Brooklyn GOP Can Do Better, Former Assemblyman Says

by Harold Egeln (, published online 12-13-2010
Ferraro Applauds State Majority, Seeks CooperationBy Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BENSONHURST — Once praised by then-president Ronald Reagan for his work as an assemblyman and his achievements as a former immigrant, educator and politician, Arnaldo Ferraro sees a greater Republican future in Brooklyn as long as the GOP works together better.

“I am very pleased this state Senate now has a 32-30 Republican majority,” said Ferraro, who came to the U.S. in 1961, in an interview at the 17th Avenue headquarters of the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Club. That makes for a better balance of power than one-party control, he said, referring to the Democrats’ control of the Assembly and the state House.

Ferraro was the last Republican from Brooklyn to hold a seat in the Assembly, until he was defeated in 1986 by Democrat Peter Abbate. Staten Islander Matthew Mirones was a Republican Assemblyman in the cross-Narrows 60th District until four years ago, when he choose not to seek re-election.

Abbate has won every election since, but had vigorous challenges by businesswoman Lucretia Regina-Potter in 2006 and 2008 and by university student Peter Cipriano this year.

“When I won [the] election in 1984, a local weekly newspaper headlined: ‘Freda Loses to Ferraro’ and the way that was put said a lot,” he said of his victory over Democrat Assemblyman Louis Freda, who served from 1981 through 1984.

Bensonhurst Was Once Republican

Before Freda, the district covering Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and much of Dyker Heights and Borough Park was represented in the Assembly by Republicans such as Dominick Di Carlo (1967-1981), who died in 1999, and Luigi Marano (1957-1964), later a judge and now 89.

Today the Republican foothold in Brooklyn is firmly in place with state Sen. Marty Golden of Bay Ridge in office since 2003. The other elected representatives from joint Staten Island-Brooklyn districts (Councilman James Oddo, part of whose district includes mid-Bensonhurst; Assemblywoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis and Congressman-elect Michael Grimm) are Staten Islanders.

“When first elected Brooklyn Republican Party leader in 2007, Craig Eaton was a comparative newcomer to politics,” said Ferraro, a former county committee vice chair who lost a vigorous and contentious challenge to Eaton in 2009.

“I have nothing against him. When anyone disagrees, which is part of the democratic process, nobody should take it personally. Disagreement keeps us strong and learning from our mistakes and moving forward,” said Ferraro. “The old axiom is true: united we stand, divided we fall.”

When he was running for election in 1984, while still a teacher, he sought advisors and a staff “with real experience and knowledge” rather than starting from scratch. “In my modest opinion, we did well with that base of help, and it does work,” he said.

“There’s no excuse for winning or losing. But there are reasons for losing,” Ferraro said. Looking at elections results then and now, he said, “It’s a simple matter of mathematics, which tells us a lot.”

“Look, this year Abbate won with 7,416 votes and Cipriano lost with 4,659. But in 2008, though Regina-Potter lost to Abbate, she got 5,487 votes. Think about those results with over 800 more than Cipriano,” he said. “Regina-Potter did not have full party support, except here with us, while Cipriano had full party support and had a greater loss.”

Even though Grimm and Malliotakis won, Ferraro noted that Democratic incumbents Congressman Michael McMahon and Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer topped Republicans in Brooklyn.