Kruger wouldn’t admit or deny he had a romantic relationship with Turano. Nor would Turano. It’s a question they refused to answer.
“I love the Turano family, and the Turano family loves me,” Kruger said.
All the loving-kindness Kruger showed to the Turanos had an opposite. “There’s some Jekyll and Hyde there,” said Frank Seddio, a former assemblyman who has known Kruger for four decades and looked on as Kruger earned a reputation in Albany for ruthlessness. While elderly constituents came to depend on Kruger and his staff for services, it’s hard to find a colleague who has anything good to say about him. One lawmaker who has known Kruger for decades said he was surprised to learn Kruger was capable of displaying emotion. “The Carl Kruger I know does not cry,” the lawmaker said. “The Carl Kruger I know is stone cold.” Said another lawmaker: “One character flaw that most politicians have is that we go into office because we feel the need to be liked. Carl feels the need to be feared.”
Over the years, Kruger managed to isolate himself from those he was once close to. While members of the Jefferson Club still carried his petitions—after all, as Senate Finance chair, he had been the most powerful official in South Brooklyn—Kruger rarely went into the club anymore.
Some old hands tell the cancer story. In 1980, Kruger was indicted with another civic booster for allegedly extorting money from a local builder, a Holocaust survivor, and his partner. Before the trial, Kruger claimed he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Seddio remembers driving Kruger to the hospital with operatives from the Jefferson Club and waiting in the car for Kruger to come out after meeting with his doctor. At trial, the charges against Kruger were dropped, as, apparently, were Kruger’s cancer treatments. Some thought he invented the sickness, perhaps to drum up sympathy from friends and colleagues at the Club.
“We were pretty stupid to believe him,” said an operative who worked with Kruger in the old days. “You had to believe in the power of Saint Christopher to believe that cancer could be cured that quickly.”
Kruger disputed the story, saying he never had cancer, never claimed to, and suggested those telling it have vendettas against him. Or don’t like him. “Carl is a guy that doesn’t follow the flock,” said Seddio. “He does not go out for popularity. He goes out for what he thinks is right. The problem is, he’s innately nasty. He can be a great friend or a terrible enemy.”
In politics, achieving power doesn’t always mean being a nice and dependable guy. Kruger studied under one of the party’s most beloved practitioners, Tony Genovesi, who would come to regret helping push Kruger into office.
In 1994, a seat opened up. Genovesi lobbied party elders to put Kruger on the ballot. The race was a farce. Turnout for the special election was an abysmal 2.5 percent. Kruger collected only 3,044 votes for the win and started making the commute to Albany.
Less than a month after Kruger took office, a major issue for Genovesi was coming up for a vote. Genovesi had been such a staunch opponent of the death penalty that his office was once picketed. In Albany, Genovesi expected that Kruger would vote with him. After all, Genovesi had been instrumental in Kruger’s career, and Kruger’s vote was crucial.
Kruger agonized. Many of his constituents were vocal in their support for the death penalty. And centrist Democrats were supporting it. Many also suspected that Kruger was looking for a way to proclaim his independence from Genovesi. In the end, Kruger decided to vote against his mentor. The next day, Genovesi walked into the Senate chamber and waited until the vote was called.
“I want you to look at me while you fuck me,” Genovesi told him.
As a freshmen senator, Kruger was expected to befriend other Democrats. Instead, he kept to himself. “Socially, he’s a very strange cat,” said Marty Connor, who ran the Democratic conference during Kruger’s early years in the Senate. “I’ve known Carl for over 30 years and never had lunch or dinner with him.”
In Albany, Kruger spent his free time wandering the aisles of Home Depot, looking for things to help fix up 139 Bassett Avenue, the Turanos’ enormous waterfront mansion in South Brooklyn. While their Mill Basin neighborhood is dotted with McMansions, the home the Turanos purchased beats them all. From the street, it looks like a cruise ship, with many stories, balconies, railings, glass bricks. It’s a legendary property—its former owner was Anthony Casso, a Lucchese-family underboss who was known as “Gaspipe” and once proclaimed a “homicidal maniac.” Among dozens of other murders, Casso even ordered the hit of the house’s architect.