Page 1

The departure of Nicholas Scoppetta, below, gets insiders fired up (Page 5),

Vol. 4, No. 8

www.cityhallnews.com

October 26, 2009

the new order in the City Council begins to take shape (Page 9) and Roberto Perez, above, steps out from behind the microphone (Page 16).


2

CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

Forethought

The news of this incident prompted a variety of responses from people in the political community, ranging from disbelief to nervous laughter to outrage. What it did not prompt was a response from the Police Department or the Bloomberg administration, both of which were approached for comment by other media outlets. That alone should be reason for concern. And at a time when the NYPD and the administration are already reviewing the press credential process, this incident should serve as a rallying call to prompt others in government to start taking action to change this process. First, the process of applying for and obtaining credentials should be removed from the purview of the NYPD bureaucracy. Even in these times of low crime, there is more than enough for officers to do. A semi-independent office, with oversight by the police and the city government, would be both a better allocation of resources and a better way of preventing potential abuses of power. This new office should review procedures in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. There is no reason, for example, that all press credentials should expire on the same day in January, causing the same inevitable bottleneck of renewal applications at the beginning of each year. Fixing simple things like this would make an immense difference. nyone who has ever made the trip to One Police Plaza to Of course, addressing basics like this is the get press credentials knows the absurdity of the process easiest part. The more complicated task will well: leave multiple messages to make an appointment, wait be restructuring the entire application for weeks or months for that appointment to come, force a smile for the process to have an open discussion of dinky point-and-shoot camera mounted on a stick and then hope that the how distinctions are made between printer is working that day so that the pass actually emerges. who is a journalist and who is not, This is life at the hands of DCPI, the police department press office—timeas well as what qualifies journalists consuming and full of inanities. Take the process by which reporters are able to be able to do things like cross to get the level of credential that allows them to cross police lines: only those police lines or obtain entrance who have three clips showing they have crossed police lines in the past can get a to events. pass to cross police lines in the future. Trace it back, and eventually, every reporter There are complicated with one of these credentials will be revealed to have crossed police lines without the questions involved, certainly. pass. In effect, DCPI is encouraging reporters, at least at the outset of their careers, to But they need to be discussed by break the law. the leaders of this city on both sides And yet, they all march in for renewals, forms and portfolios in hand. Dutifully compiled as of City Hall. Self-serving as it may be for a these may be, the packets are rarely examined by the people in charge past simple verification. If publication to editorialize about the value of things look good enough, the application is approved. Out comes the piece of plastic, presuming, journalists, many of the reporters working in New of course, that the printer is working. York provide an essential service to this city. They keep Even then, with all the hoops jumped through, reporters can still count on the occasional trouble the government on watch and keep the public informed. from the police, as with an incident at the first mayoral debate involving a staff member of this With their ranks increasingly slim, efforts should be made publication. to help the ones who are left, not hinder them. Elected Arriving several minutes past the announced cut-off time, he was threatened with arrest by an officer officials interested in good government should be on the street corner who effectively dared him to push his luck and try to walk to the door. Over the course working to make this happen. of the rest of the evening, two other officers demanded to see his identification without having any probable And endearing yourself to the people who cover cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. One of those two, Lt. Gene White of DCPI, you by taking up their cause probably is not a temporarily confiscated the credentials, claiming he believed they were fake. When a call to headquarters proved bad political move either. the pass to be valid, White went on to accuse the staff member of being drunk, falsely claiming to smell liquor on his breath.

Pass The Authority To Issue Press Passes A

C

www.cityhallnews.com President/CEO: Tom Allon CFO/COO: Joanne Harras

EDITORIAL Editor: Edward-Isaac Dovere eidovere@cityhallnews.com Managing Editor: David Freedlander dfreedlander@cityhallnews.com Associate Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins ahawkins@cityhallnews.com Reporters: Chris Bragg cbragg@cityhallnews.com Sal Gentile sgentile@cityhallnews.com Dan Rivoli drivoli@cityhallnews.com Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz Interns: Andrew Cotlov, John Dorman, Selena Ross

ADVERTISING Associate Publishers: Jim Katocin, Seth Miller Advertising Manager: Marty Strongin Senior Account Executives: Ceil Ainsworth, Monica Conde Marketing Director: Tom Kelly Marketing Coordinator: Stephanie Musso Executive Assistant of Sales: Jennie Valenti

City Hall is published twice monthly. Copyright Š 2009, Manhattan Media, LLC

PRODUCTION Production Manager: Mark Stinson Art Director: Mitchell Hoffman Advertising Design: Heather Mulcahey Assistant Production Manager: Jessica A. Balaschak Web Design: Lesley Siegel Editorial (212) 894-5417 Fax (212) 268-2935

Advertising (212) 284-9715 General (212) 268-8600

City Hall is a division of Manhattan Media, LLC, publisher of The Capitol, Our Town, The West Side Spirit, Chelsea Clinton News, The Westsider, New York Press, New York Family and AVENUE magazine.


Don’t Let F.R.E.S.H. Go Bad! FRESH (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) will give taxpayer money to supermarkets so they open in neighborhoods that need them. FRESH could be a blank check, with no strings attached, and no guarantee that the program will provide good food and good jobs OR a model for responsible and accountable development.

