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Steady Freddy Still In Political Game

By Leonard Greene

April 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002
NEW YORK POST. All Rights Reserved.

GONE is the city car that shuttled him around, and the army of aides who carried out his every command.

Fernando Ferrer, who once ruled the Borough Hall on the Grand Concourse with a reverence reserved only for Yankee Stadium, doesn't even work in The Bronx anymore.

He commutes every day to Manhattan's East Side. On the train.

But as much as Ferrer's life has changed in the four months since his last day as borough president, much has stayed the same - like the coalition that nearly put him behind the mayor's desk at City Hall. Now this group of political players is at it again, and Ferrer is not exactly out of the picture.

The same Hispanic leaders, who helped elect Mayor Bloomberg last year when they deserted the Democratic Party after Ferrer lost the mayoral primary, are threatening to do the same if their candidate for governor, state Comptroller Carl McCall, loses the primary.

And Ferrer isn't discouraging the rhetoric. Would he support Democratic rival Andrew Cuomo if Cuomo wins the nomination?

"Ask me in November" after the primary, is all Ferrer would say.

In the meantime, Ferrer is enjoying the newfound Hispanic political clout in New York City, even if it does mean having to listen to people habla bad Espaol every election season.

"It's very nice, but at the end of the day, how is it going to change my life?" said Ferrer, president of the Drum Major Institute, a public-policy group. "If all it means is that you have to practice a few lines in Spanish, that's a rather empty gesture."

No one seems to knows that better than Gov. George Pataki, who has done everything but confer statehood on Puerto Rico and change his name to Jorge.

Pataki has called for an end to Navy bombing in Vieques , although he avoided the requisite hunger strike. Last week, he proposed illegal immigrants get the same tuition break at City University that other city residents get.

"The governor has done an incredible job trying to woo Latino support," said Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, president of the Hispanic Federation, an umbrella group of health- and human-service agencies that studied Latino voting patterns last year.

Rather than splash around in the racial mud that is destined to cover the governor's race, Ferrer is sticking to the political mud. He believes McCall is more qualified and that he has more experience, but Ferrer's biggest reason for supporting McCall is much more simple. "It's not a surprise I'm supporting McCall," Ferrer said. "It honors the greatest tradition of all. He stood with me."

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