Thoughts emerge about the future of Caroline Kennedy, below, (Page 4), four political mothers discuss life with political children (Page 26)
May 11, 2009
The Gun Ladyâ€™s search for someone else to take on Kirsten Gillibrand
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and Eliot Engel, above, orders General Tsoâ€™s (Page 29).
MAY 11, 2009
Investing Change in the Pension System hen the New York City finance commissioner has to resign for improprieties, the state comptroller’s office is under investigation by the attorney general and the SEC, and with the city comptroller’s office not far behind—all amid walloping budget deficits—even the staunchest of status quo defenders has to admit that the New York pension system is crying out for reform. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s call for public financing, which would limit the inevitable temptations to bend the books, is certainly worth considering. But what the system needs is a transformation of the government process, not the political one. There are a number of ways to do this. First, reorganize the five pension boards to put them under the control of appointed, non-partisan professionals who must be confirmed by the Council. This would follow in some ways the proposal put forward by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for reforms to the New York City Employment Retirement System (NYCERS), which include a demand for financial disclosure to expose possible conflicts of interest. Stringer’s idea, however, does not go far enough. Adding the requirement of Council confirmation for nominees would force them to have at least one public hearing of their backgrounds and qualifications for the job. These requirements should then be applied to the other four pension funds. This is public money at stake—pension money paid out to public employees, and taxpayer money that is being used to foot the bill, and to make up for any shortfalls—and the public deserves a chance to see how the decisions are
being made. This is as clear-cut an example of politicians handling money as there can be: politicians are in control of New Yorkers’ money, deciding who to give the billions to and what to do with them. That there has not been more oversight built into the government structure at the city and state levels is a failing of government of the highest order. That it took scandal investigations to reveal just how much the intricacies of pension fund management have managed to fly under the radar is a scandal in itself. Having detailed information about the investments and management companies up on a government website would be a good start. Of course, not too many people would actually take the time to scour the websites, but making the investments and identities of managers public would, no doubt, serve to disinfect some of the grimier parts of the system with the possibility of sunlight. Nor should the reforms stop there. Legally, people who worked for the comptroller’s office have to wait a year after leaving before being able to lobby their old colleagues for pension fund business. The same restrictions do not apply to the trustees from the unions, allowing investment firms to hire them for the sake of their connections to the comptroller’s staff, which is precisely why the restrictions on former employees of the office exist. Clearly, new regulations need to be written to seal up that loophole. So far, the reaction to the pension fund scandal has followed a very familiar script: something unseemly is uncovered, politicians who should probably have known better react quickly with fury and indignation, but then only correct the specific problem that invited the scrutiny, ignoring the broader changes necessary. Thus the chest-thumping over the placement agents, which has taken up most of the oxygen in this discussion. But at this moment, in this economy, with enough taxpayer money already flowing into mismanaged financial firms, New York needs to take a comprehensive look at how pension funds are invested, as well as who and which firms are involved, with an eye toward a sweeping transformation. The taxpayers of the city and state cannot afford any less.
That there has not been more oversight built into the government structure at the city and state levels is a failing of government of the highest order.
Letters To the Editor: I take great exception to City Hall distorting a light-hearted conversation about the Passover seder into some kind of exposé on my “true feelings” about the holiday (see the outrageously headlined “Markowitz on the Bread of Affliction and Other Travails,” April 27). Indeed, I made no mention of “the simple one” or rolled my eyes—and worse, not once did your reporter ask me a serious question about my religious practices. My “true feelings” are that I am proud to be Jewish, and have great respect for diverse Jewish communities everywhere. It’s true I do not host my own seders, and anyone will tell you that I love to eat, so I usually attend seders at which the host breezily completes the Haggadah before moving on to what we all came for—the food. Regarding working on Passover, I remind you that the Mayor—who, like me, is not devoutly religious—was working that day as well. City Hall does a great job for people of my profession, but not for a second did I believe this playful exchange with your reporter would be turned into an erroneous gossip item that was not the least bit newsworthy. It was in poor taste and not up to the standards of your publication. MARTY MARKOWITZ BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT
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MAY 11, 2009
The Camelot Comeback
In Caroline Kennedy’s next role, a service initiative and potential Bloomberg booster
BY DAVID FREEDLANDER hree months after she quietly withdrew her name from her consideration for a seat in the United States senate, Caroline Kennedy has begun to re-emerge onto the city’s political scene. She headlined an event in April where Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out his community service initiative and administration officials say they expect Kennedy to play a large role in implementing and running the program. The program, called NYC Service, would require public schools to provide students with community service opportunities and will attempt to link volunteers with organizations that need them. In scope and scale, aides are comparing it to the PlaNYC initiative that the mayor introduced in 2006. But political observers wonder if Kennedy is looking for more than a job in the administration, and if perhaps New York politicos may see more of her than in her brief cameo at the Inner Circle dinner in March, where as part of ITAL The Little Mermaid ITAL parody, she announced her intention to run for “Mermayor of NY Sea.” Those close to her caution against reading the tea leaves too closely. “I wouldn’t go out too far with this
line of thinking,” said one close friend. “I think she’s been taking it slow. There’s a predisposition to over-infer with Caroline Kennedy.” But Kennedy did recently appear and speak at a gala for Brooklyn Democratic Party head Vito Lopez’s nonprofit, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. She spokes to the 400 or so assembled guests about the agency’s social service and youth programs, according to attendees, and received a standing ovation and had to fend off fans hoping to take a picture with her. Her appearance was the fulfillment of a promise made when she was out campaigning for the Senate seat that eventually went to Kirsten Gillibrand. Lopez endorsed her then, and said that, depending on the position and the timing, he would do so again if she sought office. “I was very disappointed about her not becoming a U.S. senator,” he said. “I think she does have a future in politics, absolutely.” An odd outcome of Kennedy’s botched campaign for the Senate, media strategists say, is that public affection for her rose as many blamed Gov. David Paterson (D) for permitting the public tarnishing of her reputation after she withdrew. Some looked to Kennedy to
Bloomberg administration officials say they expect Caroline Kennedy to play a large role in implementing and running the NYC Service initiative they announced together in April. ultimately take a position in the Obama administration. Campaigning for the president was, after all, what first brought her into politics, and she credited her time on the trail with motivating her to seek the Senate vacancy. And though she promptly squashed the rumor that briefly lit up Washington that she would be headed to the Vatican as the U.S. ambassador, hope for some involvement was reignited after the White House released photographs of the president and Kennedy in the Oval Office searching for the trap door that her brother, John, was caught peeking out of in one of the Kennedy administration’s most famous photographs. The Bloomberg administration has made a concerted effort to reach out to Obama, partially as a way of keeping him out of the race for mayor in 2009. Any time spent alongside one of the president’s most famous supporters is bound to link Obama and the mayor in the public’s mind. But those close to Kennedy say that the reason she withdrew at the last moment from consideration for the Senate vacancy—that she did not want to be away from her children—remains,
which would preclude her from moving to Washington. Kennedy hedged during her winter campaign on the question of whether or not she would pledge to support the Democratic nominee for mayor in 2009. Now she does not have a Democratic electorate to appease, but Bloomberg ’09 insiders say there has nonetheless been no discussion about a role she would potentially play in the fall. According to one campaign insider, though, operatives believe a Kennedy endorsement could be a huge boon to their already comfortable prospects. She had said during the appointment process that she was committed to running for Senate next year even if not picked by Paterson, but that plan seems to have been shelved. In any event, the near-riot she set off by pushing hard for the seat still riles some political veterans who now mock the possibility of her ever making another attempt for elected office. “She should run for public advocate,” wagged one. “She still has a month to raise the money before she has to start gathering signatures.” firstname.lastname@example.org
What Mike Bloomberg Has Forgotten RESCUE OPERATION:
On September 11, 2001 — 343 New York City Firefighters Lost Their Lives while effectuating the Largest Rescue Operation on American Soil — 25,000 Civilians Were Saved.
Thousands of firefighters toiled to extinguish fires that raged for months spewing deadly toxins. According to the New England Journal of Medicine more than 10,000 firefighters lost on average 12 years of lung capacity, prematurely ending the careers of over 1,000. Many continue to suffer with numerous additional deaths. At the World Trade Center site firefighters, police and the building trades led the largest, most emotional recovery and cleanup operation in American history, sifting debris for human remains of the 2,749 lives lost. The speed of this effort got New York back on its feet and prospering again, returning loved ones to their families for proper burial.
CLEANUP OPERATION: According to the New York Times (1/21/2002), “the cleanup would take a year and cost $1 billion to $2.5 billion.” Working round-the-clock for 8-months and 19 days, firefighters and other workers saved the city and state more than $1.75 billion, completing the project months ahead of schedule. Seven years later Mike Bloomberg is calling for the closure of firehouses, the dangerous reduction of Engine Company staffing and even using the pension data of firefighters who died or have become seriously ill from the 9-11 attacks to demonize firefighters and shamelessly campaign for Tier 5 pension reform.
So on top of all of these other things Mike Bloomberg has forgotten, he now says: Close 16 more fire companies on top of the 7 he already shuttered. Reduce Engine Company staffing against the advice of FDNY chiefs. Studies have shown this action will double the time it takes to begin putting water on a fire, endangering firefighter and public safety. Establishing Tier 5 will mandate that firefighters continue to work in their highly toxic and physically taxing job well into their 60’s just to qualify for a pension.
For more information visit:
Uniformed Firefighters Association
MAY 11, 2009
For Former Labor Trustees, an Unregulated Role in Pension Fund Management “Revolving door” helps many firms access billions of dollars BY SAL GENTILE
fter spending close to three decades as a New York City firefighter, and another 11 years as an officer of the firefighters’ union—which included a stint as a trustee of the Uniform Fire pension system—Richard Brower retired. He was toasted by colleagues and, in 2000, left the public sector behind. Then, just a few months later, he was back on the scene, not as a firefighter or a union officer, but as a marketer and principal at Potomac Investment Services, a private equity firm based in Frederick, Md., as shown by Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Like many other former labor trustees, he returned to the comptroller’s office as a middleman who helps investment firms win business managing the city’s pension funds. That left some in the comptroller’s office bewildered. “If in fact they’re going to change the system in New York State, which they should, you should not just look at the New York City system as a model,” said a former senior aide to then-City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. “You have to have a model that does away with, as much as possible, any kind of unrelated lobbying influence.” Even as SEC investigators and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) have shed new light on the management of city and state retirement funds, the role former trustees like Brower play in helping private equity firms gain access to the city’s opaque system of pension fund investments to land contracts has often been overlooked. City records show that Potomac Investment Services acted as a “placement agent” in 2000 in a deal that gave SCP Private Equity Partners a contract to manage $90 million in pension fund investments. The fee paid to Potomac was not disclosed. The CEO of the company, Goodloe Byron, declined comment. Fees for private equity managers are relatively high, according to financial experts,
because the yield and risk are especially high. As documents released by the comptroller’s office show, those fees often reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even over a million dollars for contracts similar in size to the one SCP won. Brower did not return calls seeking comment. But a friend of Brower’s with knowledge of the situation who declined to be named in connection with the pension fund investigation defended the former firefighter’s right to use his connections to make a living. “This guy gave his life to the city,” the friend said. “He spent 30 years walking into burning buildings and pulling people out.” Brower’s role in helping persuade the pension boards to award SPC the $90 million contract is not unique. Money managers and placement agents often hire former labor trustees to help them do business with the city pension funds. Tracing the precise number of trustees that have left the pension system and entered the money manager market is difficult, but former officials in the comptroller’s office, regulatory filings and city records confirm dozens of examples. The result, experts say, is a world in which money flows in myriad different directions, but is subject to considerably less disclosure than other areas of city government. Some trustees and money managers defend their right to use relationships and connections to gain access to the city’s pension fund system, which they say is not illegal and, if anything, helps level the playing field as they compete with larger investment banks. “You have lots of people competing for the business of these large pension funds,” said Stuart Oltchick, president and CEO of Stuart Portfolio Consultants, a small money manager based in Manhattan that has lobbied the comptroller’s office for business with the pension funds, according to records from the city Lobbying Bureau. “I try, to the best of my ability,
to follow every regulation that’s a part of our business.” Oltchick’s firm is listed with the Third Party Marketers Association as interested in doing business with hedge funds, real estate investments and private equity funds, among others. Oltchick hired Michael Welsome, a former police department employee and executive director of the Police Pension Fund, as an “independent contractor” in 2007 to help him gain access to the city pension system, according to SEC filings. “He makes introductions,” Oltchick said. “He has relationships that he brings to SPC.” Oltchick added: “I guess somebody might consider it a conflict of interest. I didn’t.” Welsome also works for New York-based McLane Capital Partners, which acted as a placement agent on a deal to manage $15 million in pension funds in 2008. Welsome confirmed that he helped McLane win that contract. “I was a cop. You’ve got elected officials who do what they do for two or three or five years, and then leave and become lobbyists, and have very lucrative positions, whereas I did what I did for 28 years,” Welsome said. “I have no qualms with people who want more regulation, people who would like to see stricter guidelines and more transparency in the process. I agree with them wholeheartedly.” The solution to what some call the “revolving door” between public pension funds and the money manager market, said Edward Siedle, a former SEC attorney who has studied New York’s system, is to change the way the funds are governed, including the role of the political appointees. “A politician like the mayor or the governor or the comptroller has a certain number of seats on the board, the unions have a certain number of seats on the board,” Siedle said. “None of them really know what the hell they’re doing, and then they all go in a room and make sausage.” email@example.com
The weird and woeful mayors through hizz-tory
The Pirate King Arrrrgh, Thomas Willet a pirate be! Well, more accurately, he was a pirate financier, but that does not have quite the same ring to it. Firstly, though, Willet deserves mention as New York’s first mayor. In 1665, the Dutch had recently handed over what was then known as New Amsterdam to the English, and Willet was appointed to the job previously known as burgomaster, now known as mayor. He served a second oneyear term in 1667. Willet was probably born in THOMAS WILLET Bristol, England, and had arrived 1665, 1667 at the Plymouth settlement on the Mayflower in 1629, when he was 19. There, he quickly established a reputation as a wheeler-dealer and go-between to the often angry natives. Within five years he had been named surveyor of highways and been given a prestigious spot on the all-important commission to dispose of beaver skins. He would eventually succeed famed Pilgrim Myles Standish as captain of the Plymouth Colony Militia. Willet first surfaced in New Amsterdam (later New York) around 1640 as a fur trader and quickly got into the shipping business. An astute businessman, Willet was known as a colorful guy who once single-handedly ran off a group of Indians who had come to scalp him. In another incident, Willet and his English entourage rolled up into a Dutch party, blind drunk with swords drawn, and proceeded to hack the wooden bar to pieces, bottles and all. Despite that effort, his one recorded arrest came from illegally selling corn to some Indians. Only after his second term as mayor did Willet reveal himself as a true renaissance man. At that time, New York was coming into its own as one of the world’s great pirate towns. Both Britain and France had long employed legal privateers to go rob the other guys’ ships and bring the loot back under certain rules and regulations. Eventually, the privateers found this activity so lucrative they tossed the rulebook overboard in favor of all-out lawless pirating. In response, the acting governor of New York flung the city’s doors wide open to these swashbucklers, giving them safe haven in exchange for a cut of the profits. As a pirate, all you had to do was make it to New York without getting caught and hung and you were home free. This system netted the city up to 100,000 British pounds per year and earned huge profits for anyone tied to the pirate industry, down to tavern owners and prostitutes. Willet wasted no time getting in on the action. For several years, he financed and supplied boats that pillaged on the high seas from New York to the west coast of Africa, burning crews alive and generally having a grand time. When they got back to port, the former mayor would smuggle these good men and their booty into the city, take his profits and repeat. Pirate money apparently went a long way back then, because when he died in Massachusetts in 1674, Willet was one of the area’s largest landowners. —James Caldwell
“My children and I have seen a lot of changes in Coney Island over the years, and I’m worried about what the future holds.”