Help us make F.R.E.S.H. a success The national bailouts have taught us that subsidies without standards and accountability lead to wasted taxpayer dollars. To receive taxpayer subsidies, supermarkets should be required to meet certain labor, environmental and community standards. GOOD FOOD: Stores should participate in the Pride of New York program, accept EBT & WIC, and not charge a membership fee. GOOD JOBS: Stores should pay living wages, provide health benefits to employees, and hire locally. (With no strings attached, taxpayer money could go to unscrupulous stores that pay low wages and take advantage of communities.) COMMUNITY: FRESH should include provisions for community involvement in the planning process. We need these FRESH STANDARDS to guarantee that our taxes won’t subsidize rotten food & rotten wages.

COME OUT to rally for standards in the FRESH Program!

November 12, 2009 at Noon on the steps of City Hall

Over 30 Community Organizations Agree: Brandworkers International Brooklyn Congregation United Brooklyn Food Coalition Building Bridges Knowledge and Health Coalition Church of the Ascension City Harvest East Harlem Preservation, Inc. East New York Farms Families United for Racial and Economic Equality Food Bank for New York City Good Jobs NY Heifer International Hope Community, Inc. Hunger Action Network NYS Jews for Racial and Economic Justice Just Food Mothers on the Move Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project National Employment Law Project New York City Coalition Against Hunger New York Faith & Justice New York Jobs with Justice New York Food Museum Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. of NY Pratt Center for Community Development Redhook Initiative Restaurant Opportunity Center Sierra Club NYC Social Service Employees Union Local 371 Trinity Grace Church United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500 Urban Agenda We Act for Environmental Justice World Hunger Year

Standards have also been recommended by 3 Borough Presidents: Helen Marshall (Q), Marty Markowitz (BK), Scott Stringer (M); the Bronx Borough Board; Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 11; Brooklyn Community Boards 5, 9, and 16. UFCW Local 1500 221-10 Jamaica Avenue s Queens Village, NY 11428 ufcw1500.org s buildingblocksproject.org


4

CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

ISSUE

AVIATION After Deadly August Crash, A Need For Better FAA Regulation FORUM

BY REP. JERROLD NADLER early two months have passed since the terrible crash of a single-engine plane and a sightseeing helicopter over the Hudson River. That shocking accident catalyzed New Yorkers and others into demanding improved safety in our congested and dangerous air corridor, and it dramatically vindicated my longstanding calls on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide better regulation. The August crash was the result of an irresponsible lack of oversight over airspace that is used by hundreds of helicopters and small planes every day. This tragedy could have been prevented. For at least 10 years, I have said that the practically non-existent regulations on the Hudson corridor below 1,100 feet are an accident waiting to happen, to say nothing of the daily nuisance caused by low-flying helicopters for residents of the city. Needless to say, I have been underwhelmed by the FAA’s sluggish response to this still-looming problem. Recently, we made progress when the FAA finally acknowledged—after years of denial—that it does have authority to

N

regulate this airspace. And on Sept. 2, in response to the demands of elected officials, the public and the media, the FAA took an important step forward and proposed a series of new safety recommendations for dense air corridors. But those recommendations simply do not go far enough in improving the safety of our airspace, and I am still concerned that we are putting pilots and the public at risk for future incidents. We must go much further. The FAA’s proposed measures still rely

on the “see-and-avoid” practice, in which pilots use their own vision as the primary method of tracking other aircraft. This is simply unacceptable given the intricacies of navigating narrow airspace and the obvious dangers demonstrated by the August crash. As I formally requested of the FAA directly following the recent crash, helicopters and general aviation aircraft should be required to file flight plans, even for trips under 1,100 feet. What’s more, we should seriously consider banning all flights below 1,100 feet until we have radar systems in place that can reliably track them. And, while the FAA has suggested voluntary training for pilots of our congested air corridor, such training must be absolutely mandatory if we are to ensure safety. At a Sept. 16 hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee on the Hudson River airspace, it became clear that the FAA had not invested the time and resources necessary to sufficiently study the safety issues of dense air corridors and was still not committed to addressing the problem. I was not satisfied by the

FAA’s answers to questions my colleagues and I posed. And I will continue to push the FAA to limit the number of allowable flights, basing our numbers on what we know to be safe levels in busy airspace. It should be noted that the Hudson River airspace is not the only flight corridor in the country where accidents have occurred because of under-regulation. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, there were 33 accidents and 109 fatalities across the country involving on-demand aircraft in 2007 and 2008. And the enforcement of regulations is no inaugural act: after a series of crashes in 1994, the FAA stepped in to regulate helicopter tours in Hawaii. We must act now and be confident that we are doing everything in our power to prevent further accidents. If the FAA cannot ensure the safety of pilots, passengers and bystanders, then perhaps our airspace is not yet fit for helicopters and small aircraft.

