Long after Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has retired from public life, his name will live on.
Throughout the Capital Region, buildings, halls and theaters bear the senator’s name. The best-known is the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium — often referred to as “the Joe” — at Hudson Valley Community College, but numerous smaller organizations have named a room or a wing after Bruno.
There’s the Joseph L. Bruno Theatre at The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy and the Joseph. L Bruno Family Resource Center at the Commission on Economic Opportunity in Troy. Saratoga Spa State Park features the Joseph L. Bruno Pavilion, and in Hoosick Falls, families gather at the Joseph L. Bruno Community Park. At WMHT, the public television station in Troy, there’s the Joseph L. Bruno Broadcast Operations Center.
It’s unclear just how many buildings and structures are named after Bruno because no one has ever kept a tally, according to Jim Church, director of district communications for the Brunswick Republican.
“We have not kept track,” he said.
“There have been so many things over the years,” said Kathy Sheehan, registrar for the Rensselaer County Historical Society. “I know of different rooms at social service organizations. No one has kept track of all those things.”
Sheehan said Bruno’s constituents appreciate what the senator has done for the county. Naming rooms and buildings after him is a way to show their appreciation, she said.
“There are so many smaller organizations, libraries, youth organizations, places like that,” she said. “A few thousand dollars made all the difference to them.”
Sheehan said residents have always appreciated how approachable and dedicated Bruno is.
“He’s not the kind of guy who would have gone out of his way to have something named after him,” she said. “He’s not vain enough that he would have said, ‘I want my name on this.’ ”
Of course, not everyone views the practice of naming buildings after public officials so benignly.
Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the practice of naming buildings after public officials while they are still in office is a new and troubling phenomenon.
“In the 1980s, I don’t recall anything being named after anyone who was in office,” he said. “From our perspective, it’s a horrible practice. It’s a way to use public monies to promote the legislators. When you drive up to [the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium] you think, ‘That’s great. He built this.’ ”
One state legislator, Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D-Rochester, was so troubled by the practice that he introduced legislation this year that would have barred the practice of naming buildings after public officials in cases where the public official had directed public money to the facility. It failed to pass.