16-year Coney Island resident, construction worker, and mother of five
What will the new Coney Island mean for working families? Lavern and other Coney Island community residents will continue to struggle without a re-development plan that meets their needs for good jobs, affordable housing, a vibrant amusement area, and important public amenities. The City’s plan for Coney Island must not be approved without guarantees for hard-working New Yorkers. We are a coalition of labor unions and civic groups representing more than 250,000 New Yorkers commited to development that works for all.
MAY 11, 2009
City Lobbyists Create a Lobby of Their Own BY CHRIS BRAGG here was no smoke-filled room, nor any deal-making as 50 of the city’s top lobbyists gathered at Sardi’s on May 1. The only drinks in hand were coffee and fruit juice. Instead, the lobbyists sat studiously, listening to a three-person panel describe how to fill out paperwork required under the city’s new lobbying laws. As they flipped though their 70-page tutorials, some of the city’s top political minds struggled to grasp the intricacies. “It is so mundane and complicated,” said Sid Davidoff, of the firm Davidoff, Malito and Hutcher, reflecting on the seminar and why he organized the event. “It can be difficult to even know what the right questions to ask are.” The gathering will be the first in a series that has come as something of a delayed but determined response to the lobbying regulations passed by the Council in 2006, as the lobbying industry’s own lobbying group, the New York Advocacy Association, begins to take shape. The genesis of the Association came in March 2008, when the Council passed another law, which included campaign finance restrictions on lobbyists. That caused many of the group’s members to join in a federal lawsuit. While they ultimately lost, the lobbyists realized there were other issues on which they could work together. The Advocacy Association’s focus has now turned to how the New York City Clerk’s Office enforces the 2006 lobbying regulations, which they say does not cohere to the spirit of the law. There is a rule, for instance, that if a lobbyist meets with a staffer from any city or state agency who has “substantial discretion” over policy, the staffer’s name must be listed on disclosure forms. Lobbyist and former Council Member Ken Fisher said this legal gray area is the reason why he starts every meeting with what he knows seems like an odd ritual. “I ask everybody to raise their hands if they think they are important,” Fisher said, explaining how he knows whom to include in his report. Before the passage of the lobbying regulations, the clerk’s office had one person in charge of filing lobbying forms into old, dusty cabinets. With the 2006 law creating a new electronic filing database, however, a larger staff is now enforcing rules that had previously been glossed over, even if some seem outdated. But small lobbying firms and nonprofits that cannot hire a full-time staffer to
deal with the bureaucracy suffer the consequences, lobbyists say. On other points, the lobbyists’ interpretation of the new law has simply differed with that of the New York City Law Department, which advises the clerk’s office. There are also concerns from lobbyists about contradictions in state and city laws, which have different filling periods and requirements. For each client, lobbyists must fill out four forms a year for the city, and six for the state, said Marty McLaughlin, of the firm Connelly McLaughlin. “The whole reason for the law is to see what clients we’re meeting with and whom we’re getting paid by,” McLaughlin said. “But there’s a duplication that’s unnecessary.” Dick Dadey, the executive director of the Citizens Union, supports the lobbying restrictions. But he said the lobbyists may have a legitimate gripe about their implementation. “The reforms were needed. But I was always concerned how the enforcement would be structured in the clerks’ office,” Dadey said. The lobbyists will soon have a chance to voice some of their concerns. The 2008 campaign finance law called for a five-person commission to be formed to review the law’s implementation. The commission, expected to begin meeting this summer, will have three appointees from Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Ind.) and two from Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). The lobbyists complain, though, that Bloomberg and Quinn seem disinclined to have one of their own on the commission, and worry what will come if the membership does not include a representative of the industry being regulated. Already, they have suggested several lawmakers-turned-lobbyists for the commission, including Fisher and former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. As they move forward, the lobbyists hope to form coalitions with groups sharing similar interests, including unions and civil liberties organizations. Part of the reason that lobbyists were unsuccessful in shaping past campaign finance laws, they say, was that they did not work together. They hope to change that with the Advocacy Association. “Our goal is to remind opinion leaders that we have our right to petition our government,” Fisher said. “It’s in the same amendment of the Constitution, right along with the right to a free press and freedom of religion.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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MAY 11, 2009
Greene Reflects on 27 Years in Albany
I WANT MY MONEY BACK!! According to Ken Lewis, I believe under sworn testimony, both Paulson and Bernanke coerced him to do a deal with Merrill Lynch that he knew was too risky. He was also dissuaded from telling his Board and shareholders. I happened to own 40,000 shares of Bank of America stock that was trading in the high 30’s. Either in full or in part due to this coercion, Bank of America stock dropped precipitously. Then, the US goes in and buys preferred stock with a high interest rate and conversion at under 7 and with Bank of America now trading at $11, the government may potentially double its investment while the innocent, law abiding investor, gets shafted AGAIN, but this time by the US Government.
Where are all the LAWYERS? Are they scared to take on the US Government?
Former Assembly Member Aurelia Greene says she will have the ear of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. in her new job. BY CHRIS BRAGG atching the baseball fans stream past her office window on the Grand Concourse to Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium, Aurelia Greene, just a few days before an all-but decided special election vote for the new Bronx borough president, reflected on just how much the borough had evolved since she first went to Albany in 1982. “I have always been very proud of this borough, even in its very low period,” she said. “I knew its potential and what it had been.” This desire to keep moving the borough forward, Greene said, is what prompted her to leave the Assembly and take a job as Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s (D) deputy borough president. Unlike Adolfo Carrión’s (D) deputy, Earl Brown, who commuted to work every day from Brooklyn, Greene is a born and bred Bronxite. In her 27 years in Albany, Greene said one of the most dramatic shifts has been the growth in the number of female legislators. When she arrived, there had been 19 in the history of the state. Now, there are over 50 female members. Greene praised Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) for putting women in leadership positions. That has included Greene herself, who for several years served in the second-ranking position in the Assembly, Speaker Pro Tempore, which made her the presiding officer in Silver’s seat whenever the speaker was not in the room (which was often).
Asked if she had witnessed any particularly compelling moments during all those hours, Greene paused. “Not really,” she said. “Um, maybe about the most interesting would be the debates—when we’ve had debates.” Greene said she took a different approach towards presiding over the chamber than had her predecessor in the position, former Assembly Member Ivan Lafayette (D-Queens).
“I was at the top, pretty much. I didn’t need this in order to enhance me.” “Just reminding people to give the respect to their colleague that they would expect for themselves—without shouting at them,” Greene said. “And I found that they were much more amenable to responding to me.” While Diaz, Jr. has not defined a specific role for Greene as deputy borough president, Greene said she would have Diaz’s ear on crucial policy decisions. If Diaz goes the way of Carrión and leaves the borough presidency before his term expires, Greene could run for the office herself. But Greene said she did not take the deputy president job with an eye towards moving up the political ladder. “I would not want to,” Greene said. “Because I was at the top, pretty much. I didn’t need this in order to enhance me.” firstname.lastname@example.org
MAY 11, 2009
The Unusual Case of Would Be-Judge Nora Anderson No backlog for Surrogate’s Court, but Anderson’s absence from bench felt BY DAN RIVOLI hroughout her campaign for Manhattan Surrogate’s Court last year, Nora Anderson promised to increase accessibility and implement reforms in a court known more for being a patronage mill than handling estates and wills. Though Anderson won, those reforms remain untouched, along with her spot on the bench—since a month before being sworn in for her 14-year term, she was indicted for steering a $250,000 personal check from her former employer to her campaign. Far beyond the maximum amount allowed for a contribution, that $250,000, the campaign claimed at the time, was a loan, though only a small portion was paid back. Anderson, who pled not guilty to the charges, declined comment, through her lawyer. Usually when judges or judicial candidates come under legal scrutiny, it is before they win elections or after some years on the bench. By being indicted before taking the seat she had already won, Anderson created a strange situation for the judiciary, which the Court of Appeals eventually resolved by suspending her, with pay, until the criminal trial was resolved. Already postponed once, the criminal trial is now set to begin May 22, and may drag on for several months. Meanwhile, at the Surrogate’s Court, even modest updates such as capital improvements, personnel decisions and new technology are on hold as Judge Kristin Booth Glen and acting surrogate Judge Troy Webber focus on handling the caseload that piled up in Anderson’s absence. Among other things left by the wayside for now, Booth Glen said, is a plan for how to spend the much-needed capital money promised to the court by the Office of Court Administration (OCA). “It’s hard not knowing whether she’s going to be here for two years or six months,” Booth Glen said of Webber. “If I knew that Nora was going to be here in September and was going to be here long after I was gone, I might have different conversations.”
could continue its ethics investigation, which was launched before Anderson was indicted. That investigation could take longer than the trial. If she is found guilty in court, there will likely be a process of appeal. Anderson may well survive the investigations, but if not, depending on the timing of the vacancy, there will either be a regular primary election or a general election in which the Democrat is picked by the county party. Alternatively, the temporary appointment could hold until the next election cycle, allowing for campaigns to start from scratch.
Even modest updates such as capital improvements, personnel decisions and new technology are on hold as Judge Kristin Booth Glen and acting surrogate Judge Troy Webber focus on handling the caseload that piled up in Nora Anderson’s absence.
Nora Anderson on the campaign trail last summer. Her trial is set to begin May 22. While Webber’s term is dependent on Anderson’s trial, 66-year-old Booth Glen will hit the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2012. Webber was appointed temporarily to Anderson’s seat by the OCA in January. Though she practiced civil law as a litigator, her time on the bench was spent dealing with criminal cases in Manhattan and in the Bronx before being elected to the Supreme Court in Manhattan in 2003. Without a transition period to become
more familiar with the staff and attorneys of the court, Webber said she is quickly learning the procedures and casework of the court that deals with inheritances, wills, estates of the dead and appointing legal guardians. How long the limbo in the court will go on remains unclear. Anderson could make a plea deal and vacate her seat. Or she could go through with a full trial. If she does, and is acquitted on criminal charges, the Commission on Judicial Conduct
Among those who some speculate may be interested in the race if and when it comes are Anderson’s 2008 opponents, State Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling, who carried the backing of the county party, and John Reddy, who came in a distant second. Tingling did not return calls for comment, and Reddy declined to talk about a potential entry into a race should there be an opening. “It is still a peculiar scenario, something no one suspected,” Reddy said. And there may be a new person involved. Webber said she is so engrossed by the work in this new area of law that she might try to hold onto the job by getting into an election herself. “My intent was not to run for it,” Webber said. “But you never know.” email@example.com
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Eva Moskowitz, right, mulls a 2013 comeback (Page 8), new Council Member Liz Crowley braves the harsh weather for her first day on the job (Page 18)
and Richard Ravitch, left, explains
Vol. 3, No. 8
why everyone should get on board his plan to save the MTA (Page 23).
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MAY 11, 2009
As Thompson Tackles Bloomberg on Schools, Mixed Reviews for His Own Plans BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS n early April, Comptroller William Thompson (D) released a scathing audit of the Department of Education’s contracting system. Accusing the agency of “runaway spending,” Thompson reported that one out of every five contracts was at least 25 percent over its initial cost estimate.
With the law governing mayoral control set to sunset at the end of June, Thompson clearly sees an opportunity to stake out an aggressive position on the future of the city’s 1,100-plus school system. He has already submitted to the Legislature a far-reaching plan to reform mayoral control. And by tapping into his experience as the former president of the Board of Education, Thompson
Comptroller Bill Thompson is aiming to polish his record as a former president of the Board of Education and critic of the current system of mayoral control in his run against Michael Bloomberg. School Chancellor Joel Klein immediately fired back, calling Thompson’s figures wildly inaccurate and advised the comptroller to verify his numbers before releasing them to the public. Thompson, who is, notably, running for mayor against a man who has staked his reputation on the progress of the schools, responded by accusing Klein of failing to grasp the difference between one type of contract and another.
appears to see education as a trump card to use in his race against Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Ind.). To highlight his education credentials, Thompson often cites his many audits of the DOE and his efforts as president of the Board of Education in paving the way for the centralization of school governance. But much of his campaign’s education platform is still in the works. Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s campaign
website includes a three-point plan that both summarizes the mayor’s record for the last eight years and highlights his vision for the next four: more parental involvement, more public schools and more charter schools. And, no doubt much to Thompson’s chagrin, Bloomberg continues to rack up kudos from the Obama administration for his handling of the schools. Thompson’s critique follows the general line of his campaign: Bloomberg is deaf to the concerns of parents and teachers on mayoral control because he is an out-of-touch billionaire. “With greater responsibility goes greater accountability,” Thompson said at a recent campaign rally to announce the endorsement of several Manhattan legislators. “This administration continues not to reach out to parents, not to engage parents. They’ve left them out, and the public doesn’t know what’s going on.” However, the response to Thompson’s own proposals has been mixed, with even some of his supporters confused, calling them more of a step backward than forward. The core of Thompson’s plan is replacing the Panel of Education Policy, a 13-member advisory board that mainly serves as a rubber stamp for Bloomberg and Klein’s policies. Under Thompson’s plan, the new board would be selected by a 19-member nominating committee consisting of members appointed by the mayor, the borough presidents, the City Council and several other interests. Thompson said he modeled his proposal on the selection processes in Boston and Cleveland. But some have said his plan seems like an attempt to curry favor with the borough presidents and members of the City Council, in the hopes of gaining their support for his bid for mayor. Others criticized the plan for adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to a system already overburdened with too much red tape. “A 19-member nominating committee? That’s not good,” said Eva Moskowitz, who runs several Harlem-based charter schools and formerly chaired the Council’s education committee. “As a citizen or a public school parent, am I going to remember the names of these 19 members? Who am I going to blame when the schools are not well run?” Even some of Thompson’s supporters could not get on board with his plan to reshape the education panel. Assembly Member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), who recently endorsed Thompson’s bid for mayor and has been a fierce critic of mayoral control under Bloomberg,
distanced herself from the expanded nominating committee proposal. “It’s irrelevant of how you arrive at who is on a panel unless the panel is structured in a way that they have some genuine input,” Glick said. “So I’m more focused on ensuring that the structures are in place, to ensure that they, in fact, have input.” Another Thompson ally, Assembly Member Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan), also expressed some reservations. “I think the problem with a nominating panel, like so many things, is it can be rigged like anything else,” Kellner said. “While it looks good from the outside, it’s all about how it actually functions—and I’m not sure it’s going to work.” But Thompson’s proposals were not totally dismissed. Assembly Member James Brennan (D-Brooklyn), who abandoned his bid to succeed Thompson as comptroller, included his idea of a nominating panel in a bill he recently introduced in Albany. The bill has not been well received by his colleagues thus far, but Brennan believes it is the best way to ensure the education panel is free from influence from City Hall. He also believes either Thompson or potential mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/ Queens) could run the school system more competently than Bloomberg.