C

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, is a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Turning Up The Volume On The Call For Sound Mitigation For LGA-Area Residents BY REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY very day, starting at 6 a.m. in the morning and every half hour until 10 p.m. at night, a regional shuttle thunders down Runway 13-31 of LaGuardia airport and takes off less than 1,000 feet above the small, tree-lined residential streets in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Astoria in northern Queens. In total, 71 takeoffs and landings occur on the runways of LaGuardia Airport every hour, or one flight every 50 seconds. With each flight, the windows of neighborhood homes rattle and the engine noise overpowers kitchens and living rooms across Queens. For too long, Queens residents have physically and mentally shouldered the burden of the constant din of jets at one of the busiest airports in the country. I should know—I grew up directly beneath one of the flight paths. This high-decibel noise is far more than a nuisance. What many people don’t know is that continued and constant noise pollution increases a person’s cardiovascular risk, causes long-

E

term sleep deprivation and negatively impacts children’s ability to concentrate. Noise pollution has a real impact on the health and well-being of our neighbors, friends and family in Queens, and it needs to be taken as seriously as any other type of pollution. While LGA will never be a perfect neighbor, we can all work together to make it a better member of the Queens community. That is why one of my highest priorities in Congress has been to bring attention to this critical issue and help soundproof houses, schools and places of worship in the LaGuardia Airport region. New Yorkers have the same rights as people living near Reagan National Airport or Chicago O’Hare—two hightraffic airports that have successfully soundproofed homes, schools and places of worship in their communities. Just a few months back, I had the honor of hosting the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, James L. Oberstar, for a tour of LaGuardia that included meetings with airport officials and a

More Access

visit with local community leaders. The visit underscored for the Chairman the profound impact airport noise has on those living in the shadows of LaGuardia. We need even more federal officials to visit our neighborhoods to see and hear first-hand the noise and air pollution. It is the only way we will ensure that

policymakers truly understand what is at stake and support our efforts to bolster federal airport regulation, safety and sound proofing initiatives. I am proud that by working with Chairman Oberstar so closely, I was able to include language in the 2009 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization bill to open up funds allocated to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for soundproofing in Queens. When this bill passes the Senate and is signed into law by President Obama, it is my hope that the Port Authority will move swiftly to implement the installation of appropriate soundproofing. Only through the soundproofing of residential buildings will we be able to alleviate the effects of LaGuardia noise pollution and help to improve the health and everyday lives of hundreds of thousands of my constituents.

C

Rep. Joseph Crowley is a Democrat representing parts of the Bronx and sections of Queens near LaGuardia Airport.

More News More www.cityhallnews.com

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)

Vol. 3, No. 8

www.cityhallnews.com

January 2009

and Richard Ravitch, left, explains why everyone should get on board his plan to save the MTA (Page 23).

D8IKP K_\9iffbcpe 9GfeY\`e^ fm\icffb\[# Xe[n_Xk_\ gcXejkf[f XYflk`k


CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

5

OCTOBER 26, 2009

FDNY Looks To Put Out Fires In Considering Scopetta Successor Hopes for new commissioner to come from within ranks, solve lonstanding issues BY CHRIS BRAGG

eventually, to have a single test that would allow the two positions to be combined. The policy has been met with resistance, in part because of frictions between the EMS and firefighters, and stalled in Scoppetta’s latter years. Racial tensions remain in the department. Earlier this year, the Vulcan Society of Black Firefighters, a black firefighters union, won a federal court case in which the judge deemed the department’s entrance exam racially biased. At the same time, the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association, which is predominantly white, has opposed any relaxation of testing standards for new recruits.

A

“Unless you’ve done the job, you don’t really know what it’s all about,” Uniformed EMTs president Patrick Bahnken said.

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

t a Council hearing last March, Tony Avella offered Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta a challenge. With the Bloomberg administration planning to close 16 ladder and engine companies due to budget shortfalls, Avella prodded the 76-year-old commissioner to tender his resignation as a show of solidarity with his men. “Please,” Scoppetta responded. “When you run into difficult times… the response should not be, ‘I’m going to run away from this.’ The response should be, ‘Let’s do the best we can, let’s see if we can make these cuts if we have to.’” With Scoppetta now departing the administration in December to pursue teaching opportunities, critics say that exchange was typical of the commissioner’s attitude during an eightyear tenure. They say the commissioner was more sympathetic to bureaucrats than firefighters, and created an often belligerent relationship with the firefighters’ unions. If Bloomberg wins re-election, rumors have circulated that chief of FDNY Salvatore Cassano, a 39-year veteran of the department, is a leading contender to replace Scoppetta. Cassano, however, has privately expressed doubts about his prospects for getting the job, according to a person that has spoken with him. Unlike Ray Kelly, his more popular counterpart in the Police Department, Scoppetta never worked within the department he would lead. Instead, Scoppetta came into the job fresh off a sixyear stint in the Giuliani administration as the first commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services. Patrick Bahnken, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Inspectors union, said he hopes that this time Bloomberg will tap someone from within their ranks instead of a bureaucrat. “Unless you’ve done the job, you don’t really know what it’s all about,” Bahnken said. “That’s why right now, we have an overemphasis on process rather than substance.” But Frank Dwyer, an FDNY spokesman, said that unions’ emphasis on putting one of their own in the top job is overblown, noting that numerous FDNY commissioners throughout history had come from outside the department. He said that a friction with unions was natural, and not attributable to Scoppetta’s outsider perspective. “Every commissioner will have some kind of difficult relationship with any union,” Dwyer said. “That’s a tradition in any walk of life.” With a $5 billion budget shortfall looming, the next commissioner will

As Nicholas Scoppetta departs, union leaders say they hope to have a better relationship with his replacement. likely face the possibility of firehouse closures. Though they were averted this year, Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., who sits on the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, said he fully expects Bloomberg will again put firehouses on the chopping block. Union leaders say the impending battle over firehouse closures could be an early test of not only the new commissioner’s willingness to work with unions, but of his political skills. Steve Cassidy, head of the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association of Greater New

