BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Mario Cuomo is being remembered by veteran Buffalo politicians as a friend to the Queen city who closely identified with the aspirations, struggles, and accomplishments of its people.
The former three term governor of New York died New Year’s day, as his son Andrew began his second term as governor by giving an inaugural address to a packed audience at Buffalo’s History Museum.
Former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello, who was in the audience, said “if you closed your eyes during tha speech, you cold hear Mario Cuomo. You could feel Mario Cuomo.”
Masiello said he believes Andrew’s father inspired a whole new generation to be better public servants. He remembers the governor objecting to the phrase “melting pot” to describe New York’s population.Masiello quoted the late governor.
“No, no, we’re a mosaic,” he recalled him saying. “All the religions, all the diversity and races. That’s what New York is.”
Born in 1932 in the New York City apartment above his Italian immigrant father’s grocery store, Cuomo was drawn Buffalo.
“He liked Buffalo because Buffalo’s like Queens,” Masiello said.
Tim Clark, who was Mario Cuomo’s representative in Buffalo, said it was Buffalo true grit that Cuomo found most appealing.
“It was a really working person’s community, and his life, son of immigrants, Queens, that’s really his roots, so he connected with the people of Buffalo and Western New York,” Clark said.
Those recalling his passion for people and ideas remember his speech at the 1984 National Democratic Convention in San Francisco.
He specifically mentioned the plight of unemployed steel workers in that speech. He directed his comments to then President Ronald Reagan.
“There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces you don’t see,” Cuomo said. “The places you don’t visit in your shining city.”
Former Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan said Cuomo championed those who needed help.
Cuomo once played minor league baseball for a very short time. He worked with then feisty Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin in 1988 to help build Pilot Field. The two often times did not see eye to eye politically.
Tim Clark remembers Griffin once publicly deriding Cuomo in the press.
“And when a reporter asked him (Cuomo) about that he took off his watch and proudly displayed this watch that Mayor Griffin had given him from the people of Buffalo,” Clark remembered. “And he says ‘how bad could the people of Buffalo hate me if he gave me a watch like this!'”
On New Year’s day, just around the time when Governor Andrew Cuomo took the stage in Buffalo, his father passed away.
Just hours after leaving the History Museum, Lenihan reflected, “How poignant that on the night he passed on, his son is continuing his legacy.”