With two weeks left to his governorship, David A. Paterson returned to Hempstead Saturday for a singular honor: The renaming for him of his old elementary school.
Paterson was born in Brooklyn, but his parents moved to Hempstead after New York City school officials wanted to place him in special education or classes for the blind.
Fulton Elementary School was one place a visually impaired student such as Paterson could be in mainstream classes.
"To the board members, this was a no-brainer," Hempstead school board president Charles Renfroe said. "He graduated from the Fulton School as a young man, he grew up here, went to college and had a pretty good political career."
The school board board voted 4-1 Thursday night to authorize the renaming, Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall said.
With Paterson attending, officials announced plans for the renaming at the village's Outdoor Holiday Extravaganza last night at Denton Green Park, where Paterson also received the key to the village.
"We in Hempstead have not forgotten that David is one of us," Hall said.
His voice hoarse, Paterson told the hundreds assembled that he'd just been diagnosed with the flu and that the doctor told him not to work.
"He asked me, 'Where are you going?' and I told him, 'I'm going home,' " Paterson said to rousing applause.
"Not seeing is a problem. But not being able to talk is a big problem," he joked.
The renaming will take effect in September, officials said. It is believed to be the first school named for Paterson, an aide to the governor said. The block on Carolina Avenue where he grew up was previously renamed for him.
Paterson, 56, the former lieutenant governor, became the first African-American governor of New York and the second partially blind governor in the United States after Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in March 2008.
Last February, Hall introduced Paterson as he kicked off his campaign for a full term as governor - which collapsed days later.
"For all the bad things said about him, we've got someone who's head of the state who went to school in the Village of Hempstead," Hall said earlier yesterday. "He's a positive role model for our kids and our community and has been a friend of mine."
Last night Paterson said: "I do appreciate that they did name the building after a local kid who got somewhere when they left Hempstead. And I hope that the young people out there today know there's one thing - I never forgot where I came from."