For Cusick and Lanza, it's policy, not politics on Staten Island

Andrew J Lanza

July 02, 2012

Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 6:36 AM     Updated: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 11:42 AM


Three men in a room?

Not if they can help it.

"They" are Republican state Sen. Andrew Lanza and Democratic Assemblyman Michael Cusick who, in the past six months, forged a bi-partisan tag team to win success on three big-ticket Staten Island-specific issues that benefit borough residents, and in some cases folks city- and statewide.


When it comes to pocket book relief and transportation aid, health, safety and kids, it's hard to imagine a better windfall to score big on.

It's mom and apple pie in an election year -- although Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Cusick (D-Mid-Island) say it's about policy not politics, and point out that when it comes to the first two items, they've been working on them since last year.

First came the restoration of yellow school buses for New York City kids -- a measure both shepherded through the state Legislature, much to the consternation of the Bloomberg administration.

Next was the creation of a real-time prescription drug registry to beat back the scourge of abuse -- which also needed the legislative OK of both parties.

Both issues took months and months of negotiation and the right political climate to accomplish.

And then just a week ago, a new toll rebate on Port Authority bridges -- crafted with the blessing of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who went out of his way to praise both men to the Advance, as they sat in his office for the announcement, calling them "tenacious."

It was a dramatic win all around.

Some are likening Lanza-Cusick to a modern-day version of the Marchi-Connelly-Vitaliano triumvirate of the 1980s and 1990s, who famously put politics aside for principle and for the people of Staten Island.

Cusick, 43, cut his political teeth in Albany with all three, and has experience as a staffer on the city and federal levels to boot.

Lanza, 48, enjoyed a stint as a member of the City Council before going to Albany.

There's another thread of commonality, too: While they didn't attend at the same time, both are graduates of Monsignor Farrell High School -- Lanza in 1982 and Cusick '87.

Of course, the two have the benefit of sitting with the majority in their houses -- Cusick in the Democratic Assembly and Lanza in the GOP-controlled state Senate.


Also, both men say, their personalities complement each other. They describe themselves as "deliberate" and "low-key," with a "passion" for public service.

Said Cusick: "We are results-oriented. For Andy and me, it's not about sending out press releases. We think, 'How can we get this done and how can we move forward?' Being in elective office in Albany really is a full-time, 24-hour a-day job. Whatever we are able to accomplish goes back to our love for the Island and our passion to get things done."

Said Lanza: "We are both well-positioned in our conferences. We share constituents. In public life, as it is in private life, it's often about forging relationships, because most of the time it's hard to get something done alone.


"Mike and I are in similar step. Roll up your sleeves and get the work done. That's not something that is always out there in the open. Personally, Mike and I have clicked. We get along well and we work well together. We touch base almost daily."

And when they are working on something specific -- like the bridge toll break -- they are in constant communication.

Explained Cusick. "Andy would walk over to the Assembly or I would walk over to the Senate. We would text each other, 'When are you free?' Then we'd go over to the governor's office."

Explained Lanza: "Mike is a gentleman. He has an easy way about him. He has an ability to focus on things that matter to people. I know the other guy is supposed to be the enemy, but I consider myself fortunate to have him as a partner. During the session, we would text each other, meet in the hallway and run down to the governor's office. We would walk in together and people would joke, 'There is Cusick and Lanza again.'"

All that said, both Lanza and Cusick took pains to praise their other colleagues from the borough in the six-person delegation.

Said Cusick: "When we go up there, we are Staten Islanders first. We talk about issues and talk things out to see where everyone stands."



Said Lanza: "It really is a partnership. When we're in Albany, we all try to get together once or twice a month for dinner. We try not to focus on differences; we focus on the issues."

Meanwhile, both men brushed aside questions about whether they've considered crossing party lines to endorse each other in the fall election, saying they are running with their respective slates.

That said, they do share the Conservative Party line