Fordham Law

For Geraldine Ferraro, Queens was always considered home

Geraldine Ferraro in NYDailyNews, March 27, 2011

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She earned her reputation in Washington, won the vice presidential nod in San Francisco and died in Massachusetts.

But for Geraldine Ferraro, New York - and particularly Queens - was always home.

"Busy as she was with life, she always knew where she came from and remembered it," said Matilda Cuomo, a friend and the state's former First Lady.

"We were always Queens people - even though I was born in Brooklyn."

Ferraro wasn't born to the boroughs. She moved down from her native Newburgh, N.Y., after her father died when Geraldine was just 8-years-old.

Her widowed mother relocated to the Bronx, working as a seamstress. Her ambitious daughter, chasing the American Dream, married and raised a family while attending Fordham Law School at night.

Ferraro's first job was teaching at a public school in Astoria and her long career in public service started in 1974 as a prosecutor with the Queens district attorney.

While living in Forest Hills with her husband and three kids, Ferraro often crossed paths with Cuomo.

"She and I were the mothers waiting together for our children," Cuomo recalled yesterday. "We did our grocery shopping together."

It was 1978 when Ferraro ran for Congress - and the political neophyte won. She served for six years, quickly rising to star status in the Democratic Party.

She kept her family name in honor of her mother. And she kept her family's home in Queens, where Ferraro seemed like everybody's next-door neighbor.

"She spoke at one of my kids' graduations at PS 101 and it was the best speech because you felt like she knew the kids," recalled Forest Hills resident Carol Yee.

"The kids had all written her letters to come ... and she talked about each kid individually and some aspect of their personality," Yee said. "It seemed like she knew them better than the teachers."

Like most New Yorkers, her life in the city wasn't without its rough patches.

Her husband, John Zaccaro, pleaded guilty in 1985 to a misdemeanor charge tied to the purchase of five apartment buildings.

And her last two political campaigns were waged in New York: Unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 1992 and 1998.

But no matter the campaign, or the appearances, or the year, Ferraro almost always returned to her favorite borough.

"To residents of Queens, she was our hometown hero who never forgot her roots," said Rep. Anthony Weiner. "Today we mourn the passing of a great American success story."