Ex-Conservative Party chairman was 82
By Jerry Kassar
(Jerry Kassar is the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party.)
Former New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long died July 24 at age 82. He had been ill but, frankly, in the manner in which Mike lived his life, you would not have known it until close to the end.
He was a wonderful friend, a truly great man who will be missed by most everyone who had an opportunity to know him. Many have contacted me, using superlatives such as “good,” “decent,” “loyal,” “finest,” “respectful” and “a man of his word,” among so many wonderful comments that I have lost count.
Some who may have seen things from a different point of view were quick to point out that he was respected and highly regarded by his opponents. A truly awesome compliment.
Mike and his wife Eileen raised nine children who gave them 24 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren so far. Their travels brought them from Cypress Hills, where Mike ran an ice cream parlor with his brother Tom, to Bay Ridge. Mike made all his own ice cream and many confectionery products. It was an effort to get in the door near Easter or Christmas.
The Longs moved to Bay Ridge in 1982, while Mike was in the City Council, and settled in a big house on 76th Street. Tom and Mike operated Long’s Wine and Liquor Depot on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street until they sold it about 10 years ago.
Beginning in the mid-1970s the family had a summer cottage and then a home in Breezy Point. They moved to Breezy full-time about four years ago but frequently visited friends and acquaintances in Bay Ridge.
The Bay Ridge Community Council gave Mike its coveted Civic Award in 2016. He contributed a great deal to the civic, educational and business life of the community over the decades. He also received great praise for his civic, educational and business contributions in Cypress Hills, where he was the elected president of the community school board.
Mike is best known as the longtime chairman of the state Conservative Party. For all of my political career, we were linked through this involvement.
In 1977, just out of high school, I met Mike while he was managing a New York City mayoral campaign. He had been the party’s Brooklyn chairman since 1972. Through this meeting, I became involved in the party, eventually becoming his Brooklyn party executive director. In 1988, when he became state chairman, I became Brooklyn chairman and, four years later, one of his vice chairmen. When he retired in early 2019, I was fortunate enough to be elected state chairman.
As Brooklyn and state chairman, Mike had a code which centered around his principles. A Marine, Mike wore his solid belief in the greatness of America on his sleeve. He was enormously proud of being an elector for President Ronald Reagan in 1980. He was even chosen by the New York electors to be the secretary of the gathering in Albany.
Many local elected officials benefited from his sage political advice and friendship. In a business in which trust emanates from an eyedropper, Mike was someone all could trust.
He played key roles in electing Sen. Al D’Amato, Gov. George Pataki and Attorney General Dennis Vacco, but his influence could be felt in many congressional, state legislative and local races.
You always knew where you stood with Mike Long, and that, more often than not, was where you would stand with the party. His leadership was gladly followed because he led by listening and valued input.
Mike’s political legacy will be the many who learned from his example, those like myself who he mentored and the many who today or in the near future will create policy in the halls of government.
Knowing Mike for 45 years, I feel confident in saying that, of the countless awards and recognitions he received, he was most proud of two that are affiliated with the Catholic Church. The Knights of Columbus gave him their Pro Patria Award in 1985 and the church itself made him a Knight in the Order of St. Gregory the Great. This award is one of the highest the church presents to a layman anywhere in the world.
Rest in peace, my friend. Prayers for you Mike, Eileen and the family.