York, noted that Scoppetta, during budget negotiations, suggested the closure of a firehouse in Council Member James Oddo’s district in Staten Island, a treasure trove of Republican votes. He pointed out that if Bloomberg is re-elected, the mayor would face less political pressure to keep firehouses open in a non-election year than he did this year. The next commissioner will also have to decide whether to continue Scoppetta’s efforts to integrate EMS personnel and firefighters into shared quarters and,

The most notorious failing under Scoppetta’s leadership—the Deutsche Bank fire—will likely continue to effect policy even after the commissioner is gone. In a damning report released earlier this year, the Department of Investigation found that the FDNY failed to perform required inspections that would have prevented the deaths of two firefighters. In response, the department has created a 20-person team solely to perform these inspections and signed a $25 million contract with IBM to implement a computer system allowing them to better stay on top of inspections. Council Member James Vacca, the chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, said that he would like to see the department go further, proposing that it follow in the footsteps of the Department of Buildings, and post all of their inspection information online for public scrutiny. As for all of the other issues facing the next commissioner, Vacca said a top priority should be mending the department’s estranged relations with labor. Scoppetta rarely granted meetings with union leaders or listened to their suggestions. Vacca said that the next commissioner should at least have an open door policy and not dismiss union concerns out of hand. “Steve Cassidy’s communication with the commissioner was not good,” Vacca said. “When union management is always sniping at the commissioner, that can’t be good for morale.” cbragg@cityhallnews.com

C


6

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

Two Chinese-American Candidates Face Off In Koo-Chou battle BY CHRIS BRAGG

A

s a divisive five-way Democratic primary played out in Flushing this past summer, Republican candidate Peter Koo remained quietly above the fray. That approach appears to be bearing some fruit. In a campaign where all the candidates talked about uniting the ethnically divided district but few ran their primary campaigns that way, Koo comes to the general election with a clean slate. In recent weeks, some influential Democrats have thrown their support to Koo, a Flushing businessman who has already put $205,000 of personal money into his campaign and who, like Chou, is Chinese-American. Isaac Sasson, a Sephardic Jewish leader who placed a close third in the primary, has crossed party lines and endorsed Koo. In part, the decision appears motivated by events during the primary. Last spring, Chou sparked controversy when her campaign stated in a Chinese language newspaper that, according to one translation, “voting for Peter Koo in the General Election instead of voting in [the] Democratic Primary Election is equivalent to indirectly giving the throne to the Jews,” appearing to allude to Sasson. Chou’s campaign manager, Michael Olmeda, attributed the divisive sound of the statement to translation issues between Chinese and English. But Terence Park, an influential Democratic leader in the Korean-American community, remains unconvinced. He is also supporting Koo. “I’m a diehard Democrat and I will be for the rest of my life. But this race is between a competent candidate versus an incompetent candidate,” Park said. “Yen Chou is not seen in the community as a good woman—and that is spreading around the Chinese community like wildfire.” Koo has also picked up the endorsements of Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani. He will need all the support he can get. In some ways, Chou’s primary night victory offered the worst-case scenario for Koo. If another candidate had emerged from the five-way primary, Koo could have counted on a large number of Chinese-American votes. That appears unlikely, however, with him running against another first-generation ChineseAmerican immigrant. He now must pull votes from Democrats in the Korean-American, the Jewish and the African-American communities. “He’s counting on his reputation

CITY HALL ties he has developed over decades in Flushing will help him overcome his Republican label. Chou, meanwhile, only moved to the district last year, though she had long lived before that in neighboring Bayside. Chou, a former aide to Council Member David Weprin, raised a whopping $355,000 during the primary, though she spent most of it and has only $66,000 on hand.

“I’m a diehard Democrat and I will be for the rest of my life. But this race is between a competent candidate versus an incompetent candidate,” Terence Park said.

Republican Peter Koo is counting on endorsements and a money edge to score an upset in Flushing. as an honest, hard working guy,” said Koo’s campaign spokesman, James McClelland. Koo first learned the difficulties of

running as a Republican in New York City when, during his 2008 State Senate run, Democratic Sen. Toby Stavisky defeated him by 38 points. But Koo is hoping the

Since the primary, she has picked up most of the institutional support from the Queens Democratic Party and the Working Families Party. Notably, the WFP helped edge S.J. Jung, the party’s candidate in the primary, out of a general election challenge against Koo, fearing that an active campaign on the WFP line could split the liberal vote. Olmeda, Chou’s campaign manager, said that Koo was a formidable candidate—and one who appeared mainly hindered by party label. “The joke in the community is that Peter Koo is in the wrong party,” Olmeda said. “If Peter Koo was a Democrat, I think he would have been elected a long time ago.” cbragg@cityhallnews.com

C

Molinaro Faces Familiar Thorn In His Su BY DAN RIVOLI

B

orough President James Molinaro says he wants a third term to expand upon his accomplishments and complete major initiatives he started during his decadeslong tenure in city government. John Luisi is Democratic community activist who says he wants to reform a staid Borough Hall that has yet to address Staten Island’s transportation and development problems. Many studies have been funded for projects, Luisi notes, but there are no results. Even though the candidates talk about their vision for Staten Island on the campaign trail, they have been throwing barbs at one another whenever they get a chance, in a race that has grown increasingly tight. Molinaro, the only Conservative elected to office in the city, blasts his opponent as

