Several New York politicians have paid tribute to Basil Paterson, the son of Caribbean immigrants and one of the old-guard Democratic leaders, who for decades dominated politics in Harlem. He died on Wednesday in Manhattan and was 87.
Paterson, who influenced black political power in New York City and the state into the 21st century, was the father of former New York Gov. David A. Paterson, the first African-American to hold that position in the state.
The elder Paterson was born in Manhattan on April 27, 1926, to Caribbean immigrants, Leonard and Evangeline Rondon Paterson. His father was from the Carriacou, the sister island of Grenada, and his mother from Jamaica. He grew up in Harlem.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in expressing his sadness said, “Brooklyn mourns the tragic passing of former Deputy Mayor Basil Paterson. I had the pleasure of knowing this legend of African-American politics, who along with his colleagues in the ‘Gang of Four’ made it possible for a new generation of leaders, including myself, to serve their communities. Basil was a proud Caribbean-American, a respected veteran of the United States Army during World War II and a model public servant. I send my condolences to his family to former Governor David Paterson, the entire Paterson family and all those who cared for Basil.”
“Basil Paterson was a trailblazer and a proud son of a father from Carriacou in the Grenadines and a mother from Kingston, Jamaica,” said Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.
“His contributions to the civil society we share today were considerable – as a civil rights activist, an attorney supporting the rights of workers, as a member of the New York State Senate, and as Deputy Mayor for Labor Relations, in which position he provided critical assistance in negotiating contracts that allowed New York City to avoid bankruptcy,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.
“As a member of the ‘Gang of Four’ with Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, Mayor David Dinkins, and Congresswoman Charles Rangel, he allowed African-Americans to become full participants in the politics of our city and state,” continued Clarke, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Basil Paterson,” she added. “His legacy will remain a part of New York for the generations that will follow us. He will be deeply missed.”
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said he was “saddened to learn of the transition of Basil Paterson, who paved a way for people of more color in careers of public service across this state.
“Basil, himself a public servant of Grenadian descent, spent decades serving the people of this city and state, including as the first black to serve as Secretary of State for the State of New York, as Deputy Mayor for the City of New York, and as longtime labor attorney who represented the interests of those who are long ignored in this economy,” said Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.
“Although I only had the pleasure of speaking to him just a few times, he always spoke words of encouragement as if he had known me for years,” he added. “I extend my prayers for peace and comfort to former Gov. David Paterson and the entire Paterson family at this difficult time.”
Haitian-born Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene said, he, too, was “deeply saddened” by Paterson’s passing, adding that he was “an iconic figure in this great city and state, with an outstanding record of service in government that spanned several decades.
“Basil A. Paterson was truly a pioneer,” said Eugene, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn. “He will forever be remembered as one of Harlem’s ‘Gang of Four,’ a group of politicians who several decades ago paved the path to success in politics and public service for countless numbers of people, including today’s generation of black leaders.”
“In addition to his unparalleled career in the public sector, Basil A. Paterson was for many years a champion of working people as a labor attorney,” he added. “I extend my prayers and condolences to former Gov. David A. Paterson and all members of the Paterson family during this trying time.”
Speaking on behalf of the directors and advisors of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI), former Grenada Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Lamuel Stanislaus, said he was “sad to learn of the passing of my dear friend, Hon. Basil Paterson, a man of civility, serenity, tranquility, honesty and peace.
“He was the son of a Grenadian father who I also knew very well,” Stanislaus said. “I am proud of Basil’s family and his son, David, former governor of the State of New York. I extend my deepest sympathy to his family.”
Former Jamaican Consul General Geneive Brown Metzger said, “The passing of Basil Patterson is the loss of a legend to the African American community. He paved the way for others behind him to participate in New York City politics.”
Paterson, who got into politics in Harlem in the 1950s and became part of the group of powerful clubhouse leaders known as the Gang of Four, died at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, his family confirmed.
The other three members of the Gang of Four were David N. Dinkins, who became the city’s first black mayor; Congressman Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York State congressional delegation; and Percy E. Sutton, a civil rights leader and longtime Manhattan borough president, who died in 2009.