Staten Island Politicians and their BFF's

Diane J. Savino

April 22, 2010

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Politicians need friends, and not just the ones who help get them re-elected. The demands of the job are grueling, the sacrifices many. Without a brigade of buddies who’ve got their backs and freely lend their support, elected officials won’t last long in this dog-eat-dog world.

Yet, navigating friendships in politics is tricky.

“The political landscape across the country is full of people who suffer from paranoia; that ‘Five cents going in your pocket is five cents coming out of mine,’¤” said City Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore).

Consequently, many public officials feel most at ease with friendships they built before taking office.

Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) said Kieran Kelly, a track buddy from Monsignor Farrell, is the person he counts on most, describing him as the “fourth Cusick brother,” someone he knows will be in his “corner no matter what, yet in the same breath set [him] straight” if need be.

Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) names John O’Leary, Nick Gennaro and Terry Thornton, buddies from Monsignor Farrell, as dear friends he looks to for advice, saying, “Their wisdom puts things in perspective.”

But it’s his wife, Judith, his sweetheart from New York Law School, the congressman considers his best friend.

“Just talking with her makes it much easier to deal with the pressures [of the job],” he said. “It lightens the load.”

Borough President Molinaro, too, said that while he’s close with Judge John Fusco, Attorney R. Randy Lee and Businessman George Katsoris, his best friend is his partner, Joan Cusack, who’s stood by him for 15 years.

She’s someone who knows when I’m ticked off, someone who knows when I have a problem on my hands, someone who is concerned,” he said, noting she’s been with him to share both good times and bad.

Asked about her friendships, State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) declined to give specific names, joking, “If I name my closest friends, the other 10 will kill me.”

She said she’s fortunate to have a large circle of people with whom she can let down her guard...

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