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Richard Ravitch: A Look at the Lieutenant Governor

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Richard Ravitch, 76, became the lieutenant governor of New York in July 2009 when he took the oath for his new job from his favorite restaurant, Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn.

Ravitch was appointed by Gov. David Paterson on July 8, 2009, a move that was challenged in court by Republicans who argued that the governor has no constitutional authority to make such an appointment.

No governor in state history had ever named someone to fill a lieutenant governor vacancy before.

On September 22, New York State’s highest court, in a 4-3 ruling, upheld Paterson’s authority to appoint Ravitch.

A native of New York, Ravitch earned his undergraduate degree in American history from Columbia University in 1955. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1958. Ravitch went to work in his family’s real estate firm, HRH Construction, in 1960. As the head of the company, he eventually built Waterside Plaza and Manhattan Plaza.

Ravitch, who did not take a salary as lieutenant governor, has a long history of public service, but his only attempt at elected office ended unsuccessfully after he finished third in the Democratic mayoral primary in 1989.

In 1975, Gov. Hugh Carey recruited Ravitch from the private sector and made him the chairman of the state’s Urban Development Corporation.

Four years later, Carey tapped Ravitch again, this time as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was in deep financial trouble. His job as the chairman of the MTA in 1980s led him to regularly wear a bullet-proof vest to public events after he survived an assassination attempt and numerous threats. Under Ravitch’s leadership, the MTA reduced its deficit, created the Metro-North Railroad, and updated its subway fleet.

After leaving the MTA, Ravitch became the chairman of a city Charter Revision Commission. And he was Major League Baseball’s chief labor executive from 1991 to 1994, acting as the owner's representative in labor negotiations leading up to the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, which ended that baseball season and led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

Prior to becoming lieutenant governor, Ravitch was a partner in a New York law firm, Ravitch, Rice & Co.

Ravitch, a grandson of Russian immigrants, had a couple of unsuccessful marriages. In 1960, he married Diane Ravitch. The couple divorced in 1986. He married Betsy F. Perry in 1994, a marriage that also ended in divorce.

On August 27, 2005, he married Kathleen M. Doyle, the chairman and CEO of Doyle New York. Ravitch has two sons, Joseph and Michael, from his first wife.

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