Op-Ed | Mastro is a great choice for New York’s next Corporation Counsel

Randy Mastro, representing the plaintiffs in the Local Law 97 case, is set for nomination to be the city's Corporation Counsel, teeing up a potential conflict of interest.
Randy Mastro, representing the plaintiffs in the Local Law 97 case, is set for nomination to be the city’s Corporation Counsel, teeing up a potential conflict of interest.
File Photo by Ben Brachfeld

When I first read that Mayor Adams was considering nominating Randy Mastro to become Corporation Counsel, heading the City’s 800-lawyer Law Department, I immediately thought, “What a world-class appointment.” I have known Randy for over 30 years and had the pleasure of serving with him during Mayor Giuliani’s first term when he was the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, and later together as Deputy Mayors.. I can attest first-hand just how exceptional he is. Indeed, there was no one with whom I worked who was a greater ally in guiding the Mayor to embrace policies and programs that were both effective and gasp… progressive.

Yet as soon as word leaked of his potential nomination, there was immediate backlash from certain council members who identify themselves as progressives saying they would vote against confirming him, even though they have never even met him, let alone vetted his candidacy., Clearly, that rush to judgment cannot be based on any actual knowledge of his record in city government, which was stellar, or his many professional accomplishments as a lawyer. 

As a leading spokesperson for the Mayor and former Chair of the Liberal Party, I was widely viewed as the Giuliani administration’s chief progressive advocate – the go-to person for everything from abortion rights, clinic access, and gun control to LGBT rights, homelessness, immigration, and AIDS policy. But the Mayor whom I served three decades ago was no ideologue. He was first and foremost, a pragmatic problem solver who didn’t particularly care where a good solution came from. He welcomed policy debate among his senior staff, carefully considering different approaches before making decisions.

Randy Mastro was my partner in moving the administration to progressive solutions.. We were so effective together that on every culture war wedge issue – all of which still separate left from right today – the Mayor embraced policies supported by progressive New Yorkers. Our efforts resulted in, among others, enacting the strongest domestic partnership protections for same sex couples in the country, saving and strengthening the Division of AIDS Services, welcoming law-abiding immigrants, protecting a woman’s right to choose, and adopting the nation’s strictest gun control laws. 

And collaborating with colleagues and law enforcement, Randy spearheaded initiatives ridding the Fulton Fish Market and private carting industry of organized crime corruption, for which he received La Cosa Nostra death threats, and resolving the street vendor crisis on 125th Street in Harlem, which ultimately benefited all businesses in that now thriving neighborhood. He also developed and implemented the plan that closed the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, and he turned around NYC’s OTB, from a money loser to a major profit center that saved hundreds of working-class jobs.

Many of today’s City elected officials are too young to remember what it was like in New York City in the early 1990s when Time Magazine dubbed us “the Rotting Apple” and many had lost hope that this City could even be governed, given the enormity of its problems. But dedicated, selfless individuals, including Randy, answered the call to public service and proved government could work again. Some, like Randy, even put their lives on the line to solve our City’s most intractable problems, like organized crime corruption. 

Randy Mastro is among the finest public servants ever to serve NYC–a person of the highest integrity, character and consummate skill who ‘got stuff done’ for the public good. If he is prepared to serve again and make the personal sacrifice that entails, let’s welcome him back with open arms or at a minimum, with at least an open mind.

Read more: Bronx Shooting: One Dead, Another Critical