Last week, I was proud to vote for a bill that would rename the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel for Hugh Carey, who was our governor from 1974 to 1986. Before that, he represented Brooklyn in the House of Representatives for 14 years.
Hugh Carey was no mere politician. When he became governor, the city was on the verge of bankruptcy. In his first State of the State address in 1975, Carey proclaimed that “the times of plenty, the days of wine and roses, are over.”
Carey cajoled the state legislature to take decisive action. He understood that cutting taxes, not raising them, would stimulate economic growth, and corporate taxes were cut from 14 percent to 10 percent, the personal income tax was capped at nine percent and capital gains taxes were reduced. His administration also offered tax credits to encourage new investment.
He brought business and labor together to help save New York City from bankruptcy. The Municipal Assistance Corporation and the Emergency Financial Control Board were created to finance the city and maintain control over its spending. Without Carey’s courage and leadership, none of this would have happened. These actions weren’t necessarily popular, but Carey put doing what was right ahead of what was politically popular. He convinced bankers, union leaders, and government officials at all levels to come together to make sacrifices so that our state and city could survive and prosper.
We need strong leadership again that will work beyond political parties for the good of the State of New York. We need to understand, as Gov. Carey did, that we cannot spend ourselves out of this financial mess. The days of dysfunction must end. The days of positive action and cooperation must begin.
By the way, Carey understood that wise investments by government can encourage economic growth. He was instrumental in the development of the South Street Seaport, Battery Park City and the Jacob Javits Convention Center. He was also a man of compassion: improving the services provided to the mentally ill and developmentally disabled after the Willowbrook scandal revealed the tragic abuse of those in the state’s care.
The Battery Tunnel is not the first tribute to this great governor. The Battery Park City Authority, whose properties begin near the Manhattan entrance to the tunnel, has already been re-named by the State in his honor. An institute for Government Reform at Wagner College and a Center for Dispute Resolution at St. John’s University, his alma mater, are also named for Carey.
This native son of Brooklyn, who served our country with distinction during World War II, is worthy of this great honor of having the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel named for him. An even greater honor would be if we could emulate his example and make the tough decisions that need to be made today.
Marty Golden is a Republican state senator whose district includes Bay Ridge.