By Sabina Mollot
On June 3, 2014, Roy Goodman, the Republican New York State senator who represented part of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town, for 33 years, died at the age of 84.
According to his daughter Claire Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman’s death at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, was most likely caused by pneumonia.
He had also, for around a decade, been battling Parkinson’s and relied on a wheelchair to get around. His death came as a surprise however, since he’d been active and was just returning home to Manhattan from a trip to see one of his six grandchildren graduate from Harvard. He also attended a number of other events at Harvard, his alma mater, recently, including an awards dinner. On the way home from the graduation trip, an aide noticed that Goodman’s hands were turning blue and called 911. Goodman was admitted to Danbury Hospital on Thursday night, but wound up taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.
“He was surrounded by family up until the last moment,” Pellegrini-Cloud said. “It was a peaceful death.”
Throughout his lengthy political career, Goodman was known for his socially liberal views. He was a supporter of women’s rights, from protection against domestic violence to the right to choose, as well as of LGBT rights and services for people with HIV/AIDS when the disease was just coming into public awareness. He also fought for tenant rights and affordability and was instrumental in the prevention of Riverwalk, a towering luxury development that would have cut off ST/PCV residents’ access to the waterfront and blocked their views of the river. While tackling the city’s fiscal crisis during the 1970s, he still pushed for continued funding of the arts. He also worked on city charter revision and ran the State Senate’s committee on investigations.
Though he left office over a decade ago, with his passing, former colleagues have been wistfully noting the official end to an era when Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a far less contentious — and far more productive — working relationship.
Since his departure from office in 2002, when he was succeeded by Liz Krueger, there have been no Republicans elected anywhere in Manhattan.
At that time, noted Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman was disappointed at the sharp right turn his party had taken, and that “people couldn’t rise above personal vendettas to work together. He was very solution oriented.”
She added that this attitude extended to Goodman’s family life. When she was growing up, Goodman would make sure each of his three children, Claire, Randolph and Leslie, got equal airtime at the dinner table. When there were disagreements, “He would say, ‘Let’s not be so quick to judge that person. Let’s see it from their point of view,’” said Pellegrini-Cloud.
Meanwhile, she disagreed with a detail in a recent story in the New York Times, which first reported on Goodman’s passing, that said her father was seen by some as a snob.
“He was known for mixing it up with anyone,” she said. “Yeah he used flowery language, but he was a great believer that the average person could understand that. Why dumb it down?”
Steven Sanders, the Assemblyman who represented the ST/PCV area for 28 years (25 of those alongside Goodman) recalled working with the senator to fight Riverwalk as well of another development farther north in Tudor City. That Harry Helmsley project would have destroyed residents’ park space. Sanders, on the morning of his wedding day, heard that a bulldozer had come to the site, and promptly headed over there to join the tenants in forming a human chain. Goodman, meanwhile, managed to secure an order from a judge to stop work despite it being a weekend.
He also recalled how due to legislation sponsored by Goodman in the Senate and Sanders in the Assembly, the cost of major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for tenants was reduced.
“Since MCIs as we know are paid in perpetuity, the cumulative savings for tenants became hundreds of dollars in each year,” Sanders said. They also worked together with the owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, and the Waterside Tenants Association to create an affordable housing contract for tenants at the complex when its Mitchell-Lama contract expired in 2001.
He also recalled how back in the 1980s, he and Goodman, along with then Town & Village Publisher Charles Hagedorn and Bill Potter, then the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, would meet for lunch every few months. The spot was usually Capucines, a restaurant on Second Avenue at 19th Street that recently closed.
“It was social and an occasional discussion of some community issues,” said Sanders, who is now the only surviving member of that group. “Imagine that… Republicans and Democrats, and the representative of the landlord Met life along with the publisher of the Town & Village joining together as colleagues.”
But, added the former assemblyman, who left office eight years ago, “Roy and I come from a different time. That notion of governing seems to have been lost. Politics has been exceedingly contentious. It’s all about winning and losing. We had our tussles every two years when I supported my candidates and he supported his, but then we’d have a drink or lunch and we would do community work for our district. We will not see his like again.”
Krueger, whose first run for office was against Goodman, said she remembered her opponent’s humor when he ultimately defeated her.
“His graciousness and good humor were on full display from that campaign’s beginning to its end, when, victorious after a six-week recount, he jokingly dubbed himself ‘Landslide Goodman,’” she shared in a written statement last week.
According to a Times article, he had a similar attitude when he lost a mayoral race in 1977 to Ed Koch.
Frank Scala, the president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, was a friend of Goodman’s and had his endorsement when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Assembly in 2006 during a special election.
This week, Scala pointed out that most people living in ST/PCV are unaware of Goodman’s involvement in the creation of Stuyvesant Cove Park a decade ago.
While still in office, he’d allocated $1.2 million for its construction. “If it wasn’t for Roy Goodman the park wouldn’t have been built,” said Scala.
Goodman had also encouraged Scala to revive the Albano Club after it had been inactive for years.
In 1981, Goodman became the Republican New York County Committee chair and remained in that position for 20 years.
After leaving office, he served as CEO for the United Nations Development Corporation and was a participant in a handful of organizations supporting the arts. Up until the time of his death he lived on the Upper East Side, where he grew up, the grandson of Israel Matz, founder of Ex-Lax.
In an interesting coincidence, Goodman’s death occurred within 24 hours of the time his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, died eight years ago.
On both days, Pellegrini-Cloud remembered there being loud, violent thunderstorms, and only after the more recent one, she spotted a rainbow.
“I like to think it was my dad’s stairway to heaven, going to join Mom,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Condolence visitation for Goodman was held on Sunday, June 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street. The funeral service was on Monday, June 16 at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. The burial was private.