Carey Saved City From Bankruptcy
In his eight years as governor of New York (1975-1982), Hugh Carey was put to the test before the
he responded magnificently, leading the emotionally charged fight that saved New York City from bankruptcy.
Carey's becoming governor was also noteworthy because, being followed into that office by Mario Cuomo, it marked the first time in the history of the state that two successive governors were both graduates of one of Queens' finest educational institutions, St. John's University in Hillcrest.
Carey attended the university from 1947 to 1951, continuing the education he had interrupted to serve in the Army in World War II. He graduated with a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree.
Cuomo earned his bachelor's degree at the school in 1953, so he and Carey attended the school together briefly. Like Carey, Cuomo received his law degree at St. John's in 1956. He also tied for top class honors with Carey.
The former seven-term Congressmember from Brooklyn ended his reign as the state's chief executive shortly after the Western Queens Gazette first saw the light of day in 1982.
As the incumbent governor at the time when this newspaper was launched, he is the first of four governors that are being profiled in the 25th anniversary edition of this newspaper. The others are Mario M. Cuomo and George F. Pataki, both of whom held office during the Gazette's first quarter-century of service to the people of Queens.
The present governor, Eliot Spitzer, will also be included in these special stories as the Gazette examines the new governor's future plans for running the state's affairs and moves forward as well as looking back.
Carey's dramatic campaign to save New York City from bankruptcy during the administration of Mayor Abraham D. Beame will forever be remembered because of the huge headline in the New York Daily News on Oct. 30, 1975, "Ford To City: Drop Dead".
The giant headline topped a story about a meeting between then President Gerald Ford, Carey and Beame at which the New York officials had asked for federal financial assistance to stave off the city's impending bankruptcy.
Ford initially refused their plea for financial aid, but he never used the words in the News headline, although it appeared he did. Later on, Ford changed his position and did sign the legislation which saved New York City from its dire predicament.
The story was revived briefly late last December following Ford's death. In reprints of stories under the "Drop Dead" headline, Carey was described as "embittered" by Ford's initial attitude as he expressed concern that the state would also go bankrupt if the city did. Carey also lambasted Ford in the reprinted story.
But in commenting on Ford's death some 30 years after the climactic events, Carey, now 87, characterized Ford as "a great friend of New York and one who contributed to its current stable and solvent existence".
Declaring that the Republican president should be remembered for having done the right thing, Carey said, "He knew enough to rise above politics when he helped New York."
Carey said the News' "Drop Dead" headline played a key role in building public pressure to influence Ford. It also helped to get Carey re-elected in 1978 as he ran on a record of fiscal management, tax cuts and saving the city and state from bankruptcy. He defeated then Assembly Speaker Perry B. Duryea, now deceased.
Despite all the favorable publicity from the bankruptcy issue, Carey was not doing well in public opinion polls as the end of his first term approached in early 1978. This invited a challenge from Lieutenant Governor Mary Anne Krupsak.
Carey turned to Mario Cuomo, who was Carey's secretary of state and had gained some statewide recognition by his activities in that office. Cuomo had been considering a race for state comptroller, but decided instead to accept Carey's offer.
Carey won the primary against Krupsak and then scored a come-from-behind victory against Duryea. However, when the Carey- Cuomo team settled in to serve out Carey's second term, relations between the erstwhile personal friends had soured for reasons that will be described in our story on Governor Cuomo.
His second inaugural address, heralded "a new era of opportunity" for the state "based on the same bipartisan and private sector cooperation that saved New York City and the state's credit and credibility." Through long-range planning, more tax cuts and the creation of more jobs, Carey said, the state would move forward.
He boasted, "We balanced the budget, preserved our cities, reduced the crushing burden of taxation that had darkened our hope for economic growth and our wellbeing."
Carey also welcomed Cuomo as his new Lieutenant Governor and as his new partner in government.
But by the start of the third year of his second term, his relations with Cuomo would sour. On Jan. 15, 1982, Carey announced he would not run for a third term. He thus became a lame duck and concluded his governorship in rather quiet fashion, except for all the political intrigue that was unfolding as his would-be successors lined up to try to succeed him.