Guy Molinari has been synonymous with Staten Island for decades. His fights, feuds, and friendships — many of them involving his beloved borough — were legendary:
"I'm one that will speak my mind, and sometimes people like it, sometimes they don't," he said in 1995.
Gaetano Victor "Guy" Molinari fought with the Marines in the Korean War, and practiced law before following his father, a state Assemblyman, into politics. He won ten straight elections, first for the state Assembly and then in Congress before becoming Staten Island's borough president.
"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, as they say, but I can take the heat," Molinari said.
Molinari first endorsed Rudy Giuliani for mayor first in 1988, and backed Giuliani's successful campaign in 1993 — a victory that Staten Island helped deliver. The victory gave Molinari and his beloved borough outsized influence in City Hall. The Molinari-Giuliani alliance also led to the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill, a process that began in 1996 and ended in March 2001, when the last barge of trash made its way there. It has been closed ever since.
"My delight is knowing it was done. I did my job," Molinari said.
For decades, he was as a Republican power broker, his influence stretching to the White House when Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush was president. Molinari also groomed candidates, including his daughter, Susan, who replaced him in Congress, her successor, Vito Fossella, and a-then little-known Marine named Michael Grimm.
"The basic tenets of what he taught me, the very first day: Put your faith in the people," Grimm said in November 2017.
Molinari gave voice to conservative, white working- and middle-class voters who felt forgotten — a template that Donald Trump used many years later.
More tangible evidence of Molinari's legacy can be seen all over the island. A class of Staten Island Ferry boats was named after him. With Giuliani's help, he was helped start the building of the Richmond County Ballpark, which brought a Yankees farm team to the island.
One of his proudest accomplishments was a bill that made New York the first state to allow liver transplants through public funding. "It's got to be 10,000, 20,000 lives have been saved as a result of that," Molinari said.
He famously feuded with then-mayor David Dinkins, and had a bitter falling out with Giuliani over his fellow Republican's decision to back Mario Cuomo for governor.
Molinari drew scorn in 1994, for calling Family Court Judge Karen Burstein unfit to be state attorney general because she was gay.
Molinari was pugnacious until the end. Speaking of his memoir, which he titled "A Life of Service," he said, "I don't care who reads it, as long as it's all written down someplace."
Guy Molinari was 89 years old.
CURRENT AND FORMER ELECTED OFFICIALS REACT TO MOLINARI'S PASSING
Arizona Sen. John McCain:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:
New York Rep. Dan Donovan, who represents Staten Island in Congress:
Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo:
Staten Island City Councilwoman Debi Rose:
Staten Island City Councilman Steven Matteo:
Staten Island and Brooklyn Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis:
State Assemblyman Matthew Titone of Staten Island: