A lightning rod shattered this morning on Staten Island.
In bad health for several months, former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari today lost a battle that no one can ultimately win. But he had a long ribbon of victories that he could wrap around the island before his death.
Elected to Congress during Ronald Reagan’s Republican revolution in 1980, Molinari made it easy to forget that they are more registered Democrats on Staten Island than card-carrying members of the GOP. Becoming a political force across the city, Molinari served as a powerful advocate for Rudy Giuliani, helping propel him to City Hall in 1993 by making sure that there was a secession referendum on the ballot for borough residents, boosting turnout and sending David Dinkins packing.
While Molinari was successful in closing the Fresh Kills Landfill – an embarrassing trash heap in the middle of the borough – he’ll also be remembered for peddling political garbage in 1994, making Karen Burstein’s sexual orientation an issue in the race for State Attorney General.
Ultimately, Molinari was a bare-knuckled political brawler and that’s what enough of his constituents demanded, sending him to the Assembly, Congress and Borough Hall. But his style also alienated many, including members of his own party.
Staten Island thought it needed a Guy Molinari to be heard. His rise anticipated the same kind of storm that swept across the country. It’s a storm that sent another New Yorker to the White House and is still raging today, far from a buried landfill on the middle of Staten Island.