Politicians past and present — and of every political stripe — paid tribute Thursday to former Gov. Hugh Carey, who led New York out of an economic crisis in the 1970s.
The seven-term congressman, who was governor from 1975 to 1982, died Sunday at the age of 92. The funeral procession arrived at the iconic cathedral accompanied by NYPD pipes and drums. State police escorted Carey's flag-draped casket, carried in a U.S. Army hearse, as the former governor's children and grandchildren followed on foot.
Hugh Carey, the Man Who Saved New York
Tourists and New Yorkers alike gathered along the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue to watch the procession in remembrance of the man who rescued the state from the edge of fiscal calamity.
Former Gov. Mario Cuomo called Carey "the most effective governor in our modern history."
"He, in fact, saved New York City in the '70s," said Cuomo. "When he saved New York City, he saved New York state. He protected the honor of the whole country. Imagine what Moscow would have said if New York City went bankrupt."
Cardinal Edward Egan spoke about Carey's continually outstretched hand and reminisced about a time he personally sought advice from the former governor.
"Four years ago I found myself in a predicament. I went to see him," Egan said. "I shall never forget his reply. 'You got it. What is it?' For most people, the 'You got it' would come after the 'What is it?'"
Carey, a liberal Democrat, received bipartisan praise for his leadership.
Andrew Cuomo, the current Democratic governor and Mario Cuomo's son, sat near Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's now an independent. Former New York City Mayor Edward Koch, a Democrat, arrived at the funeral with a Republican, former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.
"I liked working with him," said Koch, praising Carey's people skills. "He had a terrific sense of humor. And he had a marvelous Irish tenor."
Carey took office on Jan. 1, 1975, amid the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. New York City was nearing bankruptcy, threatening to bring the Empire State down with it.
Declaring the "days of wine and roses are over," Carey took drastic action, seizing control of the city's finances, engineering more than $1 billion in state loans to bail out the city and mustering the backing needed to reorganize its shaky finances and restore confidence.
He then won federal loan guarantees from the reluctant Republican administration of President Gerald Ford that secured the plan. Ford's hesitancy made front-page news, immortalized in the paraphrased New York Daily News headline: "Ford To City: Drop Dead."
Carey also campaigned successfully for appointment, rather than election, of judges to the state's highest court, a move that was seen as insulating the Court of Appeals from politics.
His accomplishments were sometimes overshadowed by gaffes, however, such as an offer to drink a glass of toxic PCBs to downplay contamination of a state office building.
His 1981 marriage to millionaire Evangeline Gouletas was troubled from the start. Carey's new bride had said she was twice married and her first husband had died; the truth was she had been married three times and all her exes were still alive. Carey and Gouletas divorced in 1989.
Before he became governor, Carey spent 14 years in Congress representing his Brooklyn district.
Hugh Leo Carey was born in Brooklyn in 1919. He left St. John's College in 1939 and fought in the infantry in World War II with the 104th Division in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Carey and his first wife, Helen, had 14 children. Two sons died in a car accident in 1969 and Helen, who had suffered from cancer, died in 1974.