“A 19-member nominating committee?” said Eva Moskowitz. “That’s not good.” Thompson’s other proposals, such as an independent audit of test scores and beefedup roles for district superintendants, were received more warmly. Thompson has taken to publicly quoting education historian Diane Ravitch when challenging Bloomberg’s record on schools. Ravitch has emerged as the premier critic of Bloomberg’s educational policies, regularly sparing with the DOE over accuracy in test scores and graduation rates. Ravitch said there was a lot to admire about Thompson’s plan to reform mayoral control, especially his plan to take away the power of appointments from the mayor. “That’s the way it was done back in the days of Mayor [Robert] Wagner and it seemed to work pretty well,” Ravitch said. “That’s the nature of having someone vet your choices. I think that’s very reasonable.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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MAY 11, 2009
Saving Our Institutions of Optimism BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER STEVEN ENGLEBRIGHT uring the recent budget struggles that have plagued our state and nation, the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) was targeted for a total of nearly $22.3 million in reductions, most of which would affect the general arts, decentralization and artsin-education grant programs. These cuts were coupled with a proposed complete zeroing-out of the state funding for local zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums (ZBGA), our “Living Museums.” The NYSCA cuts had the direct potential to force 573 arts organizations from across the state to close their doors. The cuts to the ZBGA program would have forced equally catastrophic closings to our state’s Living Museums. Although all members of the State Legislature are fully aware of the dire economic conditions that exist, I was joined by dozens of my colleagues from across the state who realized immediately that an attack on our artistic institutions was an attack on the very ability of our collective psyche to overcome the hardships imposed by those same economic conditions. This support was manifested in the unprecedented collaboration between the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and
Sports Development and the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism and Recreation during Arts Day this past February. Joining with my colleague State Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) and choosing Arts Day—the annual arts lobby day in Albany—as the date of the event, the two committees came together in the first joint meeting of Assembly and Senate committees. Taking our cue from President Barack Obama’s recent victorious use of the Internet, we decided that this joint meeting would reach out to all citizens of our state via the Web and give those unable to travel to Albany the
ability to speak before the committees through YouTube postings. The feedback and interest was overwhelming. Representatives from various arts organizations traveled to Albany to speak directly to us about how these cuts would adversely affect their ability to implement their public programs. Several interested parties sent in YouTube testimonies, including one by an impassioned freelance artist named Jeff Tocci, who suggested that perhaps we look to the historical precedent set by the great New Yorker Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, through the Works Progress Administration program of the 1930s, instituted a series of public art projects that employed great artists and brightened the reality for so many struggling through the darkest days of the Great Depression. The Joint Meeting of the Committees also included representatives from our state’s renowned zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums, including a rare Great Horned Owl from the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Oyster Bay, Long Island. These Living Museums were targeted in the original budget for a complete zeroing-out of their state funding—funding that in many cases pays to feed and house the plants and animals. Our efforts were not in vain. During the difficult budget hearings that recently
took place, funding was restored to the state’s Living Museums and partially restored to NYSCA, allowing for the vast majority of arts organizations that were targeted to remain open and vital. As my colleague Senator Serrano has noted, our arts organizations and Living Museums are part and parcel of our revitalization efforts. They bring business, jobs and tourists to every region in the state. But they do more as well. They are our greatest examples of institutions of optimism. In tough times such as these, we need our arts and our Living Museums as never before. Whenever I think about the role these institutions play, I am reminded of a quote from the great artist Picasso who noted that “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” We must remain firm in our understanding of the role these institutions of optimism play in our ability to flourish as a state and nation. In the trying days ahead, we must endeavor to keep our faith in our abilities and keep these institutions viable for ourselves and the future generations of New Yorkers who will need them to wash from their souls the dust of everyday life.
Steven Englebright, a Democrat representing parts of Suffolk County, is the chair of the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development.
Declining Revenue Threatens Jobs at Cultural Institutions BY COUNCIL MEMBER DOMENIC RECCHIA ayoffs in New York City have gotten so bad, they’re extending to the animals at the Bronx Zoo. This devastating news, that the zoo will permanently lose hundreds of animals due to budget cuts, was revealed during a City Council hearing I co-chaired with my colleague, Council Member Helen Foster (D-Bronx), and her Parks and Recreation Committee. It’s just another example of the tumultuous climate at New York City’s cultural institutions. The zoo would lose deer, bats, porcupines, foxes and lemurs, among other animals. While I’m worried it will take away from the diversity of the country’s largest urban zoo, I’m more troubled by what it means for the batkeepers and porcupine wranglers. While there’s a myriad of concerns in the cultural community about this recession, the biggest, for me, is employment. Faced with declining revenue and operating support, jobs are being cut at institutions across the city, like the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Metropolitan Museum of
Art. Many other institutions are preparing to let people go. New York has the best theater, art and music in the world—I challenge anyone to prove to me otherwise—and the reason for that is the talent we attract. But while New Yorkers are resilient beyond belief, there is only so much they can take before they leave us in search of other job markets. Our cultural institutions are magnets for people who are highly skilled in their chosen professions. We can’t risk losing them to other cities, because New York’s reputation and vibrancy is built on its position at the center of the world stage. It’s easy to say and harder in practice. Corporate donations are down, and Wall Street is still struggling. Budgets are getting slashed faster than our red pens can follow. On a government level, we need to encourage investment and practice responsible budgeting. The city’s current mandate for across-the-board cuts can often be unfair. Cuts need to be focused and based on need and size, especially when it comes to our living museums—the zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens. At the same time, we need to remember
that some of the most exciting things in the world could be happening right around the corner, or a short subway ride away. I believe many New Yorkers hoping to save money on costly vacations this summer will opt for “stay-cations.” Luckily, there’s plenty to do. Did you know that on the roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art there’s a sculpture installation by Roxy Paine that you can visit through October? Or that the
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island just opened a new exhibit? Or that fireworks season starts on June 19 on the Coney Island boardwalk, with a free show every Friday night until Labor Day? Exploring the expanses of New York City is a viable alternative to out-of-town vacations and offers the added advantage of keeping the local economy strong. Just remember that, when you visit local attractions, make sure to stop in a local restaurant or store. Calm seas are over the horizon, and if we can keep money circulating in the local economy, it will help us navigate the rough waters. This summer, I encourage all New Yorkers to rediscover what makes this city great. You’re not just investing in a fun afternoon. You’re investing in our shared future. Remember, cultural institutions are a major economic engine. They attract tourists, boost neighborhood economies and, most importantly, provide jobs.
Domenic Recchia, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn, is chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations.
MAY 11, 2009
In Time for Mother’s Day, a The Albany Counter Culture New Addition to Team Gioia FORUM
BY STATE SEN. JOSÉ SERRANO here’s a big “counter culture” in the state capital. And I’m not talking tie-dye. I believe Albany has yet to truly harness the power of the arts to revitalize our state economy. The first problem is funding. The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs receives a whole lot more funding than the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and this translates to far less arts-related economic impact outside of the five boroughs. It’s not simply that New York City is a cultural capital; it also knows how to capitalize on that culture.
During this budget season, I fought hard to restore millions to NYSCA as well as the Living Museums: zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums. I also diverted $250,000 of my discretionary “member item” funds right back to NYSCA for grantmaking activity throughout the state. In Albany, relinquishing some budgetary power is like giving up a kidney, and it will unsettle some of my colleagues. But NYSCA grants create jobs and foster economic development. In effect, these grants are stimulus. The money is already being distributed, whereas red tape will delay payment of most member-item funds for several months. My dedication to the arts is born out of a commitment to diversity: good arts policy will benefit organizations large and small and, particularly, foster bottomup growth in low- and middle-income communities. But there are challenges. Smaller organizations often lack the capacity to write competitive grants and keep pace with the burdensome paperwork of nonprofitdom. I make sure to check that applicants for member items have filed annual reports with the Attorney
General’s Charities Bureau. Too many worthy groups are delinquent in their filings, and I will not award them grants. One way to address this is capacitybuilding. Over the past couple of years, I have convened several workshops in my district with The Legal Aid Society’s Community Development Project. We invite downtown lawyers to discuss everything from intellectual property and best practices on the Internet, to the fundamentals of not-for-profit incorporation. I am particularly mindful of the fact that I serve as Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee while at the same time representing one of the more underserved districts in the state. How do we go about protecting against the unfettered development and gentrification that have plagued neighborhoods like Soho and Williamsburg? One strategy is demonstrated by the Bronx Council on the Arts and its Creative Black Book initiative. The Black Book is a “vetted directory of quality creative business resources located in the Bronx.” The arts crowd, in other words, should flock to the Bronx not just for a new gallery, but also for quality woodworking, furniture upholstery, picture framing and prop rental. As a policymaker, I do not so much want to reinvent the wheel as help it spin better. This is particularly true with regard to so-called “naturallyoccurring cultural districts.” These are communities—like the Fourth Arts Block (FAB) in Manhattan’s East Village—where development is born out of grassroots civic engagement. According to the 2007 report “Creativity & Change,” by Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert, the public sector can help out “by simply doing its job better.” They write: “Providing security, clean and safe streets, usable public spaces, and consistent and honest enforcement of zoning and development regulations would make the world much easier for those trying to cultivate natural cultural districts.” This corresponds to my larger mission on cultural affairs. We must add value, through increased funding and also a renewed focus on efficient and responsive governance. Creativity may be hard to come by in the state capital—nor is it always for the best—but leveraging the creativity of our constituents and communities is absolutely essential.
José Serrano, a Democrat representing parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, is the chair of the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee.
Lisa Hernandez Gioia and Council Member Eric Gioia, pictured here with the first child, Amelia, are expecting another on Primary Day. BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS omewhere in between thanking his wife, Lisa, at his recent birthday fundraiser and going home to watch American Idol on TiVo, Council Member (and public advocate candidate) Eric Gioia (DQueens) let slip a little news. “Thank you, Lisa,” Gioia said. “We’re expecting our second child, by the way.” The crowd cheered. Having a baby in the midst of a citywide campaign is one thing. But when the due date is hovering around Sept. 15, the same day Gioia is hoping Democratic primary voters make him the next public advocate, well, that is another thing entirely. Lisa Gioia played down the significance of the due date, saying she and her husband will find some way to manage. “It’ll be a busy time,” she said, laughing. “It’ll also keep things in perspective. Families are important, even though we have an important election that day too.” While the couple will be keeping the baby’s name and gender secret until it is born, the Gioia’s first child, Amelia, is already letting the cat out of the bag. “She’s really excited, she’s telling everyone,” Lisa said. “She has two baby cousins, so she’s used to babies.” She said her duties as president of the Esler Group, the well-connected
fundraising firm that also manages the public advocate campaign (pro bono), hopefully will not suffer with the baby on the way. “Last time, I took a little bit of time off,” she said of her first pregnancy. “But I’m lucky in that I can do a lot of work from home.” Her husband was slightly more circumspect about the prospect of having a pregnant wife in the midst of a political campaign. “People have babies everyday,” he said. “It’s not all that interesting.” Having another child does have its benefits—“We’re trying to expand the electorate,” the candidate joked—though there are also the practical realities of a pregnancy with all the wooing of labor leaders and fundraisers to manage in the citywide campaign. Fortunately, he said, he and his wife are old hats at the game. Even with the baby expected to come right around the primary. “You never know with these things,” he said. “Babies are miracles whenever they’re born. It’s certainly another wrinkle for election.” And if the birth happens to coincide with a possible victory party on election night? “There will be one more person at that victory party,” Eric said. firstname.lastname@example.org
MAY 11, 2009
McCarthy Hearings The Gun Lady’s search for someone else to take on Kirsten Gillibrand he entire United States House of Representatives has risen, their heads bowed, their hands crossed in front of them. First, there is a moment of silence for the 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School that left 15 dead. Then there is another, for the 13 killed by a gunman at an ESL class in Binghamton, New York, in April. The congressmen representing the areas where the shootings occurred, Mike Coffman (R) of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey (D) of New York, spoke moments before, lamenting their shock and the nation’s sadness. What goes through Carolyn McCarthy’s (D) mind at such moments? She is in the front row, wearing a bright green blazer in a sea of gray suits. Do the memories come rushing back from that day 15 years ago when her own husband was murdered and only son grievously wounded as they rode home on the Long Island Rail Road? Does she pray? Is she crying? No, Carolyn McCarthy stands on the floor the United States Congress, quietly seething. “Our own New Yorker,” McCarthy huffed later, reminded of Hinchey’s remarks. “I can never get him on any of our gun bills whatsoever. Gets up and talks about what happened in Binghamton. Well, hello?”
