The governor, who is seeking reelection for a third term, is riding high in the latest polls, with some surveys putting him 15 percent ahead of his rivals, Democrat Carl McCall and Independent Tom Golisano.
Already on Woodside’s 61st Street on Sunday, shop windows were sporting Pataki signs in anticipation of his visit, as well as signs in Spanish reading “Amigos de Pataki.”
And on Monday, when the governor took the No. 7 train to Woodside from Manhattan, a crowd of more than 200 was there to meet him. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani came with him.
Shane Moynagh, owner of Shane’s bakery on 61st Street, met the governor at a breakfast along with other local traders.
Moynagh said that Pataki, who is deeply proud of his Irish roots, told him that he had recently acquired an Irish passport on the strength of his maternal grandmother, Agnes Lynch, who was an immigrant from County Louth.
Pataki’s time as governor has been marked by his strong interest in Irish and Irish-American affairs: the governor supported the introduction of the Irish Famine curriculum into New York schools and he was instrumental in bringing about the dramatic Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, which was opened in July by himself and Ireland’s President Mary McAleese.
Woodside resident and Republican party activist Pat Hurley was on the walkabout with Pataki and said that the governor was clearly a good choice for Woodside, a neighborhood with many small businesses: “bars, bakeries and bodegas, and he has a better record on business,” Hurley said.
Recently the area has experienced problems with gypsy cabs blocking streets while waiting to pick up fares. There have been complaints from small business owners that graffiti in the area has increased. There have also been anecdotal reports of violence against people going home from bars but so far no one has spoken to newspapers.
After listening to issues presented by local traders, Pataki also gave a commitment to remain actively interested in the Northern Irish peace process as well as the plight of undocumented immigrants.
But the issue on the minds of many small business owners on Monday morning was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed smoking ban, which many felt would punish the local bar business. More than eight Irish bars can be found within a block or two of the 61st Street subway stop.
Pataki stressed that the proposed ban was a New York City issue but said that he would bear the issue in mind.
Hurley said that he thought the proposed ban was a bad idea, even as a non-smoker.
“Let the market rule,” he said. “If people want to open non-smoking bars, let them, and if people want to smoke in a bar that allows smoking, let them. There should be no place for government in this issue.”
Said Moynagh: “[Pataki] spent a while in my bakery and took note of the full Irish breakfast and the Irish products. Real estate agent Noel McGuinness was there as well, and he, being a County Louth man, knew exactly where the governor’s grandmother was from.”
Hurley said that locals responded well to the governor, who spent more than an hour talking to the public before continuing with his day of canvassing, which included a stop at Grand Central Terminal to shake hands with commuters.