My phone rang and it was State Sen. Roy Goodman. A few hours before, he’d been in our Our Town endorsement meeting, where I had asked him what exactly he was working on, what was getting accomplished and why he deserved re-election to a job he began in 1969.
The year was 2000, and Goodman was facing a steep challenge from Democrat Liz Krueger. She seemed in tune with the rising tide of Democrats in Manhattan, even on the Upper East Side, where liberal Republicans actually existed. But Goodman wasn’t going down without a fight.
His call proved it. He fought the notion that he was tired. He had plans for everything from rent protection to arts funding to the right of female New Yorkers to control their own bodies. It was clear there was some steel behind the gentleman-scholar façade.
He was 70 then; he was 84 when he died on June 3. When someone dies, those of us in the news game like to say that an era has ended. Usually it’s an overstatement. Not with him; this really is the end of an era.
There was some sense of that passage way back in 2000, during what turned out to be Goodman’s final campaign. In 2002, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg picked Goodman to be president and CEO of the United Nations Development Corporation, a wise selection that meant a special election for the Goodman seat, and Krueger beat Republican Assembly Member John Ravitz (also arguably the last of the liberal Republicans). The Goodman-Krueger matchup enlivened New Yorkers who love politics. There was a fresh questioning about the nature and value of liberal Republicans, and what if any help they could be in a Democratic city. The argument seems dated now. Democrats rule. But I do think we lost something when the Javits/Rockefeller/Ravitz/Bill Green model ended.
Today, the political divisions in the city, state and nation – especially the nation – are so great that it’s hard to picture a GOP conference anywhere hosting a discussion about urban needs. It makes national news now when Republican Rep. Paul Ryan even thinks aloud about the inner cities.
Goodman did good work. Understanding both his unusual role and the changing political landscape, he carefully cultivated relationships. He had about him a sense of history. He smiled when I remembered his 1977 race for mayor, one he lost overwhelmingly to Ed Koch. Goodman liked that I knew my city history. He could talk about Javits and Rockefeller like they were in the next room.
So when we think of Goodman, and we should, I hope we remember more than the well-spoken gentleman with his wild vocabulary and personal quirks (classic clothing and tuna salad every day, if I’m remembering correctly). Think, too, of that sense of fight, the love of New York history, and all the fun he had playing in that sandbox. In his last campaign, he didn’t want to give up his Senate seat. In his lifetime, he didn’t want to give up his party registration. In both cases, he was willing to struggle to stay.
Christopher Moore is a former editor of Our Town and the West Side Spirit.
Memorial for Susan Cooper
Susan Cooper, a fixture in Upper East Side politics, was remembered at a memorial service at the Metropolitan Republican Club at the end of May.
Susan had been chief of staff for New York State Senator Roy M. Goodman, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, and assistant at the New York City Board of Elections in Human Resources. She served as Secretary of the New York Republican County Committee and District Leader in the 74th Assembly District.
Cooper worked for Sen. Goodman for more than 20 years and represented him before Community Boards 6 and 8 and at countless other community meetings. She was a long-time resident of Stuyvesant Town.
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