Richard Brodsky, 73, former New York state assemblyman, dies

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People who knew former New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky recalled him as a tenacious, highly respected public official and a skilled debater.

Brodsky died Wednesday of suspected complications from COVID-19, his wife, Paige, told multiple media outlets. He was 73.

Brodsky, a Democrat, represented parts of Westchester County, north of New York City, from 1983 to 2010. He ran for state attorney general in 2006, but withdrew to donate a kidney to his teenaged daughter.

While in Albany, he chaired the committee that oversees public authorities and possessed a thorough knowledge of the operations of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates mass transit in the New York City region.

Richard Brodsky served in the New York General Assembly for 28 years.

His legislation included the creation of the Environmental Protection Fund and the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act, which brought oversight to the state’s roughly 700 authorities.

“I debated Richard in many forums over the years, invariably disagreeing, and it’s fair to say we both enjoyed it every time,” said E.J. McMahon, the founder and director of Albany-based think tank Empire Center and a longtime observer of state government.

“He was very strongly opinionated and enormously self-confident, but also liked a good argument, the louder the better,” McMahon added. “Under that gruff and belligerent exterior, he was quite gracious in my experience.”

According to McMahon, the two enjoyed forming a “strange-bedfellows partnership” over how to spend the multibillion-dollar cash windfall Gov. Andrew Cuomo reaped from bank civil settlements starting in 2014. They co-authored an op-ed urging Cuomo to spend the money on transportation, split between highways and the MTA.

“Three years later, with even more billions pouring in, we reiterated the point in a joint letter to Cuomo, the legislative leaders and the MTA board,” McMahon recalled. “Unfortunately for New York, they ignored us both times.”

After retiring from the General Assembly, Brodsky remained a frequent public speaker, whether discussing public pensions with former lieutenant governor and MTA chairman Richard Ravitch or debating congestion pricing for Manhattan, which Albany lawmakers approved last year.

Brodsky opposed congestion pricing.

"It is arbitrary, it is unfair. It has all the defects of politics and none of the virtues of a well-thought out plan," Brodsky said in February 2019 at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he was an adjunct professor. “It is submitted with the budget, which is a strong-arm tactic known to Albany well."

That night he debated Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

“In our congestion-pricing debate last year, although we were on opposite sides, he was friendly and generous backstage to all of us, and was careful to make sure that we all left NYU that night with all good feelings all around, even though that probably kept him from getting back home to his family by half an hour or so,” said Gelinas, a contributing editor to Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

“Richard Brodsky was always gracious and kind, starting from the days when I was just a young reporter calling from out of the blue,” Gelinas added. “He would always take time to talk about MTA issues even though he knew I would ultimately disagree with him and that I would use some of what he taught me to make the opposite argument.

“RIP and condolences to his family.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement: “Richard was not just a colleague, he was a friend and a mentor to me when I was first elected to the Assembly. It was an honor to serve with him and watch as he fought, not just for his constituents, but for all New Yorkers.”

Other accolades came via Twitter.

“I'm heartbroken we lost my friend,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called Brodsky “one of the smartest and most passionate legislators I worked with.”

Brodsky was born in Brooklyn. His family moved to Westchester County when he was 9. He graduated from Ardsley High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in politics from Brandeis University, and his law degree from Harvard.

In addition to his wife, he leaves his daughters, Emilyn and Willie.

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