Southern Brooklyn

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



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?

Comment policy


  1. I was having a little problem with getting a straight answer from a NYS agency.  Out of frustration, I wrote them a very detailed, specific letter, and cc’d Kruger along with other local pols.  He wasn’t the only one who followed up with the head of the agency (with a letter), but his response was the most forceful.  I got a response from the agency head,  cc’ing Kruger, and the problem was resolved.

    So nothing is purely black and white; Kruger abused the system, but he also was responsive to the needs of his constituents in my experience.

  2. I had the exact opposite experience with him. I went to his office and the person I spoke to made promises but never did anything.  I phoned that person 3 times to follow up and finally gave him an argument why he wasn’t at least calling back to update me on the status.  I then went to Cymbrowitz’s office who was instrumental in solving the problem.  Then I wrote to Kruger’s Office and wrote a formal complaint about the person I dealt with.  Never heard from Kruger on that or three or four other letters I sent him.  Then I sent him a letter why he believes it is okay to just ignore consituents he doesn’t want to help when I take the time to read each of his newsletters.  That finally got me a two sentence response.

    So my impression is that he is very picky on who he decides to help and you were just lucky.  He doesn’t treat everyone like that.  But none of this answers the question as to his “human side” whatever that means. Yes, he can present himself in a very humanlike fashion if he wants to. Does that make him a better person, No. 

    The first time I tried to speak to Cymbrowitz at a public event, I found him to be aloof and unfriendly and perhaps a snob.  He is a very good Assemblyperson, and not at all like that, but he just didn’t leave me with a good impression the first time I met him.  On the other hand, the only time I personally met Cruger. also at a public event, he was polite and friendly and willing to answer questions.  Gave a very good first impression.  Just shows how misleading first impressions can be.

  3. If Kruger truly had a human side, he would have been compassionate, instead of the rude, arrogant man that was his public persona. Though Kruger essentially admits in the article that he did what was for the Turanos, not himself, he still violated the trust of constituents and deserves whatever sentence the judge decides in April. 
    Sadly, he still gets to keep a hefty pension from taxpayer revenues. Throughout his political career, the article demonstrates how Kruger isolated himself and offended colleagues, when most politicians in his place typically make allies to further their power. Despite assistance he may have occasionally provided for a few citizens in his district, his primary goal, it seems, was to benefit those closest to him, not the public he served.
    As I write in my December column after he resigned: Elected representatives are
    not only expected to advocate our laws, but to uphold them, as well. 
    Carl Kruger did neither; good riddance! 

  4. Well, I have the same last name as a Republican big shot, maybe he thought I was related … 😎

    The New York Mag article points out that Kruger sucked up to Republicans at various times in his career.

  5. In today’s world, people are canonized or demonized.  Kruger broke the law. The law took care of him. That doesn’t make him Adolf Hiter. Doesn’t mean he was some non-human monster with NO redeeming traits.

       It’s sickening to hear people talk of politicians (or anyone) like this The way Bush was portrayed as some evil entity, the Devil in Hades himself. And now it’s Obama’s turn to face the silly extreme portrayals. That’s what’s paralyzing government: extreme, close-minded views.

  6. A vile, vile canard against pigs.  If you were kept in prison and forced to sleep in your own excrement you’d have trouble getting positive PR also.

    Problem is, only some parts of homo sapiens evolved.  In many ways we are still dirty little monkeys.

  7. Not surprising. I knew someone who had a problem with the Social Security Administration. You would think that K=uger would have been able to give some kind of guidance or put something in motion so action could be taken. Nope. All my friend got was p-poor commentary from his addlepated aides.
    This story about K-ugers upbringing only explains his over compensation for past misery. Awww. Poor Little Carl. Now he gets put back in the box where he belongs.

  8. Bottom line– He chose to be a crook.  His upbringing and problems as a child should not be taken into account.  He belongs in jailand it should be the law that he loose his pension if convited of crimes directly related to his office.

  9. I think worse than Carl Kruger, I feel sorry for the people who are now mercilessly so quick to judge this man, particularly when, if put in the same or a similar situation, they probably would have done the same exact thing. Not to condone what he’s done, particularly since justice is in the process of being meted out, but to suggest that he is inhuman, or, as I’ve seen in many comments here and elsewhere, that he should rot in prison, and also utter sadistic words such as “The photos of that fat crook blubbering in court and outside of the courthouse was worth the price of buying a printed news paper” makes me think that the problem does not so much sit with the former legislator. I truly believe there is something mentally wrong with people who make such mean-spirited remarks and delight in another human being’s misfortunes.

    Who in his or her life hasn’t fucked up at one point or another? Think of that time in your life, and where you would have been if the right person hadn’t come along and forgiven you, or helped you get your shit in one sock. He executed a vast error in judgment, and obviously got in way over his head that he couldn’t so easily find a way out of the abyss, but that doesn’t mean he needs to be sent to a guillotine, and it does not make him a bad person. It just makes him a human being in a position of great power who fucked up royally and now he’s going to pay the price.

    Yes, we are sick of corruption in Albany, but I am sick of people who see fit to scrutinize a person whose shoes they haven’t walked a mile in. I am sick of people who claim they are so multicultural, diverse and open-minded but, after the Senator turned himself in, saw fit to make disgusting jokes about Bubbas and prison soap when the FBI and mainstream media broadcast private and deeply humiliating facts about his personal life.

    I think Carl Kruger, who I do not know personally, and have met no more than three times over the course of 11 years, is more human than most of the “people” who leave comments on this site.

  10. This article and ES letter are  well meaning but sad attempt to make Kruger the victim; an effort that that I reject. Also, I totally reject outs of hand ES glib assertion that the readers of Bites or this district would have stolen money the way Kruger did had we been given the opportunity. Actually, I think most people are honest and honorable.Your analysis is cynical and dark.  

  11. Erica, I’m constantly amazed at the extremely high standard that people hold for OTHERS. Then when you look at how such people conduct THEMSELVES, well, the standards suddenly are much lower!

  12. You can reject my assertion all you like, but let me ask you this: Has someone ever waved a million dollars under your nose? Think what you can do with that money. You can say that, if you were State Senator of the 27th Senate District, you’d never take a penny that wasn’t your own, but the truth is, you just don’t know what you would do in the situation. I don’t know what I would do, and I am one of the more painfully honest (to a fault) people you could ever meet. I like to think I wouldn’t, but the circumstances are different — I am me, and he is himself — so I cannot say. It’s the same thing, like when someone boldly proclaims about a loved one: “I’d take a bullet for [so and so].” Oh really? Wait until, God forbid (I don’t wish this upon anyone), you’re in a situation where you have to make that life or death decision. I’m not trying to portray him as a victim. He did wrong and I’d be even more dark and cynical if justice wasn’t done. I’m merely trying to say that I am disgusted with all the people who are so fast to judge his actions, and say terrible things about him, when they themselves are not necessarily the angels they think they are.

  13. Amazing, isn’t it? And these peoples’ rights to exercise free speech (such as “Unfortunately he will enjoy jail, he prefers the meat over the box!!!!!!!!!!!!”) are what our brave men and women die oversees to defend.


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