Guy Molinari, a titan of New York Republican politics who served as Bay Ridge’s congressmember in the 1980s and influenced the careers of numerous lawmakers over the years, died July 25. He was 89 years old.
Molinari, who had been ill for a number of years, died in NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. His daughter, former Congressmember Susan Molinari, and another former House member, Michael Grimm, were at his hospital bedside when he died, according to the Staten Island Advance.
Molinari left a mark on Brooklyn and Staten Island that is still being felt today.
In 1986, Molinari successfully pushed legislation through Congress that established a one-way toll system in the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a system that is in place to this day.
At the time, he argued that backed-up traffic on the Staten Island side of the bridge caused major air pollution concerns for residents of that borough.
As a result, a system was put in place under which tolls were collected from Staten Island-bound drivers. Motorists heading toward Brooklyn drive for free.
New York City recognized his legendary status in 2005, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg named a ferry in the Staten Island Ferry fleet after him.
Molinari was first elected to Congress in November of 1980 in a district that covered Staten Island and included parts of lower Manhattan. In 1982, the district lines were changed and Molinari ran for re-election in a district that included Staten Island and parts of Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst.
He served in the House until 1989, when he resigned to run for Staten Island borough president, a post he won and served in until his retirement in 2001.
Molinari was succeeded in Congress by his daughter Susan, who served from 1990 until 1997.
Guy Molinari was born in Manhattan on Nov. 23, 1928. The family moved to Staten Island and Molinari graduated from New Dorp High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wagner College in 1949 and a law degree from New York Law School in 1951.
Molinari joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served from 1951 to 1953, during the Korean War.
He married Marguerite Wing in 1956. The couple had one child, Susan. Marguerite Molinari died in 2008 at age 70.
During his years as a lawmaker and even after his career ended, Molinari was a political power broker who championed the careers of young politicians like Vito Fossella and Grimm. He also encouraged George Pataki to run for governor and Rudy Giuliani to run for mayor.
He was also a well-known figure on the national political scene.
In 2000, U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican representing Arizona, tapped Molinari to be his New York State campaign chair when ran for president.
McCain, who is currently battling brain cancer, wrote about his old friend on Twitter.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of my friend, former #NewYork Congressman Guy Molinari. Guy dedicated his life to public service – as a proud Marine, in Congress & across local gov’t. Cindy & I send our prayers to Guy’s family & friends during this difficult time,” McCain wrote.
As news of Molinari’s death spread, tributes poured in from elected officials.
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Molinari for the passion he brought to politics. “Few public servants in New York City fought with more passion for their borough than Guy Molinari. His impact will forever be felt on Staten Island and across our city. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones today,” de Blasio said.
“As a Marine and dedicated elected official, Guy served our nation and Staten Island with distinction. He left an indelible mark on Staten Island that inspired countless others to a calling of public service. His legacy will long outlast his remarkable life,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, a Republican who represents Staten Island and portions of southwest Brooklyn.
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, another bi-borough Republican, said she has known Molinari since she was a teenager. “I will always regard Guy as a source of inspiration as he was someone who stood up against whoever he had to in fighting for what he believed in,” she said.
Grimm urged New Yorkers to keep the Molinari family in their prayers. “The world lost its toughest Marine this morning. Rest in peace, Guy. You will always be in our hearts,” he wrote on Twitter.
Molinari is survived by his daughter Susan, his son-in-law Bill Paxon, and his two granddaughters, Susan and Kate.
A wake will take place on July 27 at Matthew Funeral Home on Staten Island. A funeral mass has been scheduled for July 28 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church at 10:30 a.m.