By David Freedlander
MAY 11, 2009
cCarthy has been seething, quietly and not so quietly, quite a bit these days. Unlike just about every other politician in New York, she did not want the Senate appointment to replace Hillary Clinton for herself. Nonetheless, she did call Gov. David Paterson (D) early in the process to make her case about one prospective candidate: Kirsten Gillibrand (D), the upstate congresswoman recently elected to her second term, whose endorsement from the National Rifle Association and votes in Congress were simply unacceptable to McCarthy. “I said to him, ‘I’ve got no dog in this fight, you know that,’” she recounted. “‘But I feel the need to tell you where she stands on a couple of issues.’ And I told him that if he picks her, it will be a political firestorm for him.” Paterson, McCarthy said, seemed surprised by her depiction of Gillibrand’s gun record and thanked her for the call. Word of the conversation spread through the delegation. Other members, similarly concerned about Gillibrand, felt assured that McCarthy had successfully disqualified Gillibrand, which, according to one, explains why her name had disappeared from all the speculation until the very last minute. But then, after the sudden implosion of Caroline Kennedy’s candidacy (which McCarthy, who knows Kennedy from their work together on service initiatives, had no problem with), Paterson’s office leaked word that Gillibrand was the choice. McCarthy was at her Washington home, sick in bed, but she quickly got dressed and made her way through the January cold to her Capitol Hill office to begin blitzing media outlets with her revulsion at her new senator. “I’m extremely upset by this,” she told one Long Island television station. “I can not hold my voice back any longer,” she told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Mitchell, who had been one of the many national reporters who descended on McCarthy’s hometown of Mineola to cover her first congressional campaign, spoke softly to McCarthy, as if she were still the grieving widow she was then. At one point, Mitchell’s voice seemed to catch a little. “This is a personal issue for me,” McCarthy told her. “This isn’t just politics.” Months later, the emotion still rings in her voice. “I was furious,” she remembered, sipping her third or fourth heavilycreamed, heavily-sugared large coffee of the afternoon, a vestige of her days working the night shift as a nurse. “Obviously I care about the gun issues, and I was just furious that of all of the candidates he could have picked, he picked somebody that just went against everything the majority of us in New York stand for.” McCarthy has only made one rash move in her political career: her first one. In 1996, she was sitting up in the galley in the House and watched as her own congressman, Dan Frisa (R), voted against the ban on assault weapons. She got up and walked out of the Capitol, and, without a day of political experience, vowed to challenge Frisa, and to beat him. “That creep should not have been in Congress,” she explained, 13 years apparently having done little to temper her. Now, another opponent of gun control, another who counts McCarthy as a constituent, has emerged, and McCarthy made a similar promise. “I will run against her,” she told Chris Matthews of Hardball that night. “That’s how important it is to me that we have a senator that does not belong to the NRA.” The Democratic establishment pushed her to stand down and let the new senator go about her work. McCarthy said she would not. But now she is not so sure. “The last thing I want to do is run for Senate,” she said. “It’s just not where I want to be at this stage in my life. I’m 65. I know that’s a kid up there, but I’d be starting right at the bottom. Someone should be there long-term. How many more years would I have up there?”
illibrand has backpedaled, too. In the three months since she was sworn in as senator, she has moved swiftly to distance herself from the NRA, meeting with families in Brooklyn who have lost loved ones to gun violence and working with gun rights groups to slow the trafficking of illegal guns. In the House, she cosponsored the Tiahrt Amendment, which requires the FBI to destroy records of a gun buyer’s background check within 24 hours. In April, she called for its elimination. That is no consolation for McCarthy. “I know she is saying the right things now, but I don’t know if she is just doing it just to win the next primary,” she said. “I think that to go to the Senate you have to have some core beliefs. You know, being in politics is
MAY 11, 2009
Carolyn McCarthy during her first congressional campaign in 1996, with her son, Kevin. tough. There are people I might disagree with, but if you believe in something and say this is what you are going to fight for, that’s fine, but to flip in one week? When all of this happened, I said to myself, ‘Who is this woman?’” No one has questioned McCarthy’s own position on guns since December 7, 1993, when her husband and son were among the dozens of stunned commuters on the 5:33 out of Penn Station shot at
vacationing part of the year in Vermont in a house they shared with friends, and she had begun golfing and skiing and fishing. “She was not a particularly political person before the death of her husband,” remembers New York Times columnist Dan Barry, who covered the campaign as the paper’s Long Island Bureau chief. “She was the classic Nassau County/ Queens border-kind of New Yorker, who plays mah jong and canasta and drinks
“The last thing I want to do is run for Senate,” she said. “It’s just not where I want to be at this stage in my life.” point-blank range by an unemployed Jamaican immigrant named Colin Ferguson who believed that white people were conspiring against him. By then, McCarthy was easing into a sort of semi-retirement after decades working as a nurse. The family had begun
cheap Italian red wine and goes to the South Shore on the weekends. There wasn’t sadness or rage about her, but a fierce kind of resolve, and absolute sense of loss about her of not having a sunset drink with her husband on the beach.” Soon, she became the de facto
national spokeswoman for gun control. Eight months after the shootings, she appeared in a commercial, filmed in her backyard, for Gov. Mario Cuomo’s (D) reelection bid. The advocacy that led to her Congressional candidacy quickly became an increasingly large part of her life. She was a registered Republican, so at first she was positioning herself for a primary. Then Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) and, eventually, Chuck Schumer (D) came to town and convinced her to run as a Democrat, though she did not switch her own registration until 2002. She was magic on the campaign trail, a natural with deep political instincts, but a languid fundraiser, prone to long conversations with donors that could go for hours before she asked for contributions. The Nassau County Republican machine was one of the most vaunted political organizations in the country. There were 50 percent more Republicans in the district than Democrats. Frisa, a former direct mail consultant, was known as a prodigious fundraiser and a fierce
campaigner. McCarthy won by 17 points. Soon after, she visited the cemetery on Long Island where her husband is buried. “Hey Den!” she called out, standing over his grave. “My god, Dennis. Look at me now. Who would’ve ever thought?” She became a celebrity, trailed constantly by reporters from all over the country. NBC made a television movie, “The Carolyn McCarthy Story,” with Laurie Metcalf in the starring role, which ends with her being sworn in on the House floor. The attention stayed with her when she got to Washington, with reporters in tow as she headed to freshman orientation and even as she searched for her first D.C. apartment. But she had no legislative experience, and knew nothing of parliamentary procedure or how to run an office with dozens of employees that had to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people. What she did have was the grit and a bedside manner to get bills through and cultivate powerful friends like Pennsylvania’s John Murtha (D), who likes to call her a “tough old
CITY HALL broad.” (“From my generation, that’s a compliment,” McCarthy explained). While other members of her class stuck together, she was soon sitting in the back with Murtha and the other old lions of the House. She has remained the tough old tomboy from Mineola. In committee hearings, in the whirl of gentleladies and gentlemen and their long digressive pontifications, McCarthy is simple and direct. She retains that working-class respect—Murtha is “Mr. Murtha,” and the former minority leader is “Mr. Gephardt”—as well as her unmistakable accent that turns “caught” into “cawt,” Cuomo into “Coh-mo,” and the junior senator, her nemesis, into “Jillder-brand.” She has stayed mostly away from politics not related to her own reelection campaigns, which she has won overwhelmingly despite occasionally tough opposition. Instead of fundraising, she spends her time away from Washington gardening and taking care of projects around the house. In Washington, she is a creature of habit as well. Every week, she gathers with four women who came into Congress with her at The Monocle, a D.C. power spot, though the conversations tend more toward boyfriends and local events. McCarthy has since expanded the group to include several Republicans as well. “People are always running all over the place, and it’s really unusual to have those kinds of relationships in Washington,” said Darlene Hooley (D), a congresswoman from Oregon, who has been involved since the beginning. “All of that was Carolyn’s doing.” For all that geniality and cross-aisle interest, though, one person McCarthy did not get to know was the freshman congresswoman elected from her own state in 2006 who had also beaten a strong Republican. Gillibrand was new, and off on her own a lot, McCarthy says. She remembers only one interaction, on the House floor, when McCarthy tried to get her to sign on to a piece of gun legislation. Gillibrand said she was from upstate, McCarthy recalled, which explained why she could not. McCarthy has not had much success making progress on her signature issue with the other 433 members of the House, despite all those connections to the leaders. In fact, the country is arguably further from gun controls now than it was when she arrived, despite her presence in the House and all the shootings at schools and community centers and even government buildings from New York to Missouri: the assault weapons ban, which was passed due to her lobbying after her husband’s murder and which catapulted her to Congress, expired during the Bush administration. Polls show support for gun control at 50-year lows. Critics fault her for being too willing to compromise. Her biggest achievement to date was the passage of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) amendment, which
www.cityhallnews.com strengthened background checks to keep the mentally ill and those with violent pasts from purchasing weapons. That came only after the massacre at Virginia Tech, an incident it could have prevented, and with the blessing of the NRA. In 1999, the House defeated a proposal of hers that would have required background checks at gun shows. Before the vote, McCarthy, with tears in her eyes, pleaded for passage on the floor of the House. “I made a promise a long time ago,” she said as her voice cracked. “I made a promise to my son and to my husband. If there was anything that I could do to prevent one family from going through what I have gone through, then I have done my job. Let me go home. Let me go home.”
nstead, 10 years later, she has just returned from a meeting of the Financial Services Committee, where she engaged in some playful banter with Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and introduced a measure requiring credit cards to print over-the-limit fees directly on monthly statements instead of on a separate piece of paper. The amendment passes on a voice vote, Frank assuring colleagues that there was no need for much debate on McCarthy’s proposal. On her desk, which she leans against while talking, is a clipped story from the weekend’s Daily News headlined, “The Making of a Rubber Stamp: NY’s New Senator is Suddenly Lockstep with LeftWing Democrats.” “Facts and her previous positions are dumped overboard in the rush to win election to the seat next year,” the article says about Gillibrand. McCarthy delicately tries to push the story out of view. McCarthy raised less than $145,000 last quarter, a pittance, especially compared to Gillibrand’s $2.3 million haul. And while “I Do Not Want To Be Senator” is not much of a campaign slogan, polls show her leading Gillibrand, evidencing the kind of name recognition that can quickly make up for a fundraising disadvantage. Still, she does not want to run. She likes the House, likes the seniority, likes the repartee with Frank and the relationship with Murtha and the ability to go home to her garden on weekends instead of entertaining lobbyists. She likes the direct interaction with the constituents she runs into at T.J. Maxx on Saturdays, likes hearing their problems and getting involved with ways to solve them. In the Senate, she knows, that would not be an option. “Listen, I’ve been here 13 years,” she says. “I do believe I’d have a good chance of winning, but I don’t know if I’d have the passion for it. I guess it goes back to my roots of being a nurse. I’m hands-on. If you’re a senator, you are taking care of the whole state, flying all over the place.
You don’t actually get to know your neighbors.” McCarthy says that when she came out strongly against Gillibrand, she did so out of pure fury, not thinking of what the future would hold. Gillibrand could have just voted the NRA line, McCarthy said. She did not have to flaunt it, no matter what the political experts say about her savvy political maneuvering. Plus, McCarthy makes clear, her problem with Gillibrand goes beyond policy papers. She just seems not like her new junior senator. “You know, Mrs. Clinton was a very good politician. And I would say that Gillibrand is probably a very good politician, but I would also say that Mrs. Clinton had a genuine feeling and caring for her constituents, and I don’t get that feeling from her. And it’s not just me, a lot of people feel that way,” she says. “It’s not just the issues, it’s the personality. What are we dealing with here? Does she have feelings? I’ve seen her. She’s got a great smile and she talks very nicely. But she doesn’t leave warm and fuzzy feelings.
MAY 11, 2009
“Every one of those people fought for the same issues I fought for a long time,” she said. “Look at their records. None of them were foot soldiers for the NRA. I will stand by any of them in a primary.” In effect, she is offering whomever takes her place in the race against Gillibrand an enticing deal: run for Senate, and get the living symbol of the effects of gun violence as your strongest supporter, out on the campaign trail and in commercials, making the argument on your behalf—an effective two-for-one deal that does not often come along in politics. Aware of how big a boost that could be, some of the candidates have already begun reaching out to her. “I think her support will be crucial,” said Eric Pugatch, an advisor to Stringer, who has already filed paperwork for a run. “In a two-person race, a large part of it will play out in Long Island and among women, and she polls through the roof for both. Her credentials and her credibility on a lot of this stuff are impeccable.” And she will not back down, no matter what kind of pressure party leaders put on her. “I’m not afraid,” she said. “What are they going to do, fire me? I never expected to be here as long as I have. And I’ve never been afraid to lose an election.” For now, that is further than most insiders believe the other candidates will go. The safe seats will look too inviting, and party pressure too much to bear, for a real challenge to an incumbent senator with a formidable war chest. One by one, they think, all those floating their names will fade away, and for all the trouble she and the man who appointed her are having in the polls, Gillibrand may make it through next fall without a challenge from her own party, and maybe not even a serious Republican opponent. That will leave McCarthy facing an election as daunting as her first one. The seniority and the friendships and the Saturdays at T.J. Maxx will have to go out the window if that is what it takes to get Gillibrand out of the Senate. But if she does get in, as she continues to insist, she will be in all the way. McCarthy talks about the race almost like a street fight, in the kind of tough, cocky language that earned her that “tough old broad” stamp from Murtha. “If nobody runs against her,” she said. “We’re going to have her.” As for how a combination of poor fundraising, lack of ambition for the seat, resistance of party elders and a deep desire to just be able to return to the quiet life in Mineola would add up to a statewide Senate win, she answers with the trademark shrug that can convey mirth, resignation, frustration, or a little bit of them all. “I’ve had those challenges before,” she said. “You do what you got to do.” email@example.com
“If nobody runs against her,” McCarthy said of Gillibrand, “we’re going to have her.” What can I say? It’s an intuition on my part.” Gillibrand has tried to reach out since McCarthy went public, telling her at a labor breakfast that she wanted to settle their differences. McCarthy was not interested. “I looked at her and I said, ‘Stand back. Stand back. This is not the place to talk about this,’” the congresswoman said. Gillibrand’s office has tried to set up a meeting since, but always on a Monday, McCarthy says, when, as the former congresswoman should know, McCarthy is back in the district. The purpose of those early attacks, though, was not to create these problems between them or to promote herself, McCarthy said. She was engaged in a calculated move to convince others that challenging Gillibrand was an acceptable thing to do and lure them into the race. “How am I going to raise $15 million?” she said, fully aware of her political shortcomings. “I never considered it into my psyche that I was going to do it. I was just hoping that if I spoke up, other people would get in. And they did.” McCarthy is comfortable with the choices that have begun to emerge, including Rep. Steve Israel (D-Suffolk), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/ Queens) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
MAY 11, 2009
Hevesi Investigation Casts Shadow over Campaign for Katz’s Seat BY CHRIS BRAGG n 2001, Karen Koslowitz (D) was term-limited out of the City Council after a decade in office. In 2005, Michael Cohen (D) resigned from the Assembly to care for his dying wife. Now, as they run for the Forest Hills Council seat being vacated by Melinda Katz (D), the Queens political connections that secured their jobs after leaving elected office are shaping their campaigns to return. The circumstances around Cohen’s departure from Albany have landed him, four years later, in the middle of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s (D) massive criminal investigation into abuses by then-State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s (D) office. According to Cuomo’s office, former Independence Party chair Ray Harding arranged a $150,000-per-year job for Cohen at the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (HIP) so that Cohen could leave Albany and be with his ailing wife and family. That paved the way for Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) to win Cohen’s Assembly seat. At the same time, Harding was allegedly making $800,000 in kickbacks through his work with the state comptroller’s office then headed by Alan Hevesi, Andrew’s father. In a footnote on page three of the complaint against Harding, Cuomo’s office was careful to exonerate Andrew Hevesi from any wrongdoing in the plot. Noticeably absent from such an explicit exoneration was Cohen. Even after months of cooperating with Cuomo’s office, Cohen is still part of the investigation. Many in Queens political circles are confused that Cohen is bringing more attention to himself by continuing his Council bid. Not Cohen. “I have nothing to hide,” he said. “The truth will one day come out.” Cohen said he never discussed trading his seat and that he considered Harding’s help to be purely altruistic. Cohen noted that he has not hired an attorney. He has neither asked for nor gotten any “consideration” from the attorney general’s office in exchange for his cooperation, he said. Because of the investigation, however, Cohen cannot tell his full story anytime soon. That is proving a problem for his campaign. “I do understand people’s skepticism,” Cohen said. “And it’s something that I’m going to have to deal with. No doubt, it’s a possible factor in this campaign.” Koslowitz has had a much softer landing
after leaving the Council. In 2001, when she was termlimited, Koslowitz agreed not to run for the open borough president seat against Helen Marshall (D) and instead took the job of deputy borough president. Because of that acquiescence, Koslowitz is now all but certain to get the county organization’s backing in her Council bid. Already, Evan Stavisky of the Parkside Group, who is a consultant to the Queens County Democratic Party, is signed on with Koslowitz.
