The End of the Farrell Era in New York County

The New York County Democratic Committee will formally install Assemblyman Keith Wright as the Manhattan organization’s new county leader tonight.

The event is taking place at 6 p.m. tonight at Yorkville Gardens (225 East 93rd Street).

The outgoing leader, Assemblyman Herman Denny Farrell, is leaving the post after more than two decades, “but I’m still holding onto my district leader position,” he said in a brief interview this afternoon, which he conducted between incoming calls on one of two cell phones he regularly uses.

One challenge facing the incoming chairman will be the growing power of the Working Families Party to influence primaries and patronage, the traditional prerogatives of the Democratic organizations. Another, sooner or later, will be managing what could be a bloody fight for Representative Charlie Rangel’s congressional seat in Harlem, whenever that opens up.

“To begin with, I think Charlie has another 10 to 15 years to go,” Farrell said.

“The person I’d like to see next is a young person,” said the 77-year-old Farrell, “but we have primaries and we have people who run on their own.”

Farrell, who was first elected to the State Assembly in 1974, said, “New York City and New York State doesn’t tend to have a lot of people chairing powerful committees.” He said that was because “they don’t stay long enough. They run for city offices.”

When I asked Farrell what he’d like to be remembered for, he said his ability to keep the Democratic Party in Manhattan growing, and the scandal-free slate of judges they’ve helped put on the bench.

“All of our judges, none of them have gotten into trouble,” he said.

I think he’ll also be remembered for a memorable on-air exchange with Fred Dicker. And for his shirts. Definitely the shirts.