New York's (Sort of) No. 2

Gov. David Paterson appointed former MTA chief Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor – a role that would enable him to break the tie between the warring Democrats and Republicans that has stymied state politics for a month.  But the move should only further complicate the ongoing war in Albany.

Ravitch was the brains behind the transit-rescue plan that called for fare hikes on subways and tolls on the free East River bridges. Paterson brought in the 76-year-old civic leader, who has been credited with rescuing the poorly funded and maintained MTA in the 1970s, to revive the floundering agency again last year.

A one-time political aspirant, Ravitch went up against David Dinkins in the 1989 Democratic primary. He received a mere 5 percent of the votes, yet called it a "wonderful experience" at the time, albeit one he would not attempt again.

While Ravitch's rep in the political arena may not have been solid enough to get him elected, he has a proven track record of being the go-to Mr. Fix-It for a host of other problems he's taken on over his career. 

Even former President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized Ravitch's prowess when it came to crafting and executing solutions to big problems. He appointed the businessman, who was heading up the HRH Construction Corporation at the time, as a member of the United States Commission on Urban Problems in 1966. 

Ravitch spent nearly 17 years at the helm of the HRH, helping to build more than 45,000 units of affordable housing. In the mid-1970s, Ravitch saved Urban Development Corp. – a state financing agency now known as the Empire State Development Corp. – from what appeared to be a sure fate of bankruptcy at the time. He turned the dying organization into a prosperous authority, completed tens of thousands of low-income apartments and recouped the state's credit. 

Impressed by his success as a reformer, then Gov. Hugh Carey appointed Ravitch chairman of the dysfunctional MTA in 1975. Ravitch convinced the state and city to inject billions of dollars into the system as part of a long-term plan. By the time he left the post, he was widely credited with making major improvements throughout the system.

The only black mark on his career as MTA chief was the 11-day transit strike in 1980, which critics blamed on Ravitch, saying he had mismanaged a union contract. A similar blight marked his job as labor negotiator for Major League Baseball owners, but that 233-day strike was much more devastating and ended up cancelling the World Series. 

A real estate honcho, Ravitch was named the "Housing Person of the Year" by the National Housing Conference in 2003. More recently, Ravitch has been a partner in a Manhattan law firm, Ravitch, Rice & Co. He also chairs both the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust's Board of Trustees and the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust's Advisory Board.
The divorced father of two, Ravitch got his degrees at Columbia College and Yale University Law School.

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