Many New Yorkers may know Richard Ravitch as the man who last year crafted a bailout plan for the financially troubled MTA. But his experience in public service stretches back decades. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
He has become New York's fix-it man. When there's an institution in crisis, Richard Ravitch often gets the call. In the 1970s, he helped New York through its fiscal crisis as chair of the New York State Urban Development Corporation. In the 1980s, he helped save the MTA from the brink of collapse as the agency's chairman. So it was only natural that Governor David Paterson called on Ravitch last year to figure out how to solve the MTA's most recent financial crisis.
"Nobody else has the across-the-board credibility in business, civic government that Dick Ravitch has. He's been active in public life since the 1960s. He's done it all," said Regional Plan Association President Robert Yaro.
Ravitch's plan for the MTA included the highly unpopular idea of imposing tolls on the East River and Harlem River Bridges. He managed to sell State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on the idea, and though bridge tolls were ultimately dropped amid opposition in the State Senate, a modified version of his plan was passed in the spring.
"Probably Hercules couldn't have avoided some of the problems," said said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Canpaign. "But in the end, they adopted much of what he suggested, including a tax on the payrolls of the businesses in the MTA region downstate."
Ravitch's resume is as long as it is impressive. He was appointed by then-president Lyndon Johnson to a national commission on urban problems. As a private developer, he's been a champion of affordable housing. In the 1990s, he served as labor negotiator for Major League Baseball owners.
Long active in Democratic politics, he even ran for mayor in 1989, losing in the primary to David Dinkins, but has earned respect from both sides of the aisle. He was even Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani's choice to be schools chancellor in 1995 before bowing out.
"I can't think of anybody who would rise above the politics of Albany better than Dick Ravicth would," said Yaro.
It remains to be seen if Ravitch's appointment will stand, or if it will help bring an end to the gridlock and chaos in the State Senate. If it does, it will just be one more feather in the cap of the multifaceted civic leader.