Gov. David Paterson’s political career began in Harlem, and as he faces the politically thorny task of governing as a lame duck, neighborhood residents Sunday urged him to make the most of his remaining days in office.

“Maybe he will be better able to make the tough decisions now that he doesn’t have to worry about re-election,” said Dave McLaurin, 66, who was eating lunch at a deli on Malcolm X Boulevard.

McLaurin said Paterson should not step down – as some have called for – but try to salvage what’s left of his legacy.

“He should stay the course, the state’s in a bad way and it’s going to be a tall order to fix it” said Wildon Richardson, 50.

Paterson announced Friday he would not run for a full term in November, as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigates contact he and a state trooper had with a woman who was seeking an order of protection against his aide, David Johnson, after he allegedly assaulted her.

The governor – who has suffered a series of missteps since taking over after Eliot Spitzer’s resignation in 2008 - must now strike a deal with legislators to close an $8 billion budget gap at the moment he is perhaps most politically marginalized.

“Back when Paterson was running for re-election, he seemed like he was going to stake his candidacy on reforming Albany and getting a tough budget passed,” said Patrick Egan, a political science professor at NYU. “Now, I don’t think leadership is going to come out of the governor’s office.”

But state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), said if Paterson wants to, he can still make an impact

“Lame duck or live duck, he’s still the duck,” said Adams, emphasizing that one way or another Paterson is still the governor.

State Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan), suggested Paterson would feel “liberated” to focus exclusively on the budget. The more pressing difficulty, he said, is the razor-thin majority Democrats hold in the senate, meaning any member can throw the whole process into chaos.

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“The dynamics in Albany are very different than they’ve ever been,” he said.

Another strange dynamic is the fact that Cuomo is investigating Paterson at the same time he is widely expected to run for governor himself.

“They want to make way for Cuomo so they’re blowing this up,” said Edmund Watkins, 44, of Jamaica, who works at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. “Whatever they could find on him, they were going to get him out of there. I’m disappointed he’s not standing up to fight.”

Others urged Paterson to simply step aside now, lamenting the fate of the state’s first black governor.

“I’m disappointed in him,” said Kelly Jackson, 29. “Maybe I expected too much.”