Political ‘Trailblazer’ Dies
Geraldine Ferraro, one-time assistant Queens district attorney, Congressmember and Democratic Party vice presidential candidate in 1984, for whom a variety of rose and the Long Island City main post office at 46-02 21st St. were named, died Friday, March 25 after a decade-long battle with multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer that suppresses the immune system. She was 75 years old. She is survived by her husband, John Zaccaro, three children and eight grandchildren.
Ferraro’s ties to Queens were deep and of long standing. Born to Italian immigrant parents in Newburgh, New York, Ferraro was raised by her mother in the South Bronx after her father and two younger brothers died before she was 10 years old. Ferraro earned a bachelor’s degree from Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan at age 20 and received her law degree from Fordham University law school in The Bronx, but her career began in Queens when she taught second grade at P.S. 85 in Astoria for several years. In 1974, Ferraro, a resident of Forest Hills, joined the Queens District Attorney’s Office and in 1977 headed its newly formed Special Victims Bureau, which dealt with sex crimes, child abuse and domestic violence. In 1978 at the suggestion of Mario Cuomo, she mounted her first campaign for the seat in Congress held by Democrat James J. Delaney. Ferraro won a three-way Democratic primary with
In 1984 she was asked to run on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale as the first woman nominated to run for the vice presidency by a major political party. The Democratic ticket faced incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush, then at the height of their popularity, and lost, carrying only one state, Minnesota. Mondale received his only Electoral College votes from the District of Columbia. Ferraro’s campaign was dogged by financial questions and after the Democratic party’s defeat in the 1984 presidential election, her husband and son both encountered legal troubles that, among other reasons, kept her from entering a race against then U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato in 1986.
She tried for the same Senate seat in 1992 and 1998, but was defeated both times. She went on to co-host “Crossfire”. and served as the U.S. ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights during the Clinton administration. Despite her less than successful campaigns, Ferraro’s advice was sought by numerous candidates, among them now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for whose run she was a fundraiser. She campaigned for Andrew Cuomo, then running for New York attorney general and a number of local candidates.
“Many pay tribute to her as a trailblazer in American politics, but we in Queens will also remember her as a determined and tireless advocate for our community,” Congressmember Joseph Crowley stated. “An inspiration to us all, Geraldine Ferraro helped pave the way for our daughters to achieve anything they set their minds to. As the Representative of her former district, I am proud to call Geraldine a leader, a mentor, and most importantly, a friend. My thoughts and prayers are with Geraldine’s family and I join the entire country in mourning one of America’s great public servants.”
“It’s a bittersweet moment to learn of Gerry passing as we near the end of Women’s History Month,” Congressmember Carolyn McCarthy, the first and only woman to be elected to Congress from Long Island, declared. “She opened the door for a generation of new leaders and certainly was an inspiration to me as I sought my own path in public service years ago.”
Tough and ambitious, sharp-minded and compassionate, Geraldine Ferraro was in all respects the quintessential New Yorker and a political icon who paved the way for this and future generations of women leaders. A history maker, Geraldine is a fitting member of the National Women’s Rights Hall of Fame. We are grateful for her leadership and her service to our nation and our state. Geraldine Ferraro will be missed,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared.