2004-01-29 / View From the Middle

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The MiddleHoward Babbush: One Of The Good Guys From The Old School
By Charles Rogers
View From The Middle By Charles Rogers Howard Babbush: One Of The Good Guys From The Old School

The Middle
Howard Babbush: One Of The Good Guys From The Old School

I remember Howard Babbush very well. After all, the former legislator who passed away January 16, was State Senator from the 16th District for 20 years, holding the banner of the 39th A.D.’s Thomas Jef-ferson Democratic Club from 1976 until relinquishing the office to John Sampson in 1996.

Howard was one of the good guys.

Every Thursday night, when the T.J. Club held their meetings with the late Tony Genovesi (and, earlier, Meade Esposito) presiding, with the heavy cigar and cigarette smoke wafting throughout the main room, there would be Howard Babbush, shaking hands and doing his political thing. I remember the tenor of those meetings, with his co-politicos the late Stanley Fink, who went on to become Speaker of the House — the third most powerful political position in the state — and City Councilman Herb Berman (the last of the Esposito-appointed-and-annointed crew) schmoozing with everyone. These were How-ard’s fellow Democrats, after all; he could be comfortable with these people, whether they were district leaders or the top kingmakers in the state. This was the proverbial "back room" as you’ve never seen it, except in the annals of maybe Tammany Hall and Old Time New York Politics, a la Jimmy Walker and Company.

On open evenings, after those T.J. Club officers held their private meetings, the public would be allowed in to talk with district leaders who would help them solve local problems. Of course, Howard Babbush could always be counted on to be a shoulder on which his constituents would lean. Most of the time he would point the person in the right direction and minor problems would be solved. At the same time, he knew where to go if the problems were major too.

Often, politicians depend on being in close contact with the press — and vice-versa. So it was proper for Babbush to keep in contact with us very often, which he did with large press releases on an almost daily basis. But, when necessary, he would also be private, such as during the mid-’80s when the Bap-tist Medical Center on Linden Boulevard (formerly Interboro Hospital) was having money problems. They thought they were going to have to close and sought the help of the legislators so they could go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. To close the hospital would not only be a hardship to residents of that area of East New York but to Can-arsiens and others who lived nearby. The sick, elderly and infirm would have had to go to an already-crowded Brookdale Hospital, which was already over-worked and overcrowded.

Very quietly, Babbush and other politicians directly involved put their heads together and came up with a plan that bailed the hospital out. He did it with no fanfare. No press releases. No patting himself on the back.

When Howard Babbush left office, he also did that very quietly. He did good things for people. He can rest in peace.

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