Southern Brooklyn

For Carl Kruger, Is There A “Human Side”?

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Did you know Carl Kruger had changed his name from Carl Tack? It’s true, though some New York Magazine readers doubted it, leading to the publication of the above yearbook photo.

For those who don’t follow our Facebook feed, we recently shared a link to a New York Magazine profile, dubbed the “gothic saga” of Carl Kruger’s past. The article’s writer sat down with the former state senator – and his lawyer – days after his resignation and guilty plea, in a quest to find (as the author himself put it when he called me up about it months ago) the “human side” of Carl Kruger.

What followed was a 5,000-world mea culpa, in which Kruger copped to his illegal deeds – and then blamed it on his tough upbringing as an unwanted child. Here’s the setup for his life, according to New York Magazine:

[His mother] Irene struggled as a widow. Living on welfare in a walk-up, she dated a man named Abe Tack, whose family owned real estate in the neighborhood, and became pregnant with Carl. But Tack had no interest in marrying her and quickly disappeared. With abortions risky and costly at the time, Irene felt she had no choice but to arrange an adoption.

After he was born, Carl was later told, he was taken to his new family in a cardboard box, and an adoption official went over his health and family history. But after the presentation, young Carl’s adopted family decided not to take him. The official had no choice but to take the baby back to his mother.

“So here I am,” Kruger said.

The rest of the article goes on to provide a platform for Kruger to utter lines like, “There was an upstairs and a downstairs. All these big shots were upstairs, and I was certainly downstairs” – lines that make him seem more like a scraggly underdog than a greedy power broker. And maybe that’s how he sees himself, though this is a man who knew he ruled by fear.

Regardless, the article apparently got some flack. Most interesting to me was a comment left by Crain’s political writer Erik Engquist. Before Crain’s, Engquist was the political writer for Courier-Life, and spent much of his career covering Kruger, including an incident referred to in the article, in which Kruger allegedly cooked up a cancer story to wrangle sympathy following his first criminal indictment. Engquist wrote:

It’s not just the cancer story but the indictment that prompted Kruger to come up with it that tells you this is not a case of a good man gone bad, but of a guy who throughout his long career manipulated the system to his benefit and ultimately got busted. The case involved the Georgetowne Civic Association and the price of Carl’s support for houses a developer wanted to build. I started dealing with Kruger 20 years ago as a cub reporter, when he was CB 18 chairman and Dottie was his district manager, and there were already plenty of stories floating around about his nefarious activities over the years. Morality? Never came up with Carl.

A lot of our readers have had dealing with Kruger. Some have known him from the neighborhood for decades. So what’s your take on the New York Magazine profile? Is there a human side to Carl Kruger?

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