By Brendan Browne
After 36 years spent raising three children and working in public service, former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro left her Forest Hills home earlier this month and headed across the river to midtown Manhattan with her husband.
“It was very difficult” to leave Forest Hills, said Ferraro in an interview last week. “My heart is still there. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. It was obviously home. It was not only the place that we ate and slept, but also where we raised our children.”
Ferraro said she and husband John Zaccaro simply moved to Manhattan for convenience. Since 1998 she has been battling multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, and her medication made it difficult for her to climb stairs and travel to her law firm in Manhattan everyday. Her doctors have their offices in Manhattan, she said.
Most of Ferraro’s family has left Forest Hills as well. Two of her three children live in Manhattan with offspring of their own and the third lives in Boston. Her mother-in-law, who lived in Forest Hills for 69 years, and her mother have died.
“We were tired of the daily commute. This is much easier,” she said. “I really wanted to be near my grandchildren and my place of business … It was time to move on.”
The former vice presidential candidate, 66, was diagnosed with the incurable cancer in 1998 when her doctor discovered an elevated white blood cell count during a routine physical exam. Early detection and an experimental drug for myeloma have put the disease in remission and Ferraro said she feels healthy.
Zaccaro may have had an even tougher time than Ferraro, who was born in Newburgh, N.Y., leaving the community where he had spent his whole life. For years, he went to many of the same community businesses. The barbers at Dominick’s Hairstyling for Men at 71-51 Austin St. had cut his hair since he was 6.
Life in Forest Hills began for Ferraro when she and Zaccaro, a real estate investor, moved into 22 Deepdene Rd. in Forest Hills Gardens in January 1966. She stayed home to care for her three children, Donna, John, and Laura until 1974 when she walked a few blocks from her home and got a job working in the Queens district attorney’s office on Queens Boulevard.
Ferraro had earned a law degree from Fordham University at night in the late 1950s while teaching at PS 85 in Astoria before her children were born. At the Queens DA’s office she started the Special Victims Bureau, overseeing the prosecution of sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence and violent crimes against senior citizens.
Ferraro stepped fully into the public eye in 1978 when she was elected to Congress in New York’s 9th District, where she served for six years until she ran for vice president in 1984. Ferraro was the first woman on a presidential ticket and the only one to run for vice president until Winona LaDuke teamed up with Ralph Nader in the 1999 election.
Although Ferraro and Democratic presidential running mate Walter Mondale were defeated by GOP incumbents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the Forest Hills woman remained active in public service. President Clinton appointed her to lead the United States delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1993.
She also served as a board member of the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs and as a member of the Council of Foreign Relations during the Clinton administration. Ferraro also lost runs for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1998.
Ferraro also has remained visible outside of public service. She has written two books, “Ferraro: My Story,” about the 1984 elections, and “Geraldine Ferraro: Changing History.” From 1996 to 1998 she was a co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” a political talk show, and more recently, she was a political analyst for FOX News.
Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.