Fifteen years ago, David Paterson stood in the New York Assembly chamber surrounded by the state's elected officials and VIPs.
"Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is David Paterson and I am the governor of New York," Paterson said to a standing ovation.
A decade-and-a-half later, Paterson was back in Albany on Friday. A building that houses the War Room, a newly opened bar and restaurant owned by public relations executive Todd Shapiro, was being named in Paterson's honor.
Paterson, as he has before, described the phone call to his father Basil Paterson and the elected officials around New York after learning of the prostitution scandal that would soon engulf the administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer ("How do you describe a sex scandal to Hillary Clinton?" Paterson deadpanned on Friday at the deadication in a well-worn line).
Paterson's time in office was quickly consumed with fiscal challenges and a rocky relationship with his former colleagues in the state Legislature. The first Black man to become governor and a legally blind man, Paterson sought budget actions that were deeply unpopular with lawmakers as the Great Recession began to take hold.
This time around, Gov. Kathy Hochul — who also took office in the wake of a scandal — has had to navigate a Legislature that is at odds with her on a variety of measures in the state budget, from housing to bail law changes.
"I think New Yorkers are really looking for quick and positive action particularly with the increase in crime, particularly with the increase in inflation," Paterson said. "Now we may be in a bit of an acrimonious period, but I think both sides could really enjoy some self-examination, come back to the table. I know them all personally, they can work this out."
Some lawmakers are not ruling out a budget that blows past the April 1 deadline this year amid the disagreements. While governor, Paterson had used the office's inherent power to push through his preferred spending actions in an emergency appropriations bill, testing the limits of authority as the budget in 2010 remained up in the air in mid August that year.
For the decade Andrew Cuomo was governor, budgets were approved — for the most part — around the April 1 deadline. Cuomo often would tout the importance of early or on-time budgets while in office.
"It's not really recommended. It shouldn't be a power grab," Paterson said. "It shouldn't be misused. But there are times when leadership has to lead."