New York State Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, who served in the New York Assembly from 1983 to 2010, died on Wednesday, April 8th, possibly from coronavirus. His district was in Westchester County.
I knew him my whole career, and we became friends while I was still an Assembly staffer when he was first elected in 1983. Richard and my predecessor, Joseph Ferris, worked together on legislation and Richard would come down to the City to have lunch with me regularly as we worked on those bills. I didn’t make much money so he paid. When Assemblymember Ferris didn’t run for re-election in 1984, Richard sent his aide to help me in my primary. When the original primary ended up a virtual tie, the Courts ordered a rerun and Richard’s staffer volunteered the week of the rerun. After I won, we became close allies on the Corporations Committee and worked together in the decades that followed.
He was brilliant, funny, abrasive, and provocative. He ran, unsuccessfully, for Westchester County Executive twice. He became widely admired in the 1990s after he became Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, repeatedly receiving praise from New York’s environmental advocates. The Republican party in New York had plenty of power in those days, especially after George Pataki defeated Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994, while Senator Joe Bruno became the Republican leader in the State Senate. It wasn’t easy for a progressive lefty like Richard Brodsky to get legislation to regulate big corporations on the environment at that time( or ever, for that matter). But Richard was unrelenting and persevering and sharp-tongued.
In 2001, then Corporations Chair Albert Vann from Brooklyn was elected to the New York City Council, and Richard was appointed Chair of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions. He became an unrelenting tormentor of the cable industry, the utility industry, and, ultimately, Mayor Bloomberg.
In 2007, when Mayor Bloomberg first began advocating congestion pricing, Richard became the Assembly’s chief opponent of the Mayor’s plan.( I was on the other end of that, working with Bloomberg to become the first introducer of that Plan in the Assembly). But things got much worse in the Brodsky vs. Bloomberg saga.
In 2008, Richard sought to block the City’s effort to sell bonds for the New Yankee stadium in the Bronx. He put out a report attacking the Bloomberg administration’s support for the stadium as illegal and improper and began fighting Bloomberg tooth and nail.
The Corporations Committee conducted a hearing in early 2009, and I sat there with Richard at the hearing as he grilled the City Commissioners over excessive subsidies and a host of populist demands, like low ticket prices, in exchange for the subsidies. Richard then decided he wanted to subpoena certain City records on the Yankee Stadium Project. He wanted a partner, so he asked me to sign on to the issuance of the subpoena. ” I don’t want to be the only person doing this, ” he said to me. I said sure. Speaker Silver allowed us to do it, and the subpoena was served by the Assembly Counsel’s office.
The City provided some records, but Richard decided those records were inadequate. Next, he asked me to join him in a lawsuit against the City on compliance with the subpoena, and we did that together too. He even argued the case, and I went with him to the courthouse in Albany. We lost. He got all the publicity, which was his due. But I stuck with him, even though I had wished we had somebody else argue the case in front of that conservative Albany judge.
In 2010, he took his shot to run for Attorney General, a position which would have been perfect for him. His passion and brilliance would have made him great at that job. I endorsed him, but by summertime I could see he wouldn’t make it. He was still on the ballot in November, and held a watch-the-election party with his supporters at a hotel in Westchester. I drove up there to be with him despite the recognition he was going down to defeat. That was the last time I saw him, although we spoke a few times on the phone. I became the next Corporations Chair, until I retired in 2016.