Florence Sullivan, who represented Bay Ridge and Sunset Park in the Assembly from 1979 to 1982, died on Sunday, June 21. She was 90.
A former English and math teacher at Fontbonne Hall Academy, she also served as an assistant district attorney to the late Charles Hynes and was a founding partner of the law firm of Connors and Sullivan.
She graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 1974 and was admitted to the bar in 1975.
Jerry Kassar, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, said, “She was a very special lady who did a great deal for this community. She was active at Our Lady of Angels for decades. She was born in the neighborhood. She was a pretty big figure.”
“Florence Sullivan accomplished many things in her lifetime,” said Michael Connors. “In the 1980s, she joined with me in establishing the law firm Connors and Sullivan. She was a devoted mother, a strong Catholic attending daily Mass for years, and her short time in politics earned her the respect of both supporters and opponents. Her many accomplishments were without suffering for the sin of pride. It was a privilege to have known her.”
Former City Councilmember Sal Albanese tweeted, “Just learned that Florence Sullivan who beat me in the old Bay Ridge Assembly District in my 1st race 4 legislative office passed away. Although she was a member of GOP & I a Democrat it wasn’t a vicious campaign. She was an accomplished attorney & a kind person. RIP Florence.”
Kassar said that Sullivan was ahead of her time in the state Legislature.
“There were not a large number of female assemblymembers of either party at that time when she was first elected in 1978,” he said. “She was very much about ensuring that young female attorneys, elected officials and female leaders were treated equally and received the same respect that was given to other elected officials. She was at the front end of that battle in the 1970s before she even ran for office.”
Kassar also said she was always willing to help her constituents.
“It was still a time where you see her somewhere, you could go up to her if you had an issue,” he said. “You could be assured by the next day you would have received a call from somebody to try and help. She would just be available to assist 24/7.”
Sullivan was also known for her efforts to stop domestic abuse.
“She was one of the founders of one of the first domestic abuse safehouses in the state, in Sunset Park,” said Kassar.
Her husband Cornelius Sullivan died in the mid-1970s.
“She raised [her children] after her husband passed away,” Kassar said. “She was about 46 or so. The daughters were in their late teens, early 20s.”
In 1982, Sullivan was the Republican and Conservative nominee for U.S. Senate against the incumbent Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“She was in the headlines of the New York Times,” Kassar said. “How many people from Bay Ridge can show up in the headlines in the New York Times the day after an election?”
The Conservative Party of New York State issued a statement about her death.
“Mrs. Sullivan was an example of all that the Conservative Party stands for,” it said. “The widow raised her three children, she went back to college, earned her degree, went on to law school, served as an assistant DA in Brooklyn, was elected to the NYS Assembly in 1972 and served there until she lost to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1982.“
Sullivan is survived by three daughters: Barbara Sullivan Dodrill, Patricia Sullivan and Janet Sullivan Cross.