unqualified for the office and as someone who knows nothing about how to do the job. For example, Molinaro insisted, when Luisi criticizes the countless studies for a South Shore ferry or the North Shore light rail, Molinaro says he fails to understand that the borough president’s office is hamstrung by regulations and procedures. “He knows very little about municipal government at all,” Molinaro said. “You can’t do it immediately. No matter who sits in this chair, there will not be a railroad running on this track.” As the incumbent, Molinaro has an edge. He has made critical alliances during his two decades in Borough Hall as the president and deputy to his predecessor, Guy Molinari. As a Conservative, he has a nonaggression pact with the borough’s elected Democrats and Republicans that helps stifle public criticism. He even

earned the high-profile endorsement of Democratic Rep. Michael McMahon, Staten Island’s top politician. “I had to make coalitions,” Molinaro said. “It’s been beneficial. To me? Yes. But it’s been beneficial, through me, to the people of Staten Island.” But his years in office have produced scandals that make his re-election far from certain. In 2008, Molinaro was found to be using taxpayer money towards a vineyard project on Staten Island that benefited his political contributors. This year, the plan was killed. Molinaro also plunked $750,000 in public money for two tropical fish tanks at the ferry terminal; nearly all of the fish died months later. And this year, Molinaro was criticized for appointing a real estate agent and relative to the City Planning Commission.


CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

Another Election Year, Another Round Of GOP Council Hopefuls Trying To Stay Smiling BY SELENA ROSS

ISAAC ROSENTHAL

C

ommuters poured out of the 72nd Street subway station at 7 p.m. on a recent Wednesday night, and City Council candidate Josh Goldberg was there to greet them with a handful of brochures. “Ladies, do you live in the area?” he asked. “Sir, do you live around here?” Most averted their eyes. Those who did not were hardly less welcoming as Goldberg, the brother of right-wing pundit Jonah Goldberg, explained that here, in the epicenter of Democratic voters on the Upper West Side, he is running as a Republican, the man out to unseat Gale Brewer. “Why don’t you just swap sides?” asked one woman, looking confused. “Well, because the Republican line is easier to get on, is the truth,” he said. “But that’s my line.” She threw her hands up in mock exasperation. “Get out of the Republicans! Just get out of it!” she said “You’re young!” Such is life for GOP candidates in New York, who say they are excited about this election season even as they are forced to toil away in neighborhoods that are less than excited about them. Still, not all candidates accept the underdog role. Candidates like Gene Berardelli and Bob Capano are making a splash in Canarsie and Bay Ridge, respectively, and are considered to have a legitimate chance to win. And Republicans across the city say they are doing whatever it takes to win people over, even if it means subterfuge and grunt work. Ashok Chandra, a 30-year-old

GOP hopeful, Josh Goldberg is trying to fin a way in to the heart of the Democratic Upper West Side. candidate from Texas who is running against Dan Garodnick on the Upper East Side, decided not to waste too much time with Democrats. But there were not many options in a district where in 2005, a gay liberal Republican endorsed by Michael Bloomberg got a lot of attention but only got 35 percent on Election Day. So Chandra invented a new plan, even as he propelled himself through an ultrarare Republican primary for City Council. He started with lists of past voters and tried to find as many Republicans as possible on Facebook. People he met

online would sometimes agree to buzz him in through their front doors, where he could knock at the apartments of the other known Republicans on his list. When Chandra had rustled up a group of sympathizers in a building or on a block, he would invite them out for coffee or a drink to talk over how badly the Democrats were messing up the city. Then he would start all over. Chandra says that these private gettogethers and underground networks are essential for his campaign and to rebuild a fractured party. But these small group

urprisingly Spirited Race For Third Term Luisi has leapt on each one of these troubles as he wages his reform campaign.

percent of the vote despite being underfunded and unknown to his own party, much less Staten Island voters. Even the borough’s Democratic Party operated against him to keep the seat open for McMahon. He was setting up a campaign for Borough Hall but eventually ran for Congress. Already a proven vote getter, Luisi has been getting some Democratic resources for his rematch this year in a race that might otherwise have been a total sleeper. “When they approached me to run, I was able to line up a whole array of political animals who realize I had the capability to win,” Luisi said. “People only like to bet on the horse they think is going to win.” Luisi has $97,804 left to spend from his $146,221 campaign account. Molinaro, on

Already a proven vote getter, Luisi has been getting some Democratic resources for his rematch this year in a race that might otherwise have been a total sleeper. “I’m going to make certain that none of my family members are hired by any city agency,” Luisi said. “I’ll hire people based on their ability to do the job rather than their personal relationships.” This is Luisi’s second shot at Borough Hall. In 2005, he received a surprising 42

the other hand, has a massive $830,281 war chest and already outspent Luisi tenfold. But Luisi is banking on incumbent dissatisfaction and term limits anger— Molinaro testified in support of the extension—to push him over the top this time. “By undoing the law in the most undemocratic fashion, I have had, on more than one instance, someone saying they will not vote for people running for a third term,” Luisi said. Molinaro is not taking any chances in his race, refusing to debate Luisi and thereby preventing the challenger from getting much-needed exposure. Molinaro boasts that his polls say he has 96-percent name recognition in Staten Island and a long record in politics. “Why should I introduce this man?” he asked. “He needs the exposure. I don’t.” drivoli@cityhallnews.com

