Alas, Senator Bruno was also instrumental in blocking a stadium that would have brought the New York Jets back to New York. The backstory: Governor Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg avidly supported the construction of the New York Sports and Convention Center (NYSCC) on the far west side of Manhattan in 2005. The NYSCC would have been the new home of the Jets and potentially served as the site of 2012’s Summer Olympics, which were eventually held in London. But Senator Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver thwarted the NYSCC’s construction through their appointees at a little-known state agency. This was done in part because Cablevision, then-owner of Madison Square Garden (MSG), lobbied the two state legislative leaders to do so because Cablevision did not want the NYSCC, a prospective rival, built within walking distance of MSG.
In a plot twist MSG could not have imagined at the time, Barclays Center subsequently got built in Brooklyn. It now houses the Nets and Islanders, teams which moved into New York City from New Jersey and Nassau County, respectively, to compete against the MSG-owned, Manhattan-based Knicks and Rangers.
Mike Barry can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.