Former Assembly Member Michael Cohen is angling for a comeback. Due to conflict of interest rules, Koslowitz could not fundraise as deputy borough president, so she recently took a lower-ranking job in Marshall’s office. That she is beginning her fund-raising only now, according to several political observers in the district, is a tacit acknowledgement that the party will raise serious cash for her. Even with all the talk of change in politics in the air, Koslowitz said she has been getting an overwhelmingly positive reaction to her return. “A lot of people have been coming up to me and saying, ‘We are so happy you are running. We missed you,’” she said. The county party’s endorsement may be all but locked up, but who will receive Katz’s backing remains more of a mystery. If she gets the party’s nod in a comptroller race that features two other Queens candidates, Katz would also likely back Koslowitz, according to several political insiders in the neighborhood. Otherwise, Katz would most likely remain neutral. Katz said she had been focusing on her comptroller bid and was unlikely to make an endorsement for months.
Of the five Forest Hills other candidates in the race, Lynn Schulman (who STATEN is of no relation Kew Gardens ISLAND to longtime Queens Borough President Claire Shulman), who ran against Katz in 2001, appears the most likely to take advantage of any votesplitting between Koslowitz and Cohen. While the neighborhood’s base of older, Jewish voters in Forest Hills is still closely tied to the party establishment, Schulman’s campaign believes the influx of young Asian and Hispanic families into Rego Park and Kew Gardens is an untapped resource that has been ignored by the party establishment. “I think Lynn’s candidacy is about new voices having a say in the political process,” said John Gutiérrez of the Mirram Group, who is advising Schulman’s campaign. High-profile consultant George Arzt is also signed to her well-funded campaign. Former Mayor Ed Koch, for whom Schulman once worked as economic advisor, has endorsed Schulman and said he would be willing to record a robo-call or appear on a campaign mailer on her behalf. The race also includes Heidi Chain, director of legal affairs at the New York City Department of Finance, who along Lynn Schulman has raised major with family members has already poured money in her second run for Council. over $12,000 into her campaign. Joseph Nocerino, who challenged Katz in a 2005 the issue of the attorney general’s primary, is again running. So are Mel investigation beyond insider chatter by Gagarin, a former staffer for Rep. Anthony leaping on his legal troubles themselves. Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) and Bob However, most of the other candidates said they believed Cohen did nothing Delay, a former aide to Andrew Hevesi. But Cohen’s legal troubles continue intentionally wrong. Koslowitz said she had no plans to launch to occupy center stage. Nonetheless, he is banking on the strong union support a negative campaign against Cohen for the he enjoyed as a member of the Assembly moment but that she would not hold to that to carry him to victory in September. For commitment as the campaign unfurls. Cohen’s campaign consultant, Michael now, some past supporters appear to be Tobman, said he believes Koslowitz will sticking with him. “It’s unclear what the facts are right now, eventually go negative, especially if the and whether his connection is anything but race appears to be close. Cohen, however, incidental,” said Ed Figueroa, president of is so far taking a more optimistic view of Local 1056, a group of over 1,700 transit his opponents. “They know me,” Cohen said. “I believe workers in Queens that has endorsed Cohen. “Unless something new comes to their gut tells them what the true facts are.” light, then we’ll continue to support him.” Cohen’s opponents could help push firstname.lastname@example.org ANDREW SCHWARTZ
MAY 11, 2009
Marshall Swats off Challengers, But Not Retirement Speculation Hopefuls believe Queens BP may reconsider safe re-election bid at last minute BY CHRIS BRAGG hen Dave Kerpen announced his candidacy for the Queens borough presidency a month ago, he promised an ambitious social networking campaign. Through Facebook, Twitter and other tools targeting young voters, the new media guru and former reality TV contestant believed he would overcome the vastly superior resources of two-term incumbent President Helen Marshall (D) and win the Democratic primary. It took only three weeks for Kerpen to determine the effort futile. After learning that several “young Council members” who had privately promised to back his candidacy would instead be attending the April 29 campaign kickoff for Marshall, Kerpen decided to drop out of the race, he said. “The system is set up to keep the incumbent in power,” Kerpen said. “It is easy to see how people get turned off by local politics, when young people have to support a 79-year-old incumbent who only ran for re-election because of the term-limits extension.” With the power of incumbency and the backing of the powerful county party, Marshall appears to be a lock for reelection. The two leading candidates for her seat before the extension, Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens) and Assembly Member Audrey Pheffer (D-Queens) are backing her. Both said they would likely run in 2013. Nonetheless, despite her statements to the contrary, speculation remains that the aging Marshall may yet decide not to run for re-election. The theory goes that Marshall could petition onto the ballot, and then drop out, allowing Pheffer, who was likely to receive the party’s backing before the term-limits extension, to take Marshall’s place via a party vacancy committee. Such a maneuver could thwart a potential primary challenge from Vallone. Last fall, Vallone requested that he be able to reopen his campaign account for a borough president run under such a circumstance. (Vallone had to close that account in order to instead raise money for his Council re-election.) The New York City Campaign Finance Board declined to make a ruling on the request, putting off the issue if and until such a scenario actually occurs. Marshall, however, said such speculation was idle chatter. “No chance,” Marshall said. “There’s no truth to that at all.” Pheffer said she had never discussed such a scenario with Marshall. Still, Pheffer has kept her campaign account for the borough presidency open just in case.
With help from friends like pundit Dick Morris, Robert Hornak is trying to rally Republicans by running for Queens borough president. “In politics, you can never be sure something is going to happen,” Pheffer said. “If she decides she’s not running, then I’m right there.” Pheffer said she would close her campaign committee once Marshall is officially on the ballot. With the party coalescing around Marshall, meanwhile, Vallone said he never actually believed that she would not run. One piece of potentially potent ammunition against Marshall has recently emerged, with reports that she spent $103,000 last fiscal year to spruce up Borough Hall, including $82,500 on office chairs costing $400 each. Marshall defended the renovations, however, saying they were long overdue. “How many times have I ripped my stockings on one of the chairs because they were so old?” Marshall said. “Our conference tables were from the days of Robert Moses—but sometimes I think they were bought when the other Moses was alive.” Remaining in the Democratic primary field are neighborhood activist and attorney Marc Leavitt and retired businessman Robert Schwartz, who ran a token primary campaign in 2008 against State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (DQueens.) Republican candidate and Urban Elephants blogger Robert Hornak appears to be mounting the most formidable campaign against Marshall. Hornak had been planning on running a Council race against Vallone, but said he eventually determined the Council member was too moderate to defeat and that he could draw a greater contrast with the more liberal Marshall. Hornak was the county party’s
second choice for the borough president nomination behind their 2005 nominee, Philip Sica, who declined to run again. Hornak believes Marshall has not adequately used the borough presidency as a bully pulpit. Hornak would provide
outspoken leadership akin to that of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (D), he said, in trying to promote the development of Willets Point and other foundering redevelopment projects. Hornak admitted that defeating Marshall will be difficult. But he said his goals extend beyond simply winning the borough presidency. As someone who has long focused on party building, Hornak also said he hoped his candidacy would turn out votes for several competitive races in Queens, including for Council Member Eric Ulrich (D-Queens) and for Dan Halloran, a Republican who is running for Tony Avella’s (D-Queens) open seat. Hornak also hopes to register more Republican voters in the borough in advance of the 2010 general election. Hornak, a self-described libertarian, wants to spread a message that Republicans in New York City are different from those in the national party and their focus is on economic concerns rather than on social issues. “We’re trying to re-brand what the party stands for,” Hornak said. “By rebranding we’ll be able to get broader support. There is a different mentality among urban Republicans.” email@example.com
MAY 11, 2009
Shifting Support in Reyna Race Lopez backs Davila, Velázquez sticks with incumbent
even those outside Williamsburg-East of her Council hen Council Member Diana district, such as Reyna (D-Brooklyn/Queens) ran for the redevelopment STATEN re-election in 2003, her opponent attacked of the Broadway ISLAND Ridgewood Bushwick her for being a lackey of Assembly Triangle. “We have to have someone in the Senior Citizens Council, Member Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn), then head of the influential Bushwick United City Council, where land issues are so an organization founded important, that will side with working by Lopez where she Democratic Club. Six years later, Reyna is fending off a families,” Velázquez said of Reyna. “I currently works. “The community has strong challenge from Maritza Davila, a don’t have much confidence that Maritza district leader and community organizer Davila will become an independent voice been asking me to run,” Davila said. “I have been a community organizer for the for nonprofits who this year is the one and a progressive voice.” Davila, for her part, rejects the notion last 20 years that have made a difference with the backing of Lopez—who has since that she is an extension of Lopez. She in people’s lives.” risen to become Brooklyn county chair. Nonetheless, Davila is drawing on her There appears to be no one issue or declined comment on the relationship fight that caused the rift between Reyna between Reyna and Lopez, saying only connection to Lopez, much as Reyna did and Lopez, which has lingered since that if elected, she would have a more in her early Council races. Davila’s campaign headquarters is in 2005. Reyna, who once worked as the productive relationship with the Assembly Lopez’s Democratic clubhouse, which Assembly member’s chief of staff, said member. “You’re not going to always agree on also has a map of the neighboring she was asked to leave his club. Lopez contends his protégé wanted to show everything,” Davila said, “But we should Council district in which his current independence from his political coalition, sit down, discuss it and come up with a chief of staff, Stephen Levin, is running which is firmly behind Davila. Few have viable plan that will service the entire to succeed Council Member David Yassky (D-Brooklyn). even this much information about the community.” Lopez’s legislative assistant, Allison Davila stressed her background as an situation. But Reyna is confident her record on organizer on behalf of block associations, Frost, is managing Davila’s campaign. Davila has already pulled in $48,418, delivering crucial Council resources to civic groups and nonprofits, including the giving her a more than a twoan underserved and low-income to-one cash advantage over community can prevail. Reyna’s $20,091, as of the “She has no name recognition March filing. That includes until now,” Reyna said of donations from prominent Davila. “This election isn’t Brooklyn Democrats such about one individual. It is about as Assembly Member Joseph a neighborhood. We’ve been Lentol and State Sen. Martin working on common causes.” Malavé Dilan, who has already Without the support of the endorsed Davila. county party, Reyna has received Reyna has also drawn other Rep. Nydia Velázquez’s (Dchallengers as well, including Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan) former district leader and endorsement. community organizer Gladys Velázquez, whose district Santiago and Gerald Esposito, overlaps with Reyna’s, has been district manager for the a perennial thorn in Lopez’s Williamsburg community side, consistently endorsing board, who enters the race candidates who were not Lopez’s with $78,984 already on hand. choice—including Reyna’s Given her connections, opponents in 2001 and 2003, though, most expect the main back in the days when Reyna and opposition to come from Lopez were on better terms. Davila. Velázquez has been a strong However, Lopez said that ally for Reyna since 2005. In that he expects Davila to run as her campaign, Velázquez was able to own candidate, on her own dissuade Juan Martinez, the man credentials. she endorsed for Council twice “When you start looking previously, from running. In turn, Reyna has supported Maritza Davila is running to keep Diana Reyna at her qualifications, [such as] running a community Velázquez in rezoning battles, from getting a third term.