C

7

meetings may not provide a refuge from street campaigning, where Republican candidates have been known to get spat at by Democratic passer-by. Joe Nardiello, running against Democrat Brad Lander and the Green Party’s David Pechefsky in the notoriously liberal Park Slope district currently represented by Bill de Blasio, takes a different approach, actively trying to blur party distinctions. “I’m the best Republican, but I like to say I’m also the best Democrat,” Nardiello said. “Ninety-nine percent of the people I know and love are Democrats.” Born in Carroll Gardens, Nardiello— the other veteran of a GOP Council primary this year—barely mentions his GOP affiliation on his campaign brochure, instead proudly pointing out that he has belonged to the Park Slope Food Co-op for five years. Has has also been offering to carry voters’ groceries and driving seniors to the bank. Many residents seem impressed, with some recognizing him on the street. Still, when pressed, he admits that fiscal conservatism is of the utmost importance to him. “You must be nuts,” commented one woman in a local diner as she overheard him praising Mayor Bloomberg to two older men. “I can’t even imagine, in Park Slope!” Republicans persevere, they say, because there are hordes of closeted rightwing voters in the city who are afraid to admit to their neighbors, and sometimes even to their families, what they really think. Sometimes these voters need to be brought out of their shells with easy ‘beginner’ issues, like parking permits in Park Slope and public safety in Upper Manhattan, say candidates. Sometimes it is a good idea to remind them of the great moderate Republican tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia. But there is always a big chunk of voters in New York who do not want to listen. Nardiello has seen enough to put him on the defensive—permanently. On a quiet street, he approached a smiling twentysomething Park Sloper walking her dog. “If you hear ‘Republican,’ does it make you recoil?” he began. “No ... not especially,” she answered uncertainly. “Please tell me that you think independently,” he pleaded, earning a hesitant “Um, sure…” For the most part they say they have a chance on Nov. 3, but it is not all about winning for 2009’s GOP campaigners. They want to smooth over New York’s deep political divisions and pave the way for future campaigns. Wanting to set an example, they and their volunteers do not hide their true natures. “Not anymore. I’m not ashamed,” said Jared Stone, 27, who has campaigned for Chandra. “I am the way I am. I have a friend who loves to play dodgeball. I like to do this.”

C


8

CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

Struggling To Be Taken Seriously, And Prepared If Fortune Smiles Rangel challenger Vince Morgan bats back criticism and raises funds BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

DANIEL S. BURNSTEIN

T

hree days into his campaign against Rep. Charlie Rangel, and Vince Morgan, the bank executive-turned-first-timecandidate, cannot help but pounce on potential donors. “Please e-mail me,” Morgan pleaded a fashionably dressed older woman with a red-andblack polka dot scarf around her neck, who had just moved to the neighborhood from the Upper West Side. “I want to have that coffee with you, with your husband and my wife.” The woman declined an invitation to an upcoming event Morgan was planning, citing tickets to a classical music concert at Bard College, but seemed glad Morgan was throwing his hat into the ring. “I definitely think [Rangel] needs the competition,” she said. Her words were good news to Morgan, who is in a race against a 40-year incumbent who also happens to be one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington. “I got to hit ‘em all up,” Morgan said, after the woman left. So far, Morgan is the only one to officially announce his candidacy against Rangel, but others are mulling their own runs as well. Assembly Member Adam Clayton Powell IV said he plans on opening an exploratory committee in the coming weeks. Rumors are circulating that State Sen. Bill Perkins is considering his own run. Even Gov. David Paterson’s name has been thrown into the mix as people look for a graceful exit strategy for both him and the man he would replace. The ongoing investigation into Rangel’s personal finances have taken a toll on the congressman in Washington, where he recently fended off a Republican-led effort to remove him from his powerful Ways and Means chairmanship. But despite Rangel’s ethical woes, Morgan is likely to face an uphill battle. In 1994, Powell, then a member of the City Council, got only 33 percent of the vote against Rangel, who traditionally has gotten Castro-

Bank executive Vince Morgan is mounting his first run for office against scandal-scarred Rep. Charlie Rangel. level electoral victories. Morgan’s best bet, presumably, would be if Rangel drops out just before next year’s primary, leaving him alone in the field. Otherwise, he must hope for a host of better known Harlem pols who have long hoped to succeed Rangel to get impatient and jump in and somehow split the vote enough for him to slip past them all. For now, many of the district’s elected officials say they do not know what to make of Morgan’s candidacy. “I think he’s not a serious candidate,” said Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat, who has been mentioned as a potential successor to Rangel if, as many anticipate, the next redistricting increases the chances of a Latino candidate being elected to the seat. “I don’t think he’s a known leader in the community and I don’t know what he stands for.” Despite facing local backlash like that, Morgan says he does not want to play the kind of political game that gives preference for being a loyal soldier for decades. “I don’t want to be a part of system that rewards your number in line,” he said. “There shouldn’t even be a line.” Morgan acknowledges he could have had a much easier time running for City Council or even a district leader position rather than Congress. He argues, however, that whomever eventually replaces Rangel

