2015-02-25 / Front Page

Onorato: A Born Leader

BY JOHN TOSCANO

George Onorato, who died last weekend at the age of 86 was a very imposing figure politically and he will be missed by all.

During a 58-year period of his lifetime, from when he was discharged from the Army at the age of 24 in 1952 and joined the Taminent Regular Democratic Club in Astoria, to when he retired from the State Senate at age 82, the pleasant, easy to get along with George:

• became the Secretary-Treasurer of the union of brick layers he belonged to

• became the Chairman of the Board of the Taminent Regular Democratic Club of Astoria, which he had joined 22 years earlier and

• five years later, became the Democratic leader in Astoria, succeeding the legendary political leader, Ralph De Marco, who had encouraged George and several other younger members to join Taminent years earlier and

• got elected to the State Senate in 1983, becoming the legislative leader of a broad section of Western Queens for the next 27 years, making decisions that impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of constituents for over a quarter of a century

• and during that period became part of the Democratic wing that decided the group’s policy decisions on all legislative matters.

I had arrived on the scene in Astoria in 1983 when I acquired the Western Queens Gazette in partnership with Buster Celestino, who owned the catering establishment on Broadway, at the corner of 31st Street, literally the heart of the neighborhood.

I met George at Buster’s place when, as the State Senate candidate, he held a campaign function there, and I subsequently met him fairly frequently as part of my political coverage.

One of the first things he did when he got elected and went to Albany was to introduce and pass the Used Car “Lemon” Law. It protected car buyers if the used car they bought turned out to be useless, they could get it repaired at the car salesman’s expense, or get their money back.

George eventually concentrated on senior problems and local community matters. For instance, he was a strong supporter of a program called EPIC, which stands for the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program. When it was passed, seniors got their medications at a reduced price.

Among locally-oriented problems, he zeroed in on the many electrical power-producing plants located in Astoria to force them to reduce harmful emissions that were giving many—young and old in the neighborhood asthma problems. He also concentrated on housing and rental issues because they created many problems for seniors. He also kept a close eye on development of new housing for seniors.

Overall, George Onorato was a true friend to Astoria, Long Island City and Jackson Heights residents and constituents, because he never forgot where he came from and was always alert to recognize problems in the community and eliminate them as quickly as possible. As we said at the start, he was a true leader throughout his life in Astoria.

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