Alfonse M. D’Amato celebrated his 80th birthday Tuesday with all the bombast and bonhomie that made “Senator Pothole” an historic figure in the U.S. Senate for 18 years and which since has made him one of New York’s most powerful lobbyists and political power brokers.
“I’ve been blessed,” said D’Amato in an interview at the private party on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, his children, Alphonso, 9; and Luciana, 7, at his side. “You can always look back and say I could have done something better . . . but if I did, who knows? I might still be in the Senate and wouldn’t have this second life.”
“I loved what I did when I was serving,” D’Amato said, nostalgic for his days as Hempstead town supervisor. “But I don’t miss it. God has given me a career and these lovely children,” said D’Amato.
He was hugged and kissed by dozens of well-wishers at party, hosted by Peter Kalikow, a real estate developer and former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. But politics was never far from the surface for often-combative D’Amato.
On President Donald Trump: “He should listen to advisers and think, don’t tweet.”
On the Senate he left: “Unless they get a tax reform bill, the economy is going into the tank . . . they ought to put the ridiculous politics aside and work together.”
The birthday party attracted bold-faced names from both sides of the political aisle as well as major lobbyists and some of their clients. They included Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, former independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Republican Gov. George Pataki, and Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island), and Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who were scheduled to speak.
“Al has set a standard for his tireless dedication,” said Bloomberg. “He knew how to work across the aisle, which seems to be totally lost in Washington today.”
“He’s an institution on Long Island and in New York State,” Rice said in an interview. “His public service is laudable — and he’s an all-around nice guy.”
“There was none like him before him and none since,” King said in an interview.
In June, the company D’Amato founded and manages, Park Strategies, was listed as the fourth top lobbyist in New York in terms of total compensation, with $7.18 million in receipts, according to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics annual report.
D’Amato served in the Senate from 1981 to 1999. He was often hailed as a champion on Long Island and upstate for securing street repair funds and other federal money. Today, he remains an influence within the Senate’s Republican majority while remaining close to Cuomo.
In 1995 D’Amato took Pataki from a backbencher in the State Legislature to a three-term governor, scoring New York’s biggest political upset by beating Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“He’s a New York phenomenon,” Pataki said in an interview. “He’s tenacious . . . You wouldn’t find someone like him in any of the 49 other states,” Pataki said.
“Like everyone else here, Senator D’Amato, I owe you a tremendous amount,” Pataki said.