will lack seniority, rank and influence. Which Morgan says suits him fine. “People forget the House of Representatives is the entrylevel federal position,” Morgan said. “You start out on the bottom.” Morgan is already honing his message for jumping to the front of that line: that he greatly admires Rangel, but believes the congressman’s advancing age and escalating ethical troubles has signaled the time for a change. “The catalyst for my deciding to run for office was really the opportunity to ask the question, ‘What comes after Rangel?’” Morgan said. A native of the south side of Chicago (“the Harlem of Chicago,” he jokes), Morgan dropped out of high school at 16. After getting his GED, he went on to graduate from Howard University. After a brief detour in South Africa, where he witnessed Nelson Mandela’s return to power, Morgan moved to New York to take a job at an Internet company. He was downsized after the bubble burst, which led him, in 2002, to accept a volunteer position on Rangel’s staff. There he learned the ins-and-outs of campaigning, as well as the importance of petition gathering. “That year, [Rangel] had a primary challenger that was not able to make it on the ballot because of my work,” Morgan said slyly. “I will be very cautious about the signatures we have to collect to get on the ballot.” For now, Morgan says he is consumed with all the details of getting his novice campaign off the ground. And while the shadow of Rangel’s ethical predicament looms large over the race, Morgan says he is aware of how beloved the congressman is in the district, leaving him in the precarious place of not knowing how far he can go in criticizing Rangel. “I believe he’s a good man,” Morgan said. He paused, carefully considering his next words. “I will say this: I’m disappointed he’s even in this situation,” he said. “You can write that. I’m disappointed.” ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

C

THE

OF

The weird and woeful mayors through hizz-tory

Deep Throat William Jay Gaynor, mayor of New York from 1910 to 1913, has the dubious honor of being the only mayor thus far to be the target of an assassination attempt. He also has the distinction of having survived it, which was quite an accomplishment considering he took a bullet pointblank in the throat. Looking to ride on the coattails of his notoriety, Tammany Hall chose Gaynor, a celebrated lawyer, as their mayoral candidate in 1909. Big mistake. On his first visit to the Democratic WILLIAM JAY GAYNOR headquarters, Gaynor addressed 1910-1913 the assembled, “So this is Tammany Hall. I had to ask how to get here.” Gasp! Once elected, Gaynor pulled the ultimate taboo by replacing scores of Tammany appointees with his own men. As one might guess, this did not ingratiate him to the Democratic machine. In general, Gaynor spent his time in office making Tammany leaders rue the day they ever chose him. Leading the mayor’s detractors was the press, who assailed him in scathing political cartoons. It did not help that one of the men Gaynor had beaten in the 1909 race was William Randolph Hearst, a guy who never let journalistic integrity get in the way of a good smear campaign. Still, much of the public respected Gaynor for sticking it to Tammany Hall and also for pushing through progress on the subway system. Gaynor’s contentious time as mayor almost ended as soon as it began. In August 1910, while on a ship docked in Hoboken, a recently discharged city employee discharged a bullet into the mayor’s neck. He lived, but the slug was never extracted from his throat, thus lending him a rasping tone of voice, a notoriously short temper and a great cocktail party story. As everyone knows, if you are going to get shot, you might as well have a photo of it. On this note, Gaynor was in luck. A photographer who had been following him snapped a picture at the exact moment he was shot, creating a legendary piece of photojournalism. No account of Gaynor’s mayoralty would be complete without mention of his very bad luck with boats in general—shot on one ship, he died on another. In September 1913, Gaynor embarked on a transatlantic voyage shortly after accepting the nomination for a second term from an independent party (Tammany had had quite enough of him, thank you.) On the afternoon of the 10th, he retired to his deck chair on the promenade level, gave the waiter his lunch order and keeled over dead. His strange relationship with seagoing vessels did not end there, however. When his ship reached Ireland, Gaynor’s body was transferred to the famed RMS Lusitania for the return voyage to New York. Two years later, the Lusitania would be torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German U-boat and sink in 18 minutes. As a civilian naval tragedy, this is basically second only to the Titanic. —James Caldwell


CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

9

With Quinn Seeming Safe, Short List Emerges To Fill Open Chairs Some worry, some dismiss worries, about influence of new members and new forces BY DAVID FREEDLANDER

P

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

ost primary, one of the biggest questions this fall has been the fate and future of Council Speaker Christine Quinn. But now, with the pieces starting to settle, many Council members and City Hall insiders agree that despite some dissatisfaction and a few county leaders’ looking to put one of their own in the speaker’s chair, Quinn seems relatively safe. There was a period just after the primary when this did not seem the case, when Quinn and her aides seemed genuinely nervous that a coup was forming. Quinn has been meeting with returning and incoming members to find out where they stand, and her and her staff has been quick to react, members say, to any suggestion of lost support. “I don’t think there’s another player coming out,” said Mike Nelson of Brooklyn, a strong Quinn supporter. “I’m sure there will be talk among some of the members but I don’t plan on being one of them. I would say the Vegas odds of Chris remaining speaker are a good 6-5.” No one has emerged as a consensus replacement, and those who have—including Robert Jackson, Inez Dickens and Lew Fidler—are seen by their colleagues as too close to Quinn to take the plunge. Plus, members and aides say, Quinn’s tenure has shown that being speaker may not be such a good gig, particularly for those that harbor ambitions of higher office. They worry about the tarnish and guilt by association that seems to have come with the gavel for her. The real questions about Council power seem to be more about whom Quinn will select as the new chairs. There will be openings in Transportation, General Welfare, Zoning and Franchises, and Small Business (Civil Service and Labor remains vacant), but also at the chamber’s two major committees, Finance and Land Use, particularly useful for the attention and campaign cash they inevitably bring with them. In 2002, the last time there were major chairmanships open, county leaders played an outsized role. Many members, though, say things will be different this time, when there are more veteran members who will look to get precedence for their needs and seniority. “There will be the influence of county leaders, but it will be in the more confined circumstances of a body that has been together for eight years,” said one Council veteran. “It will be hard for county to take a freshman member and jump them over 10 people who have been waiting their turn.” The short list for either is largely the same, Council insiders say, and includes Fidler, Simcha Felder, Leroy Comrie, Domenic Recchia and Joel Rivera. For eight years, both committee chairs have been held by members from Queens—a testament to county leader Joe Crowley’s ability to hold his members together and willingness to trade that power for support of Manhattan-based speakers. This time around, Brooklyn has a deeper bench of experienced lawmakers, who are expected to be the recipients of at least one of these chairs, and possibly both. Council insiders say the distribution of key committee assignments will reveal

