In Public Service: Golden says GOP should be big tent party
State Sen. Marty Golden is the son of Irish immigrants and is the oldest in a family of eight children. Together, these two factors not only played an important role in his life, but also determined his outlook on life.
Golden’s dad, Patrick, came to the U.S. from County Galway nearly 70 years ago. His mother, Celia, hailed from County Cavan. “They came here in the late 1940s and built a life for themselves and eight kids,” Golden said during an interview with the Brooklyn Eagle at Tommaso’s Restaurant on 86th Street in Bensonhurst.
When he was a kid, his parents were the superintendents in the Ridge Boulevard apartment building where the family lived. As a young man, Golden had to maintain the heating system so that the tenants could have heat. His younger siblings also had chores.
Golden attended Our Lady of Angels Catholic School and was an altar boy at Masses at Our Lady of Angels Church.
Being part of a big family is instructive, according to Golden. “You learn how to work together,” he said.
A Republican-Conservative, Golden has tried to carry that philosophy with him in his political career. He said he has reached across the aisle to work with Democrats in the Assembly to get important legislation passed.
He represents the 22nd Senate District, a seat that takes in parts of several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.
One of his political goals is to grow the Republican Party in Brooklyn. It’s a daunting task in a borough where there are many more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Golden said one reason for the low GOP numbers is that there aren’t enough neighborhood Republican clubs. It’s important, he said, because club houses are where a political party is built from the ground up. “We used to have so many more clubs. When the Starace Club used to meet, you’d have 100 people show up,” he said, referring to the Armand Starace Club in Bay Ridge.
There is good news on the horizon, according to Golden, who said that young leaders have stepped up to give the GOP “an opportunity to grow the party.”
One way to help the GOP become more of a presence in Democratic-dominated Brooklyn is to reach out to the African-American community, Golden said. He recently spoke at a gathering in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “We have to be the party that is the big tent,” he said.
Golden said that whatever one wants to say about bombastic billionaire presidential front-runner Donald Trump, “he is adding to the Republican Party.”
Trump, Golden said, “is bringing people out in big numbers.” Voters are turning to Trump, according to Golden, because the national Republican Party establishment “has failed them.”
Brooklyn has more than 2 million people, Golden reasoned, and the GOP should be reaching out to as many residents as possible. “This is the environment to do it in. It’s a presidential year,” he said.
He expressed confidence that once people hear the party’s message, they will come aboard. Republicans believe in strong families, a strong economy and opportunity, he said.
Golden is a retired police officer. He served in the NYPD from 1973 to 1983, working mostly in the 67th and 71st precincts.
The highlight of his career in the NYPD came when he worked in a special 10-man street crimes unit in Patrol Borough Brooklyn South. It was a plainclothes unit that went after robbers, assault suspects and low-level drug dealers.
“We actually did make a difference,” Golden said. After making arrests, “I used to get rounds of applause in the community,” he recalled.
Golden’s career was cut short when he was struck by a car during a drug investigation. “I lost ligaments in my knees,” he said.
It forced him into retirement. “I didn’t want to go. Being a police officer was the best job I ever had,” he told the Eagle.
With a long life still ahead of him, Golden knew he had to find something to do.
He bought the Bay Ridge Manor and decided to go into catering. He had worked at the Manor as a teenager, washing dishes and serving as a busboy.
After he bought the Manor, Golden started to become involved in civic life. He was appointed to Community Board 10 and worked with a small group of business owners to revitalize the Fifth Avenue Board of Trade. The group had formed many years earlier, but had become dormant.
Golden and his group livened up the avenue with promotional events, such as street fairs, and worked to bring awareness to the community of the importance of street cleanliness.
“Here, look at this,” he said, showing the Eagle an old photo on his iPhone of a Bay Ridge street from the late 1970s. “Look at how much litter is on the sidewalk!” he said.
The Board of Trade enjoyed success that spilled over to Bay Ridge’s other shopping strips. “It brought life to the other avenues. We were the pride of the city. We were able to partner with the city on projects,” he said.
Golden’s work in the community served as a springboard for him to run for public office.
His big chance came in 1997, when Democrat Sal Albanese, who had represented Bay Ridge in the City Council since 1982, decided not to run for re-election.
Golden decided to run for Albanese’s seat. He sat down with Republican Party leaders and with New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long to seek support.
Golden won the Republican primary and went on to win the general election in November of 1997. He took office in January of 1998.
Golden, who was one of seven Republicans in the council at the time, got along well with then-Council Speaker Peter Vallone and worked with Vallone to secure funding for his council district for parks, schools, libraries and special projects. “We got over $20 million for our parks,” he said.
“You have to have a feel for the community,” he told the Eagle.
His feel for the community was very much in evidence in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His Bay Ridge district office became a quasi-headquarters for local relief efforts.
Hundreds of local residents streamed into the office at all hours of the day and night to drop off food, clothing and supplies for the cops, firefighters and iron workers performing backbreaking work in the recovery effort at the World Trade Center site. Golden often led convoys of trucks into Lower Manhattan to deliver the donations. Residents also came into the office to volunteer to answer phones and perform other tasks.
Golden served in the council for five years.
In 2002, he decided to leave city government and run for Bay Ridge’s state Senate seat. “I felt that I could accomplish more as a state senator,” he said.
Golden ran against Democratic incumbent state Sen. Vincent Gentile and won. Ironically, a few months later, Gentile ran for Golden’s vacant council seat and won. Political insiders like to joke that the two men simply switched places.
During his time in the Senate, Golden sponsored 273 bills that were eventually signed into law by the governor. “Being in the Senate gives me the ability to deliver,” he said.
As a senator, Golden said he is concerned with “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as well as housing issues.
The next big challenge, he said will be utilizing the city’s waterfront. He mentioned ports and ferries as means to economic development. “There’s a lot of potential on our waterfront,” he said.
Developing the waterfront is crucial to the city’s future, according to Golden, who said a fully functioning waterfront translates into thousands of jobs.
“You’ve got the ability to reach for the stars,” he said.
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