Most of the mornings of his adult life, Eliot Spitzer has risen before dawn, left his Fifth Avenue apartment, and run around the Central Park Reservoir. “My favorite spot in the whole city is at the north end,” he says. “It’s an unbelievable view of energy and grandeur, but there’s also the tranquillity of being in the park.”
A consummately city guy is about to take over the state. Spitzer’s family history is archetypal: The luxury Upper East Side building where he lives was built by his father, who amassed one of the city’s great real-estate fortunes after growing up in a cold-water Lower East Side flat as the son of impoverished Mitteleuropäisch immigrants. Spitzer went to Horace Mann, then to two schools that are cultural extensions of elite Manhattan, Princeton and Harvard Law. Did he consider taking a job anywhere else after graduation? “No,” Spitzer says sharply. “There was only one destination.” His public career is founded in two classic city settings: prosecuting Mafia corruption of the garment industry for the Manhattan D.A.’s office, then, as state attorney general, cleaning up the city’s linchpin industry, Wall Street. Yet it’s Spitzer’s temperament, even more than his biography, that truly embodies the city: He’s restless, idealistic, and cutthroat at the same time, and always playing offense. “The city defines the whole ethos of what our nation stands for,” he says. Beginning January 1, with his morning jog through the chilly streets of Albany, Spitzer has to find a new path. Fortunately our city will give him his bearings.