BY DAN RIVOLI
organization, being the head of neighborhood associations, being district leader,” Lopez said, “she has her own head.” But Lopez certainly has a stake in who wins the election. That person can be an asset or a roadblock to rezoning and landuse proposals, as they are the key vote on authorizing developments and doling out tax breaks. In February, Davila brought 80 people to a rally on the steps of City Hall to protest Reyna’s delaying a tax credit for a Section 8 building. The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Center, the nonprofit where Davila is a coordinator, is developing the city-owned lot on Jefferson Avenue in Bushwick into an eight-unit building that will house Section 8 tenants. Lopez accused Reyna of delaying the tax credit vote for almost a year because he supported the development. Lopez, who chairs the Assembly’s Housing Committee, introduced a bill that would automatically grant the tax credit if the Council fails to act in a timely manner. “It’s outrageous you can hold up a Section 8 building for your own personal or political views for almost a year,” Lopez charged. “It sends a clear message that she has no real commitment to affordable housing and hasn’t done much for affordable housing.” Reyna defended the accusations of delaying the tax-credit for political revenge, arguing that two other nonprofits seeking to construct 76 units of affordable housing applied for the tax credit a year in advance and thus deserved the benefit before Lopez’s preferred development. She accused her old boss of putting politics above constituents’ needs. “For an individual to say he’s a public servant and create a dividing,” Reyna said, “I don’t think you can reach your mission or goals when you’re dividing to conquer.” firstname.lastname@example.org
MAY 11, 2009
Competing Agendas and Fracturing Alliances in Fight for Gay Marriage BY SAL GENTILE or Gov. David Paterson (D), whose war cry in April sparked the discussion, the gay marriage debate is about warding off a primary challenge from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. For Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Ind.), who has been lobbying Senate Republicans, the debate is about winning the support of LGBT advocacy groups in his bid for a third term. Even for Sen. Charles Schumer (D), who is mulling whether to lean on a few Democratic “recalcitrants” in the State Senate, as one lawmaker put it, the debate is about keeping up with shifting political tides. And for groups like the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the debate is about equality. Of marriage, that is. But, as with all things in Albany, for ESPA and the other players, the debate is very much about influence, too. The LGBT movement, once a loose collection of activists, has now matured into a sophisticated political force able to draw the state’s political titans into its corner. And in their aggressive pursuit of a bill to legalize gay marriage, LGBT advocacy groups see an opportunity to flex their political muscle. “In our candidate questionnaires, we no longer say, ‘are you in support
of this issue or not in support?’ We say, ‘Are you in support of it, and what will you then do?’” said Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of ESPA, after pumping up a raucous crowd of protestors in Albany on April 28. “We’re going to find out if they’re doing it or not doing it, and we’re going to hold them accountable for it.” But the results of that strategy have so far been mixed, especially on the signature issue, gay marriage. The chances of a bill reaching the floor of the State Senate this year remain precarious at best. The chances of one passing, at this point, seem even worse. The lesson, some Democrats say, is that the LGBT movement, while influential, has not yet graduated to the point where its political investments guarantee dividends in Albany. “They invested a lot of money, a lot of manpower,” said an aide to one Democratic lawmaker. “And that means something, and that does carry a lot of weight. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t buy our vote.” That lack of traction has begun to frustrate some LGBT activists and lawmakers. As a result, there are signs that the movement is beginning to fracture along ideological and tactical lines. Some LGBT Democrats say ESPA’s strategy for pursuing a gay marriage bill has been chaotic and unfocused, trading too many of the group’s policy priorities
BARRY SLOAN PHOTOS
More than 2,000 people descended on the Capitol in April to advocate for gay marriage as the LGBT movement attempted to flex its new political muscle.
for increased political influence. For one, ESPA never actually obtained assurances from the candidates the group helped elect, such as State Sen. Brian Foley (D-Suffolk) and State Sen. William Stachowski (D-Buffalo), that they would support gay marriage. LGBT leaders assumed that simply getting to 32 votes in the State Senate would mean that a gay marriage bill could pass. Then, once Foley was sworn in, ESPA asked him to come out forcefully in support of the bill, by sponsoring it, staging a press conference and helping persuade other moderate Democrats to do the same, according to people familiar with those conversations. Foley said no. And now, though he is officially undecided, Foley is leaning toward voting against the bill. Stachowski has already said he will vote no. Democrats in favor of the bill say those missteps may well have made moderates like Foley skittish, and made it harder to get a gay marriage bill passed. “This is about one-on-one personal politics,” said one lawmaker. “[ESPA] just wanted to get to 32 votes.” Now, Paterson has backed ESPA and its allies into a corner, rolling out the gay marriage bill and raising the stakes for the LGBT lobby. The governor unilaterally scrapped the blueprints he, Van Capelle and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) had crafted for getting a gay marriage bill passed: Keep it out of
the public eye, and quietly round up votes behind the scenes. Paterson even neglected to hash out the details of a vote-getting plan with the bill’s two key sponsors, Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) and State Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan), who had been working quietly for months to get the bill passed. “I think David did that not necessarily in a very coordinated strategy with the gay community leadership,” said one gay activist familiar with Paterson’s thinking. “His main motivation was to help possibly push up his poll numbers with the Democratic primary electorate, because clearly his number-one thing now is discouraging Andrew Cuomo.” For now, ESPA is going along, and those close to the vote-counting say they are working exhaustively, with the help of Bloomberg and others, to get the bill passed by the summer. But if not, and if ESPA’s and Paterson’s shift in strategy fails once again, LGBT Democrats say, the group will have to do something to prove that its political influence cannot be taken for granted. “The primary LGBT groups have taken a page out of labor’s handbook, and created a permanent and effective political presence in Albany,” said Sean Patrick Maloney, an openly gay former Paterson deputy, “capable of rewarding our friends and punishing our enemies.” email@example.com
MAY 11, 2009
On Banking and Banking on 2010 ith questions about the economic future and her own political prospects hanging in the air, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Queens), the chair of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, was the featured guest at the April 20 On/Off the Record breakfast. Maloney spent the morning addressing her role in advising and overseeing federal policy as it relates to the financial system and took several opportunities to distinguish herself from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), against whom she is rumored to be considering a primary challenge next year. What follows are selections from the edited transcript of the on-the-record portion of the morning.
has been a massive hit in the financial sector of New York, one of our major sectors, and many, many people have been laid off, lost their jobs, folded. In the $787 billion stimulus package, a great deal of the money went to new projects to create new jobs that were not already in the pipeline, so you’re not duplicating what happened. But also a major infusion in what we need to rebuild our city and our state and country in the future, and health care, education, green jobs, the environment—and particularly in health care, which is the number-one employer in New York.
Q: How would you evaluate Gillibrand’s performance as senator in the three months since she’s been in office? A: I think it’s more important to go to Congress to work to help people. And Q: Mayor Bloomberg has made the although I did come in second to Senator case that what the city has done in Gillibrand in raising money—but not that the past few years has actually made I spent so much time on it, it’s that many the current economic crisis less of a of my supporters called me up and gave factor for New York than the rest of the me money and said, “Please run against country. Do you agree with that? her.” … This week I am chairing two A: In the area of the sub-prime, I think our important committee meetings on our state has responded, with the governor economy and our future. One is the Joint and the mayor, and all the elected officials Economic Committee, with Professor of the state, City Council area, in a very Stiglitz—and many others—one of the positive way, and our default rate, even though we have more of them, our default Q: Senator Gillibrand said recently leading economists in our country. … rate is not leading the country. … We’ve that she would support the Democratic And I am moving my credit card bill of done a great job not only in having higher nominee for mayor, but was unable rights, on which I have worked two and to give a specific reason a half years, with great dedication, taking why. Would you support the on a lot of people who have made my life Democrat over Bloomberg miserable. … And Sept. 11 health care and, if so, why do you think a has been my prime bill, along with Jerry Democrat would be better as Nadler: we work on it every single day. … I think that the true measure of an mayor than Mike Bloomberg? A: I think that the present mayor elected official is not what you say, but has done a good job in many ways what you do. I think it’s very easy to come given the really difficult hand here and say, “I’m for education. I’m for he was dealt with Sept. 11. He is health care. I’m for helping people.” But responsive, I have worked with him you’ve got to do more than say it. You closely on many, many important have to write a bill and make it happen. issues for our city. But he did And you not only have to write the bill, not support the most important you have to work with your colleagues decision on the economic future to get them to support it so that you can of our city and our state—and have hearings, and fundamentally pass it that’s the President of the United out of committees, pass it to the floor, and States. He campaigned for Barack make it happen. For two and a half years Obama’s opponent. I believe I would go to the floor of Congress, meet that we are much better off with with other members of Congress, go over a Democratic president there the bill and explain why it’s important. Both Sept. 11 health and my credit card working with us. bill of rights. … I think the really great Q: So that is a reason you’d leaders are the ones we look at what’s underwriting standards, so that you’re support a Democrat over Mike happening in government, and you say, “Would that have happened without that not handing out loans to people who Bloomberg? don’t deserve it—though at one point A: That is a huge reason. And there are person?” And if you’re just going on a the joke of New York was, if you can’t certain colleagues, nothing happens by wave saying “Me too,” you don’t even have afford your rent, go out and buy a house, yourself. Nothing happens by yourself, you to be in the seat. … The real challenge for which shows the underlying problem that work with your colleagues. It is a collective the Democrats now is not winning the was there. But since then we have had a effort. And a Democratic mayor, instead election but taking those steps to make our proposals, our values, our series of meetings and proposals. And I’m talking about the housing “This week I am moving projects, our programs happen. week I am moving forward because many people attribute that forward in four different This in four different areas, making as what’s destabilizing, bringing areas, making things things happen for the people of the prices of housing down, and bringing down the whole system, happen for the people of New York City. I don’t know what and we had a series of meetings New York City. I don’t know [Gillibrand]’s doing. around the state where we bring what [Gillibrand]’s doing.” Q: So does that mean you will the institutions we have funded be running against her in next with federal money, neighborhood groups, to counsel and help people stay of having fundraisers for Republican year’s primary? in their homes, and have done a series of candidates, is going to be having A: I definitely am considering it. I things to help people stay in their homes. fundraisers for Democratic candidates. would say it’s very difficult for me And the unemployment rate, we are at And they’re going to be receptive to many because every day is jam-packed with 8.1 percent in New York City. In some of the things and the priorities that we care moving infrastructure projects, helping cities and states it’s at 11 percent. So we about on a national level, which I value constituents, helping programs, moving major legislation. are hovering around even though there and I’m committed to. days and then you get a late fee. This says you’re going to have 25 days. They can’t change the terms and have tricks and traps to change your interest rates.
Q: Given where the banking industry is these days, why is this the right time to push for your “Credit Card Bill of Rights”? A: It’s a passion of mine, because I feel our economy runs better when everyone’s taken care of. Everyone has a credit card story. I’ve always paid on time, I never went over my limit, and they jacked my interest rate up to 26 percent when they advertised it would be at 9 percent for life. In every contract there is a clause that says they can raise your interest rate any time, any reason. That is totally unfair. They can raise this retroactively on your balance. And I have talked to some consumers and constituents where they bought a car for, say, $8,000. And then they raised their interest rate—thinking, “I can handle this at 9 percent”—they raised their interest rate to 30 percent, they can’t even pay off the principal one dime. … This caught me: I thought I had 20 days to pay and they turned around and it’s 14
Quietly, Bloomberg Traded Backing of Ognibene for Queens GOP Support Banking on mayor’s backing and billions to stave off extinction BY SAL GENTILE ueens Republican Chairman Phil Ragusa may have been one of the most vocal critics of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (Ind.) rent-a-ballot initiative, but long before he publicly came out for the mayor’s re-election, the plainspoken CPA had succumbed to the mayor’s brand of hardball. At the Manhattan GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner on April 2, which came at the height of Ragusa’s defiance, Bloomberg bought two tables, at $10,000 a piece, and filled them with a couple dozen Queens Republican district leaders who enjoyed the festivities on his dime. Ragusa got the message. Word quietly went out soon after that he would become the third county chair to officially endorse Bloomberg, giving the mayor a lock on the GOP line, even as others were still focusing on Manhattan as the supposed swing vote. The affable Queens GOP chair kept up his public indecision. But privately, he was negotiating with the Bloomberg campaign to ensure that any deal securing the mayor’s spot on the ballot would also secure the future of his county organization. Word of Ragusa’s acquiescing was what convinced Bronx GOP chair Jay Savino, once a committed hold-out, to come out quickly with his own endorsement of Bloomberg. Ragusa expressed guarded confidence that he had gotten what he wanted out of the negotiations. “We’re trying to rebuild our party,” he said. “Hopefully, now he’s going to help us.” For Ragusa, the stakes could not be higher: the party is down to two elected officials from the borough, longtime State Sen. Frank Padavan and surprise special election winner Council Member
John DeSio, formerly a reporter for the Riverdale Press, has joined the office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. (D) as the new communications director.
Karina Cabrera is departing the office of City Comptroller William Thompson (D) to become director of
Queens GOP chair Phil Ragusa, left, negotiated a deal in the hopes of saving State Sen. Frank Padavan, right, and others. Eric Ulrich, both of whom are expected to face strong challenges in their next elections. Even with the mayor’s help, the once-great Queens GOP faces possible extinction. Or as one Queens Republican put it: “The machine is not as well-oiled as it used to be.” The Queens Republicans once had a handful of seats, at every level of government, including Al Stabile and
Tom Ognibene on the Council, Serphin Maltese in the State Senate, and even Douglas Prescott in the Assembly. In the days leading up to the official decision, Ragusa made sure that he would at least get Bloomberg’s help in trying to pump life back into the county party. He also laid out a blueprint for trying to keep as many seats as possible in Republican hands. According to those involved in the
intergovernmental affairs for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Cabrera was a special assistant to Thompson, specializing in city audits, pension investments and Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (MWBEs).
Diane Barrett, formerly chief of staff to Assembly Member Rory Lancman (D-Queens), has taken a position as manager of government and public affairs for the Continuing Care Leadership Coalition.
New York Supreme Court Judge Rose Sconiers was appointed chair of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission on Minorities by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. Sconiers succeeds Judge Lewis Douglass, who has announced he will step down after 17 years as chair of the commission.
