Fabian Palomino
Fabian Palomino ()

Fabian Palomino, a close friend and adviser to former governor Mario Cuomo who once served as the chief executive officer of the Javits Convention Center, died Wednesday. He was 90.

Palomino died at his home in Battery Park City, said Louis Rosenthal, who hired Palomino in 1996 to work at his Brooklyn law office as of counsel. Rosenthal said Palomino had been hospitalized recently for pneumonia and had been in failing health for more than a year.

Cuomo on Thursday said his friend, whom he met in the 1950s as a fellow student at St. John’s University School of Law, was a “very sweet guy” who could “knock you on your tush in a lawsuit” with his tenaciousness.

“He was a wonderful combination of intelligence, sense of humor and sweetness,” said Cuomo, governor from 1983 to 1994 and is now of counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. “Very few people had the privilege I had to work with him, play with him, to make jokes with him, to construct legal arguments with him—all of this while he served his government in an extraordinary way.”

Cuomo added that he wished there was a better word than “friend” to describe his and his family’s affection for Palomino.

Palomino and Cuomo clerked at the state Court of Appeals for judge Adrian Burke, Palomino from 1955 to 1957 and Cuomo from 1956 to 1958. The two shared an apartment while working in Albany on court business.

Palomino was later counsel in the Assembly and for former Gov. Hugh Carey before becoming special counsel to Cuomo following his election as governor. Cuomo said he proposed appointing Palomino to a judgeship when he was governor, but Palomino declined.

In addition to relying on Palomino’s advice on most legal matters, Cuomo appointed Palomino as chief executive of the Javits Center in 1991.

Appellate Division, Second Department, Justice John Leventhal said he was a student of Palomino’s at Brooklyn Law School, where Palomino was a longtime faculty member, both as a professor and later as an adjunct.

“He knew everything,” Leventhal remembered. “He could tell the conversion rate of rubles to dollars. He could put together furniture. He was like a man for all seasons.”

Rosenthal, a former Civil Court judge, said that in his later years, Palomino could not walk into a courthouse without running into former law students he did not know. “The lawyers would come up to him and say, ‘Professor Palomino, I’m glad to see you. You were really right about this or that,’” Rosenthal said Thursday. “This happened countless times. And not just lawyers—judges, too.”

Palomino is survived by his daughters, Kathryn and Jeanne, and son Mark Palomino, a senior counsel in the New York City Corporation Counsel’s Office. He wife, Margaret, died in 1987.

Calling hours were set for Sunday at 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Ave. in Manhattan. A funeral mass will be Monday at 10 a.m. at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, 908 Park Ave. in Manhattan.