By Kristen M. Daum
WASHINGTON -- In his first trip to the nation's capital since becoming New York's chief executive, Gov. David A. Paterson yesterday called for unity within the state's congressional delegation - specifically in fixing the subprime mortgage crisis.
"I'm hoping that I'll be able to take the greatest advantage of their service and help to improve the quality of life for the people of New York," Paterson said after a meeting with the state's members of Congress.
A main topic of discussion during yesterday's private breakfast was the continuing subprime mortgage crisis, Paterson said, noting foreclosures in New York were up 40 percent - to 14,183 - since the first quarter of 2007. Of those, about 3,200 - or 23 percent - came from Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Applauding federal proposals in Congress that provide counseling to those facing foreclosure, Paterson also urged the delegation to support his state mortgage relief program, which he said mirrored proposed federal standards on how homeowners can qualify for loans in the future.
"It could really be, in a sense, the prelude to other legislation in other states," he said.
After the breakfast, there was an obvious camaraderie between Paterson and the delegation members, most of whom are fellow Democrats. That was in contrast to just three months ago, when then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer met them on Capitol Hill - and any hint of laughter seemed strained.
Paterson yesterday traded jokes with the delegation, and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Paterson brought "the kind of unity we need." "There's going to be severe economic times for New York," King said. "He's going to do all that he can as governor, and we have to do our job here in Washington. ... This type of teamwork is essential."