Paterson was born in Brooklyn; an infection during infancy left him with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. He has optic atrophy. His family moved to Hempstead, a suburb on Long Island, so that he could attend public schools which provided a better education for the visually impaired than those in city. He graduated from the racially integrated Hempstead High School in 1971.
Paterson received a BA in history from Columbia University in 1977 and later his law degree from Hofstra Law School. After law school, he went to work for the Queens District Attorney's Office, but failed the New York bar examination, and so did not become an attorney at law. He attributed this to insufficient accommodation for his visual impairment, and has since advocated for changes in bar exam procedures.
Paterson is the son of former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson, who was the first African American Deputy Mayor of New York City, and the second African American to run for statewide office in New York (Edward R. Dudley was the Democratic nominee for New York State Attorney General in 1962). Secretary Paterson was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 1970. The elder Paterson also served in the New York State Senate, in the same seat his son occupied. The elder Paterson was also the first African American vice-chair of the national Democratic Party. David Paterson has a younger brother, Daniel, who is a New York government official.
Paterson and his wife Michelle Paige Paterson live in Harlem. They have two children: Ashley, who entered Ithaca College in fall 2006, and Alex, who attends school in New York City.
An avid fan of New York sports teams, Paterson has been known to call in to WFAN, a major sports talk radio station in New York City.
Paterson is an active advocate for people with visual and physical impairments. He was elected as a member of the American Foundation for the Blind. Paterson serves on the board of directors of the the Achilles Track Club, an organization which sponsors disabled athletes and disabled veterans competing in marathons. Paterson himself completed the New York City Marathon in 1999.
Mr. Paterson's story is inpirational and we're lucky to have him.
And he's a Long Island boy; what could be bad? Heh ...