Kathy Ahearn will be joining the firm of Guercio & Guercio, LLP as a partner. Ahearn presently serves as counsel and deputy commissioner for legal affairs at the New York State Education Department. If you’d like to have something listed in Comings and Goings, email your submission (with photos if possible) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAY 11, 2009
negotiations, Bloomberg agreed to back Ulrich in his bid for re-election, while Ognibene, who was the Conservative candidate in 2005 and was threatening to run against Bloomberg for the GOP line this year, agreed to step aside. In return, Bloomberg promised to support Ognibene in a run for his old Council seat against Democratic Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who defeated a Republican incumbent, Anthony Como, last year in their rematch for what had been Dennis Gallagher’s seat. This could come as a personal and political snub to Crowley’s cousin, Queens Democratic chair Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/ Bronx), who was seen as supportive of the mayor’s move to extend term limits and seek re-election. Ognibene, who will announce his candidacy soon, said he fully expects Bloomberg to support him. The move required crowding out Como, who had himself expressed interest in running again for the seat, and was expected to challenge Crowley in a rematch this year. Como is now said to be concentrating on his private law practice and plans to forgo elected politics, according to Republican officials. He did not return messages left at his law office seeking comment. Ulrich, for his part, has earned a more considerable investment from Bloomberg because of his early endorsement of the mayor, which came several days before Ragusa and the county party made their own decision public. Some even think that Bloomberg made Ulrich the kingmaker, forcing the Queens GOP to go along with the decision of their prized young talent. “Even if the Queens County GOP did not endorse the mayor, [Bloomberg would] be endorsing Eric, because Eric was out in front in the beginning with the mayor, and that counts for something with them,” said a Queens Republican. “He put his skin in the game before we did.” Now, in what is sure to be an intense battle to keep his seat, Ulrich is positioning himself as a Bloomberg-type Republican: pro-union, pro-environment and, most importantly, unfettered by party allegiance. “I didn’t want to wait for the county to come out and do it, because then obviously it would be seen as me just following what the party does,” Ulrich said. “I’m not into machine politics.” Despite the contentiousness that preceded the deal, the final arrangement and the security they feel from having the mayor’s billions behind them seems to have soothed Queens Republicans’ anxiety about the future—at least among the officials who have often warred with each other. “It’s very unusual in Queens County Republican Party politics,” Ognibene said. “Since I’ve been involved, for well over 20 years now, I’ve never seen it with less internal struggle.” email@example.com
Former City Council Member
Una Clarke Rep. Yvette Clarke Former City Council member Dr. Una Clarke could not afford a babysitter for her kids when they were young. So she brought her son and daughter, future Rep. Yvette Clarke, along with her on campaigns. Whether at a PTA meeting, community board or political club, Una always made sure they felt included. “She did a great job of balancing,” said Yvette. But just in case the community proceedings were not enthralling enough, Una always made sure to have coloring books for the meetings and tried to do something non-political with them afterwards. Una said she was proud of the influence her own work in public service had on Yvette’s career, first in nonprofits, and then in politics, when she became the first daughter to replace her mother in the history of the Council in 2001. “Yvette grew up wanting to serve the community,” said
MAY 11, 2009
Una. “She’s really a livewire.” In 2000, Una ran for Congress against Major Owens and lost. When Owens retired, Yvette ran and won the seat in 2006. Una, the daughter of a Jamaican sugarcane farmer, likened her earlier run to sowing a field. “The fact that my daughter ran and won is probably the harvest of those seeds,” she said. Yvette agreed that her mom had tapped into changing demographics in the immigrant population, something that Yvette benefited from during her run. “I think she was just a little bit too early,” she said. Una had no desire to run again, and among other pursuits is now Yvette’s biggest promoter. “If I’m on C-SPAN, everybody knows,” Yvette joked. According to Una, she also gives Yvette advice when her daughter asks her for it. Yvette has a slightly different take on her mother’s willingness to share her opinions. “Oh boy, forget it,” she said, laughing. “I’ll be on the floor voting and I get a text message from my mom.”
A political Mother’s Day celebration
—by Julie Sobel
Former Council member
Mary Childs Crowley Council Member
Elizabeth Crowley City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley grew up one of 15 children of political parents. Out of such a large family, though, she is the only one who chose a career in politics. Her mother, Mary Childs Crowley, served on the City Council and also served for 12 years on the school board. She and her husband, who preceded her on the Council until his death in 1985, got their children started in politics at a young age. Liz remembers all of her siblings getting involved. “We had to,” she said. “Some of us wanted to, some of us didn’t.” But they knew what they were doing. “We’d catch a lot of people coming out of mass, it was a good place to hand out literature,” she recalled. “I didn’t mind it,” she said of working on her mother’s campaigns. But, “I didn’t like it like I like it now.” Observing her parents’ careers in politics gave her the
The 15-child Crowley clan in an old family photo. Liz Crowley is seated on her father’s lap. confidence to launch and persevere with her own career. “I knew that it was an option,” she said. “Some people feel that it’s insurmountable.” And her mom has always supported her political aspirations. “I was very happy the day that Lizzie was elected to the City Council,” says Mary. “Right from the beginning, I’ve never had any misgivings.” Mary has learned not to give her daughter too much political advice. “She doesn’t listen to me,” she said. “Because I don’t think she thinks like a politician,” Liz explained tactfully. “When it comes to parenting, my mom’s an expert.”
MAY 11, 2009
Carmen Arroyo Council Member
Maria del Carmen Arroyo Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo spent her childhood climbing lamp posts with her siblings to put up campaign posters for her mother, now Assembly Member Carmen Arroyo. Sometimes they would even pull down opponents’ posters. “It was a family affair, it is a family affair,” said Maria. “Her work to get herself established as a formidable candidate started many years before.” Getting the children involved, Carmen explained, was a practical necessity. “I never had money to pay for campaigns, and they were my assistants,” said the veteran Assembly member. “They have always been involved.” The Puerto Rican community in the South Bronx was coming into its political strength when her mother started making a name for herself, and Maria found the atmosphere back then to be very rough and confrontational. “Because of the challenges I saw she had to deal with, I always pontificated that I would never, ever get into “We live next politics,” Maria said. door to each But in the end, she decided to get into the family business herself, running for Council in other, I hop the 2005. fence and we “I always complained about those who have a cup of stepped up to the plate to run for office, how I coffee and a twodidn’t think they were qualified,” said Maria. When the special election was called, “I was like, hour meeting.” ‘Here we go again. Someone challenged me to put my money where my mouth is.’” Many people mistakenly believe Arroyo’s mother cajoled her into running. That was not the case, Maria said. “She was the toughest sell I had when I presented her with the idea of my running,” Maria said. “I had to convince her that I wanted it.” She said of everyone whose support she sought in the special election,
Carmen and Maria Arroyo with what might be the next generation of the political family, Maria’s grandchildren Octavio and Diego. she worked hardest to win her mother’s. “Well, she surprised me at the beginning,” Carmen said of her daughter’s decision to run for Council and the significant pay cut entailed. “I said, ‘Are you kidding? Are you crazy?’” But Maria won her over. And ultimately, “What choice do I have?” her mother said. “I have to support her.” They talk daily. “We do bounce stuff off each other,” Maria said. “We live next door to each other, I hop the fence and we have a cup of coffee and a two-hour meeting.” “The strength of our relationship as mother and daughter has undoubtedly strengthened the relationship we have as colleagues,” she added. “The disagreements are handled respectfully and carefully because she’s mom.” As part of one of the few mother-daughter political teams out there, Carmen puts in a pitch for more women to run for elected office. “Really, we need more women in government,” she said. “Because women do the job.”
Toby Ann Stavisky Political consultant
Evan Stavisky Evan Stavisky, a lobbyist and consultant with the Parkside Group, says politics was his entire life while growing up. His father was a politician from before he was born, and he was already working as a political consultant by the time his mother, State Sen. Toby Stavisky, first ran for office in 1999 to succeed her late husband, Leonard Stavisky. Not that his mother’s involvement was anything new: his mother ran his father’s campaigns throughout his childhood. “I’ve been doing campaigns for pretty much my whole life,” he said. When he was little, Evan recalled, if his father were in the middle of a campaign, family events such as July 4 barbeques frequently involved petitioning. One of the political hotspots was the shopping center in Bayside, Queens, where they spent every Saturday and Sunday passing out literature. Evan calls the Grand Union supermarket there the “ground zero for a lot of political campaigns.” The family also traveled together
frequently. “My husband had chaired the Education Committee,” Toby said, noting that he also had speaking engagements at education groups around the state and country. Evan, the Staviskys’ only child, would come along. His parents would try to make the trips into family outings. “And it was god-awful,” said Evan of spending weekends as an eight-year-old
His parents would try to make the trips to speaking engagements at education groups around the state and country into family outings. “And it was godawful,” said Evan.
surrounded by teachers. But Evan got through with his interest in politics intact. He even went on to work for his mother’s first campaign. “It could have been a disaster but it wasn’t,” said Toby, adding that while taking marching orders from her son was strange, the bigger adjustment was realizing that he knew better than she did what to do. The process was not without difficulties, however. “There’s a certain level of professional detachment,” in political consulting, Evan said. “It’s a little hard when it’s your mother.” And though Toby does not get attacked very often—“Certainly nothing that’s based in reality,” her son noted—Evan said he has inherited his mother’s long memory, keeping track of all her opponents. “Running against my mother is mandatory life without parole,” he warned. Ever since learning of her son’s political skills, Toby said she has utilized him to the best of her ability. “I have to pay for it, nothing comes free,” she said. “Can you imagine a Jewish mother who has to pay retail for her son’s services?”
May 11, 2009
Classifieds CITY HALL
PROJECT COORDINATOR Fast-paced legislative office is seeking qualified applicants to fill the position of project coordinator. Responsibilities include: • Planning and execution of District events: - participate in macro and micro-level planning meetings - identify and coordinate efforts with sponsors, supporting agencies, event locations, vendors, staff and volunteers for proper implementation - draft related correspondence and promotional materials - develop agenda, briefing documents and activity check-lists • Attend civic, community board and issue-specific meetings and events on behalf of the Member and generate meeting summary reports. • Attend to constituent inquiries and work on the resolution of community concerns. • Provide staff support as needed. Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree and two to five years experience working in a legislative office as a constituent liaison, event planner or project coordinator. Salary: Commesurate with experience. Please send resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE
DISTRICT SCHEDULER/OFFICE MANAGER NEW YORK DEMOCRAT SEEKS New York Democrat seeks District Scheduler/Officer Manager. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following: managing the Member’s and District Office schedule in close coordination with the DC scheduler and District Director, handling the Member’s and District staff travel arrangements, drafting Member correspondence, and general office management duties. The candidate must possess meticulous atten-
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Director, DYCD Youth Programs at NYCHA Centers The Department of Youth and Community Development SALARY: $50,610 to $135,240 The Department of Youth and Community Development is seeking to hire a Director for its newly created NYCHA Center Program Unit. DYCD will contract with communitybased, non-profit organizations to offer children, youth and families a wide range of educational enrichment, recreation, cultural arts and community assistance programs during the after-school, evening, weekend hours, and during the summer. The programs will be located at selected NYCHA Community Centers throughout New York City, and offer activities that create opportunities for empowerment and skill building; development of sound character and positive social norms; and integration of family, school and community supports all in an environment supervised by caring adult role models. Under the supervision of the Assistant Commissioner for Beacon and Work Readiness Programs, the Director will be responsible for providing direct oversight to ensure implementation of programmatic goals to a staff engaged in effective program management of all programmatic components. Some specific duties of the Director include: • Advise the Assistant Commissioner in the development and implementation of all policies, including outcome tracking systems and attendance. • Provide overall supervision to assigned staff engaged in program management/ negotiation and monitoring. • Implement senior-level decisions regard-
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MAY 11, 2009
General Tso’s Chicken (White Meat Only) with Eliot Engel ep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx, Westchester and Rockland) does not take kindly to razzing of his home borough. Stereotypes of “da Bronx” infuriate him, particularly when people overlook Riverdale’s impressive dining scene. Mexican, Japanese, kosher delis, traditional diners—Engel says look no farther than Johnson Avenue and West 235th Street. For lunch one afternoon, the congressman chose Hunan Balcony, “the best” Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood, where he talked about his mustache, the House gym and saving seats for Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).
it’s awful. Some of the steakhouses aren’t too bad, but I tell you, the food is not good in Washington.
Q: This is one of your regular haunts. And they know you, obviously. Your picture’s on the wall. A: I have two pictures on the wall. One is me and my son and the president of Taiwan. And the other one is me during one of the campaign stops over the summer, coming Rep. Eliot Engel gets his fill at Hunan Balcony in the Bronx, in here and bothering people while they eat Washington is “awful.” and asking them to vote for me. You hope problem with obesity, at least not yet, but I think as they they won’t dislike the food and then dislike you. got older they became more aware of it and eat well. In fact, sometimes they chide me for not eating well. Q: Do you cook at all? A: I’m capable of throwing a couple of hamburgers into Q: But you look like you’re in pretty decent shape. A: I try to keep in shape. When I’m in Washington and I the oven or making chicken, but I don’t really cook. [Waiter arrives; Engel orders General Tso’s chicken with see I have an hour or something, I tell my staff I’m going to the gym. white meat, egg drop soup and an egg roll.] Q: Stella D’oro is based in your district. Do you start your day with a Stella D’oro breakfast treat? A: No, I’m boycotting Stella D’oro these days. There is a bitter strike going on right now and the workers have all been replaced with scab workers. When I was on the Colbert Report, I touted Stella D’oro. What’s unfair is, [Colbert] cuts and pastes. The funny thing at the end, you see him combing my mustache. He asked me, “Congressman, how long have you had a mustache?” And I said, “Well, I grew it in college and I’ve had it since.” And he said, “Congressman, can I stroke your mustache?” And I said, “It’s your show, stroke away.” Then he said, “Congressman, can I comb your mustache?” And I said, “We’re on national TV, comb it all you want.” So when the show actually came on, it was, “Congressman, can I stroke your mustache?” And the answer was, “No.”
Q: Is the House gym busy? A: It’s busy. And what’s good about it is you really get to meet your colleagues and talk to them. Q: Who have you gotten to know? A: I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. I remember the late Sonny Bono used to have a locker right around mine, that’s how I got to know him, and we used to chat a great deal. There’s John Shadegg of Arizona. He and I were talking about the stimulus package in the gym. He was telling me that he didn’t like the bill because it was fiscally irresponsible and I said to him, “Excuse me, John, but I think your party lost the right to point your finger at anything for fiscal irresponsibility.” But generally it’s nice.
Q: Do you think you could take credit for that? A: Well, they say in politics, just take credit for everything, so sure.
Q: What do you tend to eat in Washington? A: Last night, I was out with my daughter. We went to one of the Italian restaurants. And the pasta was so good. It was al dente. It was so chewy and just wonderful. Everything in Washington—you order pasta, it’s overcooked. They don’t know how to do it. And you can’t get a kosher deli in Washington. They opened up one several years ago—it’s a funny story in a way—and the person who opened it up was the infamous Jack Abramoff. I didn’t know Jack Abramoff. But then I found out quickly who he was. It was a poor excuse for a kosher deli, believe me. So it didn’t surprise me that he had other problems.
Q: Did you have a junk food policy in your house with your kids? A: No, but I do regret it. My children don’t have a
Q: What about Chinese food? They have a Chinatown. A: Oh, it’s awful. Awful. They do—a little one. But
Q: So you would have let him? A: I said yes! And then the next thing you see is him combing my mustache and I’m laughing. Q: The mustache is making a comeback. A: Oh I hope so.
