Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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NY1's Grace Rauh and Courtney Gross examine what's shaped the lives of mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joseph Lhota in this two-week special series.

The Contenders: Lhota Values Lessons Learned From Modest Start

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This week, NY1 is going to examine mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, starting with his childhood -- one that started in the Bronx and moved east to Long Island. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

The penthouse lifestyle of Joe Lhota is a far cry from his more modest upbringing.

"What I learned as a young kid and as I didn't realize is how they were scraping by. My father used to have two or three jobs. My mother used to have two jobs," Lhota recalled.

It's an upbringing Lhota says taught him about hard work.

It all started on Hoe Avenue in the Bronx some 59 years ago.

Lhota's dad, Joseph W. Lhota, pumped gas, worked at an air conditioning company, and eventually became an NYPD officer. He wasn't the first member of the family to serve the city -- Lhota's grandfather was a firefighter.

Lhota's mother sold Tupperware.

"You know my parents were both teenagers when I was born. And my mother actually had to leave high school because pregnant girls weren't allowed in New York City high schools," Lhota said.

Eventually, his family traded in the buzz of the five boroughs for a tree-lined street on Long Island.

"I think it was an opportunity to not live in an apartment, to own your own home," Lhota said.

Lhota often mentions how he grew up in the Bronx but it was in Lindenhurst on Long Island where he spent his teenage years. He worked at the local five and ten and friends said he "came from a good family".

"For those people that don't think Joe has a sense of humor. Unfortunately his sense of humor was at my expense," said Mike Judge, Lhota's high school friend.

Judge and Lhota became close at Saint John the Baptist High School, a private Catholic school in West Islip.

Lhota worked on the school newspaper as the features editor.

"He is the type of person that was concerned about other people more than his own self," said Judge. "He was very outgoing but never outspoken."

A common characterization say those who knew the mayoral wannabe as a teen.

"The whole thing about Joe was he had tremendous respect for the system. It could have been an attribute of his upbringing, but he never crossed the line and he was polite when not everybody was polite," said Lhota's high school teacher, Brian Maher.

"As far back as I can possibly remember my father talking to me about the American dream and how I had to go to college and I never once doubted it and I never once questioned it," Lhota said.

He would be the first in his family to go.

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