Sunday, January 25, 2009

Albany Times-Union Goes There

Whenever I visit my friend who lives in Albany and the subject of Kirsten Gillibrand comes up, she always tells me that "everyone knows" that Gillibrand's grandmother Polly Noonan was Erastus Corning's mistress. (Erastus Corning was the long-time mayor of Albany and the leader of Albany's Democratic machine.) I have never written that on my blog because, you know, I don't want to be sued for libel! The Albany Times-Union delves into the rumors today.

Political legacy arives on stage
Kirsten Gillibrand received her first experiences in Albany politics from her grandmother, the legendary "Polly" Noonan

Mayor Corning [] was an intimate of Polly Noonans for more than four decades.

Gillibrands parents and other family members have described Corning as a father figure who taught the Noonan kids how to hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor pursuits. The mayor was a regular guest of Noonan and her husband at the Noonans house. Corning and Noonan frequently attended political functions, dinners and dances together and the mayor occasionally joined the Noonan on family vacations.

Even on Gillibrands heady day that resembled something of a coronation, her family members could not escape the unquenchable rumors that Corning and Noonans long association produced offspring. It remains one of Albanys great abiding political myths, a mystery wrapped in an enigma, likely never to be resolved.

Until her death in 2003 at age 87, Noonan bluntly dismissed the rumors with salty-tongued retorts. Corning deftly deflected such speculation with his cool, urbane personality. He died in 1983 at age 73.

Noonan and Corning each remained married to their respective spouses throughout their lives. If there was a romance, family members say, the two took the truth to the grave with them.

"I don't think there is any truth to that. Its pure conjecture," Gillibrand's father said.


Corning and Noonan became close in 1937, when Corning, 28, was a Democratic state senator who headed the Scenic Hudson Commission and Noonan, 22, was hired as the commission's secretary. He was a product of Groton and Yale; she was a tenacious Scot who touted her tartan but did not have a college degree.

Giving weight to the rumors that their union "produced offspring" is that fact that Corning left the bulk of his estate to Noonan's children (that would include Gillibrand's mother.)

Mayor Erastus Corning
Albany Icon, Albany Enigma

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