Farrell Recalls ‘Humanist’ Sutton

ALBANY—Assemblyman Denny Farrell, the long-time Harlem legislator who first won his current seat with the backing of Percy Sutton, remembered him today as “a wonderful human being, a wonderful politician, a humanist.”

“He was superb,” Farrell told me by phone this morning. Sutton, a former assemblyman, Manhattan borough president and political dean in Harlem passed away this weekend. He was 89.

I asked Farrell for a story that captured the man, and he recounted one from Sutton’s unsuccessful 1977 mayoral bid.

 “He would never say he didn’t get a fair shake. He would use humor to point out there might be a problem.”

“It was very hard to get any form of coverage in the campaign,” Farrell said. “At one point, I remember he said to the press: ‘If I announced I was going to jump off the Empire State Building, you wouldn’t meet me up at the top for the announcement, you’d be at the bottom.'”

Sutton, outside of politics, invested in media outlets like the Amsterdam News, in which he held a stake from 1971-75. But Farrell said he wouldn’t have complained directly.

“He would never say he didn’t get a fair shake,” he said. “He would use humor to point out there might be a problem.”