Q: I read that you’re something of an aisle hog during presidential speeches to Congress. Have your colleagues given you any grief about this? A: Yeah, they all want my seat. When I was first elected 20 years ago, I became president of the freshman Democrats of the class of 1988. One of the guys there was a Congressman named Mike Parker, and he was from Mississippi. And he said to me that Sonny Montgomery, who was the chairman of the Veterans Committee, also from Mississippi, was very good as the Chinese food in friends with George H. W. Bush. Mike said to me, “Chairman Montgomery is friends with President Bush, and when President Bush walks down the aisle, Sonny is going to shake his hand. If you take the third seat next to me, I’ll try to get the chairman to pull you over as well.” I’m sitting there for three minutes and I notice that three rows ahead of me on the aisle, there’s nobody sitting there. So I said to the chairman, “Mr. Chairman, no one is sitting in that seat, do you think I could sit there?” He said, “You better grab it before someone else does.” So I grabbed his seat and I’ve been on the aisle ever since. The problem is, more and more people have been clued in, so you have to get there earlier and earlier and earlier. Q: Do you get work done while you’re there? A: I use my Blackberry, I go use the computers in the cloakroom, I use my cell phone. And if I get up and I’m away for an hour, I tell whoever’s there to watch my seat, and then when I come back they go away for an hour and I watch their seat. So in fact there’s this Congresswoman who actually comes with me on a number of my trips named Jean Schmidt. She’s from Ohio and she’s a very strong Republican and she and I have become friendly. This year we took opposite seats on that aisle—she was on the Republican side, I was on the Democratic side—and she watched my seat and I watched her seat. So anybody who says there isn’t bipartisan cooperation on the floor of Congress these days is lying to you, because Jean and I cooperated by looking out for each other and saving each other’s seats while we were away. Q: You can request a flag flown over the Capitol through your website. And I noticed that the prices on your website are lower than, say, the prices on Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s website. You charge $13.30 for a five-by-three cotton flag, and on Carolyn Maloney’s website it’s $17.25. Do you have an inside deal? A: Things are cheaper in the Bronx than in the Silk Stocking district on the East Side, you know what I mean? email@example.com
MAY 11, 2009
DA Candidates Pick Actors To Play Them, Avoid Picking Democratic Mayoral Nominee
As for the question of whether he would back the Democratic nominee, Vance attempted to duck. “The DA can’t endorse,” he said. Reminded that those restrictions do not apply yet, he held to his silence. “DA candidates shouldn’t endorse,” he said.
the works, contributing to the delay in making a choice for comptroller. But Yassky is angling as hard as ever. “The Upper West Side is certainly one of the highest-voting areas in the city,” he said. “There are a lot of votes there.”
Schneiderman Finds Comedy in de Blasio’s Record Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal’s (D-Manhattan) retread joke about Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn) standing “head and shoulders, literally and figuratively,” above the rest of the public advocate field was not the only display of humor at the sparsely attended May 2 endorsement of de Blasio by Upper West Side leaders on the City Hall steps. State Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx) trotted out some Borscht Belt sensibility too. Reading off a litany of the important fights de Blasio has led on the Council, Schneiderman did not skip a beat before launching into the last one. “Bill is a person who fights for my daughter to have a cell phone in school, even as she only uses it to call to tell me she’s missing curfew for the 10th time in a row …” Schneiderman said, pretending to get lost in thought. ANDREW SCHWARTZ
There have been three district attorneys on Law & Order since the retirement of the character played by Adam Schiff, who was inspired by Robert Morgenthau. But though Sam Waterston is finally settling into his role in the top job on the show, the candidates looking to succeed Morgenthau have some casting suggestions of their own. Asked whom they would choose to play them at the end of an April 30 debate sponsored by several West Side political clubs and City Hall, candidates Richard Aborn, Leslie Crocker Snyder and Cy Vance leapt to the challenge. “I’ve been asked this question a lot, so I’ve thought about it a lot,” Aborn joked. “I finally have figured it out: I would like Leslie to play me.” Snyder quickly parried. “I have devoted no thought to this question,” she said. “But Angelina Jolie strikes me as a good choice.” Then came Vance’s turn. “I believe in upgrading also,” he said, nominating George Clooney for the role. On the question of party loyalty, though, they were much less certain. Aborn committed to running only for the Democratic nomination, without interest in cross-endorsement or running in a general election on another line should he lose the primary, and also said he intended to support the Democratic mayoral nominee. That was further than Snyder or Vance were willing to go on this topic. She gave the same answer to separate questions on whether she was interested in getting the support of another party and whether she would support whichever Democrat wins the primary to take on Michael Bloomberg: “I haven’t even thought about it,” she said, “I’m just focused on the Democratic primary.” Vance said he would not run in the general election without the Democratic nomination, but as for seeking an additional party line, he was noncommittal, saying, “I would have to really think about it.”
Hitch on the Path to Senate Candidacy for Jon Cooper Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Council Members Vincent Gentile and Ken Mitchell brought good luck to one player who scored big as soon as they arrived for a visit. “You did it, Vinnie, you did it!” she shouted, excited to see her new good luck charm. But if the still-lingering rumors of Bloomberg’s criminal justice coordinator John Feinblatt entering the race prove empty, this reluctance to pledge themselves to a Democrat could position at least two of the DA hopefuls for a very helpful endorsement of their own.
Upper West Siders Decide on de Blasio, Delay on Yassky The Upper West Side Democrats came out for one progressive Brooklyn Council member. Will they endorse another? That is the question some are asking after Borough President Scott Stringer, State Sen. Eric Schneiderman and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal announced their support on May 2 for Bill de Blasio in the public advocate’s race. Stringer said de Blasio was “a true progressive in his heart,” which sounds strikingly similar to the pitch made by fellow Brooklyn Council Member David Yassky in his bid for comptroller. Yassky has not received the Upper West Side nod yet, though the Broadway Democrats, an Upper West Side club,
endorsed him in April. But it has not been for lack of trying. “I have no idea,” Yassky said, when asked why the Upper West Siders endorsed de Blasio without also endorsing him. “I’ve been talking to the elected and civic leaders on the Upper West Side about my ideas for the comptroller’s office and seeking their support.” Manhattan is considered the treasure trove of any citywide primary—even by Yassky himself. In a questionnaire submitted to the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats in March, Yassky said most of the votes in the race would come from Brooklyn and Manhattan, and that he would need about a quarter of a million to win. “I will work hard to build a strong base of support in Brooklyn and make significant inroads in Manhattan to lead us to victory,” he wrote. And though Yassky has picked up the early endorsements of East Side Council Member Dan Garodnick and Assembly Member Jonathan Bing (D-Manhattan), the vote-heavy Upper West Side would be key to this strategy. Apparently, Council Member John Liu (D-Queens), who has been racking up progressive support elsewhere and now has the support of the Working Families Party, has thrown a wrench into
Jon Cooper has finally taken the plunge. The majority leader of the Suffolk County legislature drove up to Greenwich, Conn., on April 30 with his longtime partner, Rob, and celebrated their 29-year anniversary by tying the knot. Cooper, who has five adopted children, said he is still adjusting to married life. “When we first broke the news to the kids that we were going to get married, their first reaction was, ‘You’re already married!’” he said. The decision represents a significant shift for Cooper, who said just last year he had no interest in getting hitched. But recent decisions in Iowa and Vermont to legalize gay marriage changed that, he said. “It began to take on a greater significance for me,” he said. “I was just increasingly frustrated that New York State hasn’t acted yet. I would have thought that New York State would have led the way on this.” Cooper, who is also weighing a primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand next year, said he had not thought about how the decision would affect his potential Senate campaign. But when pressed, he ventured that being married might help him a little bit, considering that most New Yorkers support gay marriage. “I was not thinking about the political implications,” he said. “I guess, if anything, it would give me a slight edge.” By Edward-Isaac Dovere, Sal Gentile and Dan Rivoli
MAY 11, 2009
: Bronx Cheer-leader uben Diaz, Jr. has had quite a year. He and a coalition of multi-ethnic elected officials in the Bronx successfully overthrew the leadership of the county’s Democratic Party last year. Following that, he won a special election for Bronx borough president, with only token Republican opposition. At age 36, Diaz has become one of the highest-profile Latinos in elected office. But he still must contend with possible ethics violations by his predecessor, Adolfo Carrión (D), as well as his father, State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. (D-Bronx), who is an outspoken and controversial figure in state politics. Between meetings with his new staff, Diaz took some time to talk about his priorities as the new borough president, his relationship with his father and his plan to establish a code of ethics for his employees. What follows is an edited transcript.
City Hall: You are coming from the Legislature to the borough president’s office, which has less power than it did several decades ago. What is the transition like? Ruben Diaz, Jr.: Obviously you’re going to have some adjustment. Even if you went from one legislative branch to the next, if you were an Assemblyman and you went to D.C. as a Congressman, there’d be some adjustment. There’s a lot to learn. But I’m a quick study. The borough president has to have the ability to bring people together and sell one vision. In my case, I want to sell a “One Bronx” agenda at every level, whether it’s federal, state or city. And all the elected officials now feel like, while they have individual priorities in their districts, but ultimately what effects one neighborhood in the Bronx, one district, effects the entire borough. I believe that that’s the task that’s before us. I have to now make sure that we invite tourism, when you speak about priorities. We want people who visit New York City to come to the borough. This is the county of universities. This is the borough of Orchard Beach and the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Garden. We have beautiful public golf courses. So we want people to come in and enjoy that. CH: How do you feel about being a high-profile Latino official in a city without a Latino running for citywide or statewide office? RD: We’ve made huge, huge gains, when you look at the fact that Adolfo Cárrion is now in the West Wing. People are speaking of folks who are potential nominees by the president for the Supreme Court, and one of them being [Judge Sonia] Sotomayor, who’s not only a Latina but she comes from the Bronx and she comes from the same neighborhood I was raised in. When you look at Luis Gonzalez, who was just appointed by Governor Paterson to presiding officer of the appellate division. You’ve got Lorraine Cortes-Vasquez, secretary of state. Yeah, we don’t have a citywide candidate at the moment, but political power is not just measured in what positions you have, but also the level of achievement as a whole by the community. There’s a lot of ground we got to make up, obviously. I would love for there to be citywide Latino candidates as well as statewide. But I think we’re in a pretty good place here. And there’s so much our community should be proud of. CH: As a high-ranking Latino official yourself, are you being pressured to run for other offices in the future? RD: It’s only my third day on the job! I have a huge responsibility ahead of me, to hone in on all the talent and skills of all the elected officials in the borough, at all
father is elected and I’m elected, but my sister, my brother, my mom, my wife and kids—we have a very political family, and you can imagine there’s so many points of view. My father introduced me to politics when I was seven years old, in 1980. My brother was nine and my sister was 11. My mother is very political. Over at my mother’s house, over coffee and a bite to eat, is where we make big decisions. The family is very issue-oriented. My brother works for housing, my sister is a sergeant in the police department. My mother’s a day care teacher. My father’s a senator. My wife works for the Port Authority. My kids are students. Obviously everybody has their view on all of these important issues and subjects.
New Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. levels. We have a responsibility to be the people’s office here in the Bronx. We have 1.4 million Bronxites who believe that, when it comes to education and health care and other issues, that the Bronx has been shortchanged. I have a huge task in front of me, where there’s so much development here that’s happening, and unfortunately many Bronxites feel that it hasn’t benefited them directly in terms of jobs and job creation. So I have a lot before me. I ran for borough president, I will be the borough president. At least for me, it will be all Bronx, all the time.
CH: And there are disagreements. You and your father disagree on key issues like gay marriage and abortion. Does that lead to tension? RD: It leads to tension. He has his beliefs. I believe I’ve done a good job in that I have my own identity, my own personality, my own record. We’re the anomaly in terms of children and parents in politics. I got elected before he did. So, I’ve carved out my own identity. We disagree respectfully, and we continue to disagree. There will be time when my father will call to criticize the Bronx borough president. And I’ll call and criticize state senators in the Bronx.
CH: Carrión left office under a cloud of ethics allegations. Do you have plans to enact any reforms to the office to prevent future violations or conflicts? RD: I don’t want to speak too much about Adolfo’s situation because I don’t know too much about it. I know there’s been newspaper reports. In the past we all got CH: Are you at least partially glad to be away from hit by the newspapers. Unfortunately for me, most of all the dysfunction and stalemate in Albany? those hits have been just rumors. Without giving away RD: I would never want to run away from turmoil and too much, obviously I’m coming in, and I’ve instructed debate. I did it for 13 years. Obviously it becomes a my chief of staff and deputy president to start looking little chaotic up there. But I’m not running away from at a code of ethics for people who work at the borough it, because as borough president I’ll be reaching out to president’s office, and we’re going to look at developing the state legislators, my former a code of ethics at the community board “There will be level. Stay tuned for specifics. colleagues in the Assembly, my state senators who represent the time when my Bronx, as well as the leadership Can the Riveras be brought back into father will call CH: in both houses, to ensure that the fold? to criticize the RD: I’ve spoken to José Rivera, who is when you speak of the MTA, Bronx borough somebody—whether people like it or not, whether its operating or capital plan, that the Bronx gets its fair president. And I’ll many of us stand on the shoulders of pioneers, share. I fully intend to inject that does not exclude José Rivera. He is call and criticize and myself in debates at legislative one of the people who has paved the way for state senators in me. He’s given 40 years of his life to push a levels. I think that because of the the Bronx.” strong Bronx agenda, pushed a strong Latino relationships I’ve developed up there, including the governor, I agenda. And that should be recognized. In think that it’s the opportune time for me to speak with terms of Joel, I was in his office the other day in front folks and meet with folks and do all that. of the Council delegation. I made my suggestion of working together in capital projects, working together CH: You and your father were involved in a couple with the city budget. And Joel, as the majority leader, was political battles in recent months—the fight over the highly responsive and receptive, so was the rest of the Bronx county party and the Gang of Three stalemate. delegation. Obviously in the future, we’re going to meet Why do you think that is? one-on-one, but I think this is a step in the right direction. RD: We are happy that the new energy is in the county Everyone realizes we need to move forward. leadership. We believe that Carl Heastie is doing a good job. With regards to my father, there’s only two things CH: Have you seen a ballgame at the new Yankee I have to say: one, I love him, and two, I won’t tell him stadium yet? how to vote in Albany and he won’t tell me how to run RD: I did. My wife and children went to the home opener. the borough. I thought the stadium was beautiful. The coliseum is better than Citi Field. I haven’t been to Citi Field, but so CH: How do you keep politics out of family dinner what? I’m a Yankee fan. —Andrew J. Hawkins conversations? firstname.lastname@example.org RD: We don’t. You know why? It’s not just my dad. My
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Published on May 11, 2009
Published on May 11, 2009
The May 11, 2009 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and State....