"There are certain leaders nationally who every state embraces as one of their own," Gov. David A. Paterson said here. Kennedy "was a freedom fighter . . . one who has stood for the highest principles."
Paterson and others noted Kennedy's legislation expanding health care for poor children, voting rights for minorities and access for the disabled had a profound impact on diverse states such as New York. He also was a standard-bearer for the Democratic Party, which enjoys a 5-to-3 enrollment advantage here.
Those who knew him recalled a crusader who wanted to get things done and often crossed the political aisle to do so.
Former Gov. Mario Cuomo said Kennedy achieved more than any other member of his storied family, including President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. "Ted was the greatest, not because he was a better person, but because he had more time then they did," said Cuomo, referring to the others being assassinated in the 1960s.
Cuomo knew the clan better than most. His son, Andrew, now state attorney general, was once married to Robert Kennedy's daughter Kerry. "His loss is tragic, but his legacy will forever endure," Andrew Cuomo said.
Sen. Charles Schumer described Kennedy's influence in the Senate, where he served almost 47 years, as that of the "sun - the center of our universe." Schumer also vowed to fight for national health insurance and other Kennedy causes.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who also praised Kennedy, recalled a party the pair attended just before Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer. King had brought along a couple from Malverne, Steven and Patti McDonald, who were eager to meet Kennedy. "He climbed over people to go talk with them - which he did for some time, taking pictures with them and everything."
On Long Island, Kennedy was lauded by leaders of both political parties.
Nassau Executive Thomas Suozzi said Kennedy had an "enormous burden" as the younger brother of two political icons. "While his life and career were marked by highs and lows, he . . . championed the causes of the poor, unrepresented and those most in need," Suozzi said.
Suffolk Executive Steve Levy agreed, adding Kennedy's "advocacy for the disadvantaged has had an impact on millions."
- With Joseph Mallia