Call the community board in the Harlem district David Paterson used to represent, mention his name and on the other line comes a chuckle and the word “comedian.” Ask a political observer what the new governor is like and they say “amiable,” “charismatic” or “conciliatory.” Wonder how the city could fare under a Paterson administration and some New York City officials say they have high hopes.
So who is this Albany veteran, besides being the state’s first black and legally blind governor and a so-called ally to the State Legislature?
Paterson represented the 30th State Senate district, which comprises most of Harlem and parts of the Upper West Side, for more than two decades. Born in Brooklyn, he grew up on Long Island, graduated from Columbia in three years and then from Hofstra Law School in the 1970s. Following in the footsteps of his father — longtime politician Basil A. Paterson — Paterson ran for the State Senate in 1985 and eventually became the body’s minority leader.
He held onto the seat until joining Spitzer’s ticket as a candidate for the mostly ceremonial post of lieutenant governor in 2006, shocking some Albany observers since he was in line to become the Senate’s majority leader should Democrats take back the body.
Aside from citing his congenial, amiable outlook, some say the new governor — who is scheduled to be sworn in at 1 p.m. today — is more progressive than Spitzer and more likely to get things accomplished given his good relationship with the legislature’s leaders.
“You’ll see a savvy guy that gets along with the legislature and will be able to put through more of an agenda than Spitzer, because he has a better relationship (with the legislature),” said George Arzt, president of George Arzt Communication, a political consulting firm.
So far many of Paterson’s priorities remain a mystery. Faced with a budget deadline two weeks away, Paterson said he would first concentrate on getting Albany back to business, which includes compromising on a budget with the State Senate and Assembly by April 1.
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