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Cuomo speaks with emotion at Italian-American Foundation gala

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday greeted dinner guests of the National Italian American Foundation at Cipriani 42nd St. in Manhattan -- where he introduced Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore as the first recipient of the organization’s new public service award named for the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

After returning from vacation in the Caribbean, Cuomo said: “I was released from Albany. The budget is done. I’m set free, I’m liberated. All you have to know about the budget -- because I know how you think -- is everyone’s taxes in this room are down since I’ve been elected.”

During the Clinton administration, when he was housing secretary, he noted how he visited all 50 states.

“When you get to the middle part of the country ... it is amazing how many misimpressions and how many stereotypes there are of the Italian-American people and the Italian-American culture and how unkind and how unfounded they are. That’s why the work of NIAF is so important, because it important to tell people the truth about the Italian-American people and about the Italian culture.”

He told of prodding his father, who had grown ill last year, to make it to his election celebration, where the elder Cuomo made his last public appearance, holding the current governor’s hand up on stage, and then remarking at the electricity of the crowd.

“He said wow, what a crowd. They loved us.” The line brought a big laugh from hundreds of guests. Cuomo got a bigger cheer when he continued: “My victory was really my father’s victory. He believed they voted for Cuomo -- the first name wasn’t that important.”

He spoke poignantly of the elder Cuomo listening to the inauguration by phone on Jan. 1 just before dying.

DiFiore, the third-term DA in Westchester, served for 16 months until April 2013 as Cuomo’s chair of the state’s ethics commission. She lauded Mario Cuomo as a model for the community and praised Andrew Cuomo for, among other things, his commitment to improving education.

The elder Cuomo was a supporter of NIAF, the governor said.

Actor Chazz Palminteri was master of ceremonies. Also honored were the late Lisa Colagrossi, the ABC-TV reporter who died unexpectedly last month; her colleague Ken Rosato, who gave the acceptance speech, as well as real estate businessmen Edward Riguardi and his son Peter Riguardi.


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