Edward L. Sadowsky, a New York City Council lion, dies at age 92

Edward L. Sadowsky, A New York City Council Lion, Dies At Age 92

Edward L. Sadowsky, a six-year New York City Council member who helped restore that body’s reputation before a 1989 government overhaul granted it greater powers, died Thursday in Beachwood, Ohio. He was 92.

His death, at a retirement home near the home of one of his sons, was caused by acute respiratory failure, said another son, Richard Sadowsky.

Mr. Sadowsky’s rise to top positions as a cerebral, politically independent iconoclast had reassured officials who were revising the city charter in the late 1980s to give more power to the Council – a legislature rarely seen in its various incarnations for two centuries. invoked as an example of good governance.

The charter revision was considered as the Board of Estimate, a hybrid group of eight members of citywide elected officials who shared power with the city council, was challenged as unconstitutional.

Richard L. Emery, a civil liberties attorney who orchestrated the lawsuit that led to the board’s abolition in 1989, credited Mr. Sadowsky and Peter F. Vallone, who became the Council’s majority leader in 1986, with convincing Mr. Sadowsky and Peter F. Vallone, who became the Council’s majority leader in 1986. the charter review committee the Council was ready to take the place of the board.

“Ed and Peter Vallone have reformed the Board so that it can effectively exercise its new powers once the Board of Estimate is eliminated,” Mr Emery said in an email.

Mr Sadowsky, who served from 1961 to 1985 and represented an area in northern Queens from Flushing to Whitestone, was one of the councilors early liberall Democratic reformers. He gained such respect from his colleagues and party leaders as an aggressive researcher (he was also considered the brightest member of the Council) that he rose to chair the Charter and Committee on Government Operations, and later of the Committee on Finance, making him the member of the second rank after the Majority Leader.

As a lawyer, he was an early exponent of abolishing or reconfiguring the Board of Estimate, which was composed of the mayor, the city commissioner, the city council president, and the five borough presidents.

As far back as the mid-1960s, Mr. Sadowsky insisted that the board of directors violated the one-person, one-vote principle because the borough presidents cast the same number of votes individually, even though they represented constituencies that ranged in population from 350,000 state residents. Island to that of Brooklyn. 2.2 million.

The board of directors’ dominance in city affairs had effectively robbed the Council of the power and prestige of other big city legislatures—thus, as one of its members, Henry J. Stern, put it in the 1970s. , was downgraded to “less than a rubber stamp, because at least a rubber stamp makes an impression.”

When Mr. Sadowsky retired from law enforcement in 1985 to work full-time as a lawyer, rejected the Council as a setting that “had played the roles of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet,’ always been on the edge of the action and never quite in it.”

Mr. Sadowsky’s charges against the Board of Estimate were justified in 1989 when the United States Supreme Court declared the Board unconstitutional. It was abolished under the new city statute and most of its powers were diverted to an expanded city council.

Mr Sadowsky, whom the Council had labeled a dud four years earlier, recognized that things were getting better before the changes took full effect. “The improvement in member quality has been real and obvious as it has gained more power,” he said.

Mr. Sadowsky also raised his voice for other reasons. He challenged the administration of Mayor John V. Lindsay over his reliance on outside advisors rather than government officials and the creation of top-heavy super-agencies designed to streamline city bureaucracy. In the same years, he tracked down fraud in the Municipal Loan Program, which was intended to renovate slums.

He has successfully sponsored legislation to create a department of cultural affairs and a committee to oversee the taxi industry. He fought to guarantee gay rights for more than a decade before the Council finally did in 1986.

And he defied both the mayor and his Council colleagues by questioning the annual budget ritual of inflating revenue forecasts and underestimating spending, which plunged the city into a fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s.

Edward Louis Sadowsky was born on February 6, 1929 in Brooklyn. His father, David, was a salesman. His mother, Bina (Greenberg) Sadowsky, was a bookkeeper.

After graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, he received a bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1950 and a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1953. He served in the office of Judge Advocate General in the military.

In 1953 he married Jean Fishkin, a journalist. She passed away in 2016. Along with their son Richard, he leaves behind another son, Jonathan; a daughter, Nina Sadowsky; a sister, Suzanne Sadowsky; and six grandchildren.

Mr. Sadowsky had always described himself as an “accidental politician” because the reform club he belonged to regularly fielded lost candidates for the Democratic nomination for various positions. That changed in 1961 when he was on the same page as Mayor Robert F. Wagner, who that year broke with the party bosses who had supported him twice before. (Mayor Wagner’s press secretary, Debs Myers, was the former boss of Mr. Sadowsky’s wife at Newsweek.)

He was a staunch supporter of racial integration in schools and housing, even when that stance jeopardized the support of his constituents. He often quoted Mr Myers’ advice that “if you keep doing the right thing, it usually turns out to be the right thing politically.”

Hoping to one day hold a leadership position as an executive rather than a legislator, he did not seek reelection in 1985. A year later he lost a chance to interim district chairman from Queens after the incumbent, Donald R. Manes, resigned in a corruption scandal; his former Council colleagues gave him the name and called Claire Shulman instead. He was appointed to Council of Education later that year.

His hopes of winning the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1989 evaporated in the face of competition from incumbent, Edward I. Koch, and his main challenger, David N. Dinkins, who together dominated the field.

But when Mr Sadowsky withdrew from the Council after 24 years, he expressed no regrets.

“It is better to resign from office than to die in office” he said, “because you get to hear some of the praises.”

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