By Bill Parry
Longtime state Sen. Frank Padavan died Tuesday, according to an announcement from the Queens County GOP.
Padavan died of a heart attack at New York Presbyterian Hospital, according to a source. He was 83.
A Republican, Padavan went to Albany in 1972 as the state senator from the 11th District, a seat he would hold for 38 years representing a wide swath of Queens, including Bayside, Bay Terrace, Queens Village, Bellerose, Flushing, Whitestone, Little Neck, College Point and Jamaica Estates.
“I was friends with Frank for 38 years from his very first campaign. I was the state director of the Conservative Party at the time and he was an unknown quantity but we liked him from the start,” Serphin Maltese said. “He was a towering figure in the state Senate. For 38 years he was an independent voice in the Senate with a great amount of credibility. That’s why he kept getting re-elected in a district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans three to one.”
Padavan fought hard for mental health patient rights, education, fairness in the criminal justice system and he was a fierce opponent of gambling.
“He was anti-gambling and anti-lottery, that was one of his hallmarks,” Maltese said. “He thought the government was victimizing the middle class and poor people by picking their pockets.”
Padavan spent more than half of his life representing the people of northeast Queens before losing to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in the November 2010 general election.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former State Sen. Frank Padavan,” Avella said. “He will be well remembered as someone who fought diligently for northeast Queens and served our community well.”
During the Ed Koch administration, Padavan put a stop to a men’s shelter at the Creedmor Campus that had homeowners in his district on a selling spree. Padavan filed a lawsuit against the state that forced its closure.
The shelter was subsequently replaced by a residential care facility for the mentally challenged.
In the late 1970s, homeowners in northeast Queens resisted group homes for adults with developmental disabilities in their neighborhoods, but Padavan saw the benefits as a human right.
In 1978, New York’s Padavan Law passed, preventing communities from excluding group homes unless the area is already saturated or a better site in the same community could be found.
Matt Zebatto, the assistant executive director of Life’s WORC, called the law revolutionary.
“It made it possible for people with special needs to live in a residential setting in a community as a family instead of living in large institutions,” Zebatto said.
In 1998, Padavan helped acquire state land to build the Glen Oaks school compound which would become home to The Queens High School of Teaching, PS/IS 266 and PS/IS 208.
In 2008, the city Department of Education renamed the complex The Frank Padavan Campus.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said he was deeply saddened by Padavan’s passing.
“Sen. Padavan was a staunch advocate for his northeast Queens district, and a fighter for the forgotten middle class,” Ulrich said.
Before serving his long tenure in Albany, Padavan earned his degree in electrical engineering and spent 30 years as a reserve member of the United States Army. He then served as Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings for four years.
“I am sorry to hear of Senator Frank Padavan’s passing,” state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) said. “He will be remembered for his service to his county at all levels of government.”
Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who held office from 1986 to 2002, remembered her friend and colleague Tuesday afternoon.
“He did an enormous wonderful service for the borough of Queens, the state of New York and for the city of New York,” Shulman told TimesLedger Newspapers. “He was a hard worker who did very well for his constituents.”
Padavan was predeceased by his wife Johanne and he is survived by two adult children.
“My sympathies go out to his children Alison and Scott,” Maltese said. “They’re going to miss him terribly.”
Padavan will be waked at the Gleason Funeral Home in Whitestone Saturday Oct. 13 between 2 and 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. with a religious service Sunday at 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to a number of organizations he supported.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr