Political dynasties: The family that serves together...
Nov 04, 2020 | 6761 views | 0 0 comments | 887 887 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We realized that as we write this, there is a lot going on in the political world. Voters are turning out to the polls in numbers we haven’t seen in decades to cast their ballot in one of the most consequential elections of our time.

We promise to get to all that next week when the dust settles.

This week, we thought we would return to the undated photo from our archives we ran a couple of issues ago asking readers to help us identify the people and the event.

We received some great information about the man in the light-colored suit in the center, John Sabini. When the former councilman and state senator from Jackson Heights saw that column, he shared his own memories of the event and the men and boys gathered to the left of him.

The man standing next to Sabini is Thomas Raffaele, who is best known as a justice of Queen Supreme Court, but at the time he was attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony as chair of Community Board 3. Standing in front of him is his son, Tommy.

The event was to celebrate renovations to Travers Park, which is located on 34th Avenue between 78th and 79th streets. It is named for Thomas J. Travers, a prominent figure in the community.

Sabini shared with us that the three people standing next to Raffaele are the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Thomas J. Travers!

This week, we are focusing on the man standing all the way to the right and the family political dynasties of New York City politics.

The late Leonard Stavisky represented northeast Queens in the Assembly from 1966 to 1983, and in the State Senate from 1983 to 1999, when he passed away. His wife, Toby Ann Stavisky, has held the seat since.

That means there has been a Stavisky family member serving in Albany for the past 54 years!

Other notable political families in Queens include the Weprins, with either father Saul or sons David and Mark (sometimes concurrently) consecutively occupying some form of political office from 1971 to 2020, or 49 straight years.

Meanwhile, a Vallone – father Peter Sr. and sone Peter Jr. - held an Astoria City Council seat from 1974 to 2103, when Peter Jr. was term-limited out of office.

That would have ended the Vallone’s consecutive tenure in city politics, but that same year, son Paul was elected to the City Council in Bayside. He will be term-limited out of office and doesn’t seem likely to seek another seat, so the Vallone dynasty looks poised to end at 46 years.

Then there is the Hevesi family of Forest Hills. Father Alan Hevesi was first elected to the Assembly in 1971, where he served until 1993.

He then held the post of city comptroller (1994-2001) and state comptroller (2003-2006). He was forced to resign from the latter post when he was found guilty in a “pay-to-play” scheme involving the New York State Pension Fund.

In 2005, his son Andrew was elected to the Assembly in a special election and has held the seat ever since. That means a member of the Hevesi family has been in office for the last 49 years.

Those are all impressive, but they are still (for now) edged out by one family from Brooklyn, the Steinguts. Father Irwin Steingut’s political career goes back to the days of Tammany Hall and the bad old days of the Democratic political machine.

He was first elected to the Assembly in 1921, representing a district that included Crown Heights, Flatbush, Windsor Terrace, and parts of Kensington, Midwood and Flatlands. He stayed in office until his death in 1952, and for period of that time served as speaker.

He was succeeded by his son. The younger Steingut tried to attain the same heights as his father, and in 1975 finally won the speakership of the legislative body.

A seemingly safe seat thanks to the backing of the powerful Madison Democratic Club, the same club that helped his father first get elected, Stanley was stunned in a primary defeat in 1978 by an opponent who replaced his daughter on the ballot just seven days before the election.

Thus, the Steingut family political dynasty came to end after 57 years.

The Steingut family role in city politics is fascinating. The dynasty began in the days when Democratic bosses ruled the system, but in order to secure the role of speaker in 1975, the younger Steingut made several concessions – including a stipend that allowed members to hire their own independent staff – that many view as the beginning of the end of the influential Democratic machine.

Perhaps their careers are worth a deep dive in the future. If you have interesting information on either Irwin or Stanley Steingut, get in touch at polposition@queensledger.com.
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