One of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s compari got “whacked” in court last week, convicted of taking bribes while working for Cuomo. During the trial, emails from Cuomo’s convicted buddy Joseph Percoco revealed that he used the code word ziti to mean cash. Seems that he lifted the word from HBO’s The Sopranos, which was duly heralded by the mafia-loving media.
The chairman of New York’s Republican Party, Ed Cox (the late Richard Nixon’s son-in-law) made hay with the code word by dangling a few boxes of Ronzoni No. 2 before a scandal-hungry press audience. All in all, the mixing of a few Italian surnames with pasta and a goomba television series leaves a lasting impression with the general public.
Andrew Cuomo, they say, has national aspirations. Let me be the first to tell him not to pack his bags. And to any of you outside New York who see Cuomo as our great Italian hope, I say watch what you wish for.
While Democrat Cuomo was busy de-fraternizing Percoco in Albany, down on Long Island a couple of high level Republican paesan politicos got themselves mixed up with an Indian-American restauranteur who apparently knew how to serve their ziti. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Town of Oyster Bay (Teddy Roosevelt’s hometown) Supervisor John Venditto are now on trial for corruption. Italian Americans are getting slimed, not south Asians.
The Cuomos – the late Mario and son Andrew – unlike the more successful Roosevelt dynasty, have yet to cross the Hudson River. Mario Cuomo’s ambitions for the White House turned out to be a false labor. He led us to the Promised Land with tear-jerking tales of his immigrant father’s bleeding feet only to get cold feet himself. Before he dashed our dreams, he eased the way for the sale of La Casa Italiana at Columbia to the Italian government. Thanks to him and the Italians, our first and largest cultural center in America is now operated by people more likely to eat kreplach than ravioli.
In that same spirit, what Mario Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo haven’t done for us they have done a million-fold for Hasidic communities. In a damning retelling of how Mario Cuomo circumvented both the U.S and New York State constitutions on separation of church and state, Louis Grumet’s 2016 book The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel, will make you wonder who these Cuomos really work for.
Kiryas Joel is a village 40 miles from NYC. Thanks to the efforts of Italian American legislator Anthony Genovese (now deceased) and Governor Mario Cuomo back in 1989, the Satmar Hasidic community of Brooklyn took over the board of education in upstate Monroe, NY gutting the secular school district to set up a state-funded religious one. Book author Grumet, who is a secular Jew and worked for Cuomo, was shocked that Mario – who portrayed himself as a constitutional scholar – circumvented a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to help the Satmars. It took Cuomo and a conniving New York legislature four special laws to skirt multiple negative court rulings. Grumet further quotes a news story that, in 2015, son Andrew Cuomo received $250,000 in campaign donations from Satmar ghost LLCs after he vetoed an anti-Kiryas Joel bill in Albany.
There are now three Hasidic villages – voting blocs for Andrew Cuomo, outside of NYC – Kiryas Joel, New Square, and Kaser. (In Brooklyn, Cuomo can count on 50,000 Hasidic votes.) Because of their prolific families and cash businesses, they are listed as the poorest municipalities in New York State and therefore collect millions in state and federal subsidies – some 70% of their population is on Medicaid. Their school taxes are the lowest in the state. They practice gender segregation, female inequality, and teach students only rudimentary English, math, and science, all in the name of religious liberty.
Moral: many of our politicians don’t care who serves their ziti. -JLM