He famously said "the days of wine and roses are over" when he took office in 1975. Admirers of former Gov. Hugh Carey say he never quite got enough credit during his term for rescuing the state and city from financial ruin. NBC New York's government affairs reporter Melissa Russo takes a look back at his life and political legacy.
Former New York Gov. Hugh Carey has died at the age of 92, his family announced Sunday.
Carey passed away peacefully at his summer home on Shelter Island early Sunday morning, according to the family's statement.
Carey served as New York's 51st governor from 1975 through 1982. He led the rescue effort that brought New York City back from the brink of bankruptcy during its 1975 fiscal crisis.
Before serving as the state's chief executive, Carey spent 14 years as a Brooklyn congressman, pushing for job programs and increases in welfare and unemployment benefits.
"Gov. Carey never backed away from a tough fight, but he also knew that governing meant respecting the Legislature and respecting members of the opposite party," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Sunday. "His administration was not marked with partisan fights or ideological gridlock. He used his charisma, wit, and intellect to succeed.
"His administration was one that will be remembered for its remarkable achievements and superlative competence in the operation of government, as well as the governor's energy, enthusiasm and love of New York and for all New Yorkers," Cuomo said.
New York City's finances were in such a mess in early 1975 that banks refused to lend it more money. Carey enlisted support for a rescue plan that included strict oversight of all the city's spending. He then won federal loan guarantees from the Ford administration that secured the plan.
"He was a man who took control, who refused to be pessimistic about the future of New York," veteran NBC New York reporter Gabe Pressman recalled of Carey's leadership during the fiscal crisis.
The plan included the creation of a unified coalition of labor leaders, managers and financiers, to steer New York City away from bankruptcy. Carey was credited for finding strong leaders to lead the rescue, a plan that seemed innovative at the time, said Pressman.
Carey signed the landmark Willowbrook Consent Decree and his administration initiated the I Love New York campaign and The Empire State Games, among other endeavors.
Carey was a decorated veteran of World War II; his unit liberated the Nordhausen concentration camp from Nazi Germany and he retired from military service with the rank of Colonel. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Award, Bronze Star and the Croix de Guerre amongst other honors.
A member of The Four Horsemen, a group of Irish-American politicians including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Carey strived for peaceful solutions to the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Carey was a graduate of St. John's University and St. John's School of Law.
Hugh Leo Carey married the late Helen Owen Carey on Feb. 27, 1947, in The Lady Chapel of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the two raised 14 children together.
Carey is survived by 11 children, 25 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Carey was pre-deceased by his late wife Helen in 1974, and three sons Peter, Hugh Jr., and Paul. His parents were Margaret Collins and Dennis Carey.
Gov. Cuomo directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of Carey until after Carey's funeral.