Charles F. Otey Esq
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Many in the room, especially previous honoree Mark Longo, easily recalled how the Pesce-Bruno-Art Paone team burst upon the political scene back in the early 1970s and faced off against legendary Democratic leader James V. Mangano.
As reformers regularly do, they boldly assaulted the regular political citadel of the late venerable Jim Mangano – leader of the United Mazzini Club and administrative clerk of the Kings Supreme Court building – for being the “godfather of patronage” in Brooklyn. Their team ultimately came out on top with Pesce winning an assembly seat and both of them ultimately rising into prominent positions on the bench and in city administration.
According to legend, the Manganos – Sheriff James; his son Guy, who would become an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, and Guy Jr., now serving as an Active Supreme Court Justice, have not been particularly close since those bruising battles of the 1970s. But none has let the past prevent the effective performance of their important judicial roles.
Born in Mola di Bari, Michael Pesce immigrated to the U.S. at age 12 and, when he came of age politically, he inspired scores of other former Bari residents to become actively engaged in the wider Carroll Gardens Area. (A keen observer of that era -- attorney Dennis McMahon, trial lawyer and editor-- often referred to the Pesce group as the "Bari Political Club.")
Having won party leadership posts and an assembly seat, the Bari team set its sights on congress in 1974 waging a very, very close Democratic primary on behalf of ally Art Paone against favored regular Leo Zeferetti who had the full backing of County Boss Meade Esposito.
The contest occurred in the congressional district which ran from Downtown out through Bay Ridge was “too close to call” in the week following the hottest congressional primary in years. Ultimately, following a tortuous hand count of ballots – checked against registration cards -- Zeferetti, whose campaign was managed by Democratic Leader Frank Santo and Danny Lodato (later a Supreme Court Justice) won by a handful of votes. Congressman Zeferetti went on to serve four terms before losing in a reapportioned district to Staten Island’s Guy Molinari.