SHELTER ISLAND, N.Y.(PIX11)—Former Governor Hugh Carey is being hailed by Democrats and Republicans as the man who saved New York from financial ruin. He died Sunday at his summer home on Shelter Island at the age of 92.
The state's 51st governor is being remembered as a no-nonsense leader who got things done when New York needed it most. Former Mayor Ed Koch, who endured difficult economic times during the Carey years, praised him as a leader who "had the best attributes of a public official."
When he began his first of two terms in 1975, Carey made it clear in his inaugural address that he meant business. He declared, "The government will begin today the painful, difficult process of learning to live within its means." His actions saved New York City from the brink of bankruptcy. Although he initially got resistance from Washington that led to that infamous Daily News headline that read: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD," Carey eventually got bailout funds from Congress.
In announcing his death, Governor Andrew Cuomo hailed Carey as the man who "looked to statesmanship and compromise rather than partisanship and parochialism to get the state's financial house in order."
Ed Koch noted, "His genius was he recognized talent and that he was able to get the public to support the tough measures to save the state and the city."
Born in Brooklyn, Carey was a liberal Democrat. He was also pragmatic. As governor, he pushed for job programs, increases in welfare and unemployment benefits. In 1977 he began a major tax cut program. Senator Chuck Schumer, who once occupied the seat Carey held in Congress for 14 years, paid tribute when he asserted, "Hugh Carey created a legacy that few other New Yorkers can claim."
Junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand added, "The way he brought the people together to lead our great state through an economic crisis and rescue New York City from the brink of financial collapse should serve as an inspiration for all elected officials today."
Mayor Bloomberg said of him, "Given the national events of the past week, his loss is a poignant reminder of how badly we need more elected leaders with the character and courage of Hugh Carey."
Former Mayor Koch expressed the hope that he "will be remembered as the greatest governor since Alfred E. Smith."
Carey's name is being immortalized. The state legislature has previously approved the renaming of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in his honor.
In his years out of office, Governor Carey became a personal friend. While he's being remembered for his political accomplishments, I will also remember him for his uncanny wit and his charismatic style. He was a compelling story teller who loved to tell jokes.
Carey once told an interviewer that he'd like to be remembered as somebody who cared a great deal about people. No doubt, that will remain as part of his legacy.
He is survived by six sons, five daughters, 25 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.