"This transition today is an historic message to the world: That we live by the same values that we profess, and we are a government of laws, not individuals," Paterson said.
Paterson, 53, rose from the lieutenant governor's office after Eliot Spitzer resigned last week amid allegations that he hired a call girl from a high-priced escort service. It was a dramatic fall for Spitzer, who was elected with an overwhelming share of the vote and who had vowed to root out corruption at the Capitol.
Paterson, who becomes New York's 55th governor, has said he will get right to work on the state budget and other matters. The Legislature faces an April 1 deadline to pass an estimated $124 billion budget.
"We move forward. Today is Monday. There is work to be done," Paterson said. "There was an oath to be taken. There's trust that needs to be restored. There are issues that need to be addressed."
Lawmakers past and present, including presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors from three neighboring states, attended the ceremony. Spitzer was not in attendance.
Paterson was Spitzer's lieutenant governor for just 14 months. Before that, he was a Democratic state senator since 1985, representing parts of Harlem and Manhattan's Upper West Side. He would be the first legally blind governor to serve more than a few days in office.
His father, Basil, a former state senator representing Harlem and later New York's first black secretary of state, was part of a political fraternity that included fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, Dinkins and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.
Federal prosecutors must still decide whether to pursue charges against Spitzer. The married father of three teenage girls was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes - including a call girl "Kristen" in Washington the night before Valentine's Day.