Ground zero for gov meltdown – Local reaction to gov scandal

By Thomas Tracy

Claiming that there was no one better qualified to run the state in these tumultuous times, Brooklyn legislators and political leaders are applauding the elevation of David Paterson to Governor now that Eliot Spitzer has stepped down in disgrace. “We love David Paterson,” Flatbush State Senator Kevin Parker said last week as he and his fellow Albany legislators still reeled from Spitzer’s departure from politics after being connected to an upscale prostitution ring. On Monday, the state legislature stood in rapt attention as Paterson was sworn in as New York’s 55th Governor. “This transition today is an historic message to the world: That we live by the same values that we profess, and we are a government of laws, not individuals,” Paterson told those assembled, without specifically commenting on Spitzer’s downfall. Spitzer, identified by The New York Times as “Client 9” in a federal indictment, has been accused of paying thousands for potentially high-risk sex sessions with young women who were part of a ring known as the “Emperor's Club.” As this paper went to press, no criminal charges had been filed against the governor and former attorney general, who built his career as a no-nonsense crime fighter by taking down corrupt Wall Street moguls — and shattering prostitution rings. Last Wednesday Spitzer announced that he was resigning as governor. “I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work,” he said in a brief statement, adding that he was “deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me.” Those words left the door open for the Brooklyn-born, Harlem-bred Paterson, who will be New York’s first African -American governor, as well as the state’s first legally blind governor. “[Paterson’s] smart and has been in Albany for years,” Flatbush Assembly member Nick Perry explained. “There is no one more prepared for being governor than David Paterson.” That love was shared all the way downstate Wednesday, where members of the Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Democratic club, said that that he “has proven to be a solid ally of our community” and has championed LGBT causes in the past, particularly on the issue of gay marriage. “We warmly welcome him into the governor's office,” said Lambda co-president Terrance Knox. “We know we have a friend in David Paterson and he can expect both our support and encouragement as he seeks to move our state from turmoil to unity,” added co-president Dan Willson. Borough President Marty Markowitz also praised Paterson’s elevation to governor. “I was honored to work with our new governor when he was elected to the Senate,” said Markowitz. “He’s going to be great. I wish David the best of luck.” Chris Owens, the newly elected president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, called Paterson “a worthy champion of New York State. “New Yorkers are indeed fortunate that the incoming Governor is a capable, wise and experienced individual,” said Owens, who immediately requested that Paterson “place a moratorium on all state support of Atlantic Yards until and unless all environmental and community issues have been addressed.” “This is clearly not the time for very questionable expenditures at the state and city level to take place on a project fraught with legal, practical and moral challenges,” Owens said. If Spitzer buried his political career Wednesday, then last Monday’s Brooklyn Night in Albany was the closest thing he had to an Irish wake. “We needed a break,” said Fort Greene State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “Everyone was walking around all day saying, I need a drink!” As the swing band “Dem Brooklyn Bums” played on and the booze flowed freely at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce-sponsored celebration — a yearly event held at Albany’s Egg concert hall — borough elected officials kibitzed about Spitzer’s impending ouster, but wanted to focus more on his family rather than his alleged “pay to play” practices. “Wives and children aren’t elected to office, so we must always be concerned and compassionate when it comes down to situations like this and hope that the family overcomes whatever they need to overcome,” Adams explained, as he noshed on a Nathan’s hot dog. The news of Spitzer’s $1,000-an-hour dalliance — which Adams said he “couldn’t believe” — shouldn’t overshadow legislative matters, he said. “The name of the game is the budget, it still has to go and we still have to rock and roll because the state has to move on this,” said Adams. “The suddenness of it left everyone shell-shocked, simply from the fact that Eliot Spitzer has for so very long preached from high on the mountaintop … this truly underscores the frailty of the human person,” said Mill Basin/Sheepshead Bay State Senator Carl Kruger, who added that Spitzer’s alleged philandering “bordered on the suicidal.” “I would hope that the governor would get the treatment he may very well need,” he said. “This is a deep-rooted psychological problem; it’s not just a sexual tryst. I just hope that the rank-and-file New Yorker doesn’t suffer.” Legislators with few answers about Spitzer said they’ve been inundated with calls from throughout the borough, state and country. Some even got calls from across the globe. “I’ve become an instant celebrity,” joked Brighton Beach Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, who said that he has received several calls from friends and colleagues from throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. “They say to me, ‘People say we have corruption …’ and I tell them, ‘This isn’t corruption. This is something else.’” “The timing couldn’t have been worse for the State of New York,” said Bay Ridge/Marine Park State Senator Marty Golden, who also said that Spitzer’s family was in his thoughts. “The budget process has to move on. That’s the next issue.” Golden said that he hoped Paterson would take a different approach to the budget than the “tax-and-spend” plan Spitzer had proposed for this year. “I don’t think anybody wants taxes and nobody wants spending,” he said. “If he lowered taxes and made it possible for the people of New York to live and have a family here, that would be a great way for him to start his new regime.” “I hope he chooses to work in partnership with the Legislature as we try to reduce spending, cut taxes, and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” Golden said. Word of Spitzer’s involvement with the Emperor’s Club shortly after its three leaders – which included 32-year-old Fort Greene resident Tameka Lewis — were taken into custody last Thursday for promoting prostitution and money laundering. Emperor Club prostitutes, who could earn up to $4,500 an hour depending on their “diamond rating,” serviced clients all across the country, as well as Europe. As the investigation progressed, FBI agents raided three Brooklyn locations in their search for evidence, including Lewis’ home on Clinton Avenue near Fulton Street. Federal prosecutors charge that it was Lewis, described as a booking agent, was the one who set Spitzer up with his diamond girl. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, officials said. — With Michèle De Meglio

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