David Paterson: The case for Randy Mastro

The former governor calls Mastro, Eric Adams’ pick for corporation counsel, “a pro who rises above party lines.”

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I am adding my voice to those who strongly support Mayor Eric Adams’ desire to appoint Randy Mastro as the corporation counsel, the city’s lawyer – while some in the City Council have voiced concerns.

As a former governor of New York State, I know all too well how important it is to have competent government professionals at your side at all times. The fact that mayors with such disparate viewpoints, priorities, and approaches as Rudy Giuliani and Eric Adams both see Mastro’s value confirms what I’ve always thought about him: He’s a pro who rises above party lines.

Mastro was Mayor Giuliani’s deputy mayor back in the day, an outspoken advocate for his boss. Since then, he’s worked as an attorney for some big corporate clients while keeping a firm hand in public service as chair of the board of the Citizens Union, a good government group.

The battle lines are drawn. Those who don’t like him recall the acrimony of the Giuliani days and note that he’s represented other Republicans. Those who do like him, note the fact – rarely discussed until now – that he’s a lifelong Democrat and cite his many accomplishments that should make progressives smile – like fighting for the Black Lives Matter protesters at Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. and being instrumental in the usually nonpartisan Citizens Union’s endorsement of Joe Biden in 2020.

Here's how he explained the decision in an essay in the Daily News:

“When (Trump’s) administration mishandled the twin crises of coronavirus and racial injustice – costing thousands of Americans their lives, particularly in the minority community – Citizens Union felt compelled to speak out. He continues to deny New York the funding it needs to recover from this devastating crisis and calls us an ‘anarchist’ city. So now, we are compelled to speak out again and call for Trump to be voted out of office.”

This was the mid-1990s. In Harlem, where I was the state senator, many commercial operators on 125th Street were being eclipsed, you might say, by unlicensed street vendors who were selling merchandise right outside their stores.

It was suggested to me that I might bring our concerns to the mayor’s office to support these small businesses. That was about the last thing I thought I should do. I worried Giuliani, if he got involved, would only inflame matters.

But eventually, we did reach out to the administration, and Randy Mastro was dispatched to Harlem. We sat down.

The beginning of the meeting was professional: cordial, but distant. As our time together progressed, however, we began sharing jokes about our respective political affiliations. Within a week he’d crafted a plan for the safe removal of the vendors.

It was a great example of a neighborhood and City Hall coming together at a fraught time.

Few in the council who are criticizing Mastro know all he’s done.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he successfully fought the De Blasio Administration’s plan to dump addicted and mentally impaired homeless men in an Upper West Side hotel – without drug treatment services or transportation necessary for their daily medical care. Randy instead worked with the city to rehouse the men to a downtown shelter near a treatment facility.

Some fault him for taking on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s suit against congestion pricing, which includes the MTA as a defendant. But the critics aren’t looking below the surface. Agree or not, Mastro’s case raises environmental justice concerns regarding added pollution in areas that already have high asthma rates.

The ineffectiveness of government operations has not escaped my notice over the past few years. Internal staff often manifest a simple view toward the principal – “We know better.”

Not Mastro. Maybe he does know better, but he works for the good of the City. This is why two mayors with rather perpendicular theories on what’s best for the city would have the same demand of their first deputy, their corporation counsel, or anyone else who has decision-making capacity.

Randy Mastro has been a stalwart contributor to the quality of life in this city, publicly and privately, for the past 30 years. From the Citizens Union to the Citizens Budget Commission, his contributions have been appreciated by observers on both sides of the aisle. Therefore, it is my honor to endorse the choice of my friend Eric Adams to utilize the services of this outstanding civic leader and his exemplary portfolio. I believe the mayor has earned the opportunity to choose the next corporation counsel. The City will benefit if that attorney is Randy Mastro.

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