much about Quinn’s relative strength. If she is seen as the Bronx and Brooklyn can band together and say we needing to placate various interests, then her hold on the want this clerkship or we want this committee. They speakership is not that strong. If she appoints members can demand things in budget negotiations. Until the she is close with, such as Dan Garodnick and Jessica next election four years from now, what can Dan Cantor Lappin, or if she appoints people who share her same really do for you?” As the horse-trading commences, some wonder if the agenda—like Melissa Mark Viverito or Diana Reyna— sought assignments are worth the trouble. than that will be proof Quinn feels secure. The Finance chair has lost some of its luster since Also in the mix for the first time is the Working Families Party, which did a better job at electing their candidates the days when Herb Berman lorded over it; the chairman still plays an outsized role in in the September primary budget negotiations, but much than the county parties “Right now there is a lot of the power of the committee and which may now begin of nervousness,” said one has been centralized under the making demands on the senior staffer. “People do speaker. The Land Use chair Council. not know what is going will have to worry about recent “I foresee the special to happen with the new campaign finance restrictions on interests having more members—what their people who do business with the of a hold on Council city, and might find that there is members,” said Council allegiances will be and not much rezoning if they face Member Peter Vallone, Jr. what they will want.” a third-term administration in “The body has been very sharply left for sometime now, and the result of the last a down-turned real estate market over the next four elections are going to make it easier for special interests years. This Council will also be the first time in which to get their way.” Some, though, say that they expect the WFP’s minority members form a majority. Although some have influence to begin to recede as the Council gets down to charged that this should mean that a minority member ascends to the speakership, Council members say that the business of governing. “They are not at a point yet where they can begin to Quinn has strong ties to many in that caucus. According to Diana Reyna, the new make-up of the make demands,” said one Council staffer. “Queens and Council will mean that issues of affordable housing and minority hiring—especially in construction and small business development—will rise to the forefront. “It’s premature to state what the agenda will look like,” she said. “But the ability for us to move an agenda for our communities looks more promising than ever.” Several high-profile council members are not returning after making a run for higher office. Council members and staffers say that this creates a vacuum that several members could fill, and many named Viverito, Garodnick and Letitia James as members whose profiles could rise regardless of committee assignment. Complicating the picture will be the dozen or so freshmen who will arrive in January. That group is far from set, as several competitive general elections may pull the Council rightward if a handful of Republicans win. Regardless, several of the new members have their seats thanks to the Working Families Party, and many come from the city’s activist core instead of its political class. “Right now there is a lot of nervousness,” said one senior staffer. “People do not know what is going to happen with the new members—what their allegiances will be and what they will want.” But several Council members disagree, saying that whatever the freshmen might think they will be able to do, they will be entering a chamber dominated by senior members. “It’s like walking into an AP government class in March and everyone else has been in the class since September,” said Fidler. “You can be smart, but you still have some catching up to do.” dfreedlander@cityhallnews.com

C


10

OCTOBER 26, 2009

www.cityhallnews.com

The

Gamble mb n Saturday, Oct. 17, Michael Bloomberg went to syn synagogue. He was not there to pray, though—or at least not usi using anything out of the usual liturgy. Taking the lec lectern at Park Avenue Synagogue on East 87th Street, 15-m he launched into a 15-minute version of his stump speech, peppering it tailore for the religious crowd (when his rabbi tells him with some jokes tailored servic more regularly and be part of the army of god, he should attend services Bloomberg responds by saying he is in the secret service): New York has been faring better than other cities in tough times, hotel occupancy is still ha stayed low, life expectancy is higher than in the relatively high, crime has Th crowd nodded, laughed at the right points and country as a whole. The applauded as he finished. nishe He never mentioned the election, nor explicitly asked anyone for a vote, vot but he did seem to win over and confirm a few more fans. A politician on the pulpit p is a normal sight this time of year. But a man named Michael Reubens Reuben Bloomberg, a centrist billionaire who lives in a 79th Street townhouse, still shoring up Upper East Side Jews two weeks before Election Day? The campaign is leav leaving nothing to chance. “Our view is that if w we do everything conceivable to get our message out out we’ll win—and the better a job we do, the more and turn our voters out, explain votes we get,” explained Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk. bu LBJ said something along the lines of ‘If you do “I’m paraphrasing it, but possibly humanly can and then a little more, you should everything you possibly, win.’ That’s how I see it too.” The result is a com comprehensiveness beyond even what was part of 2 Bloomberg’s 2001 and 2005 campaigns—from the hand-painted signs in the t Bryant Park headquarters which run the gamut phone-banking area of the M from “Sutton Place 4 Mike Bloomberg” to “5 Points Votes Mike,” to the pre endorsement of the president of the Korean Nail Salon Association so that sig in front of a few more women getting pedicures. there are Bloomberg signs Gi And rolling out Rudy Giuliani, who stoked some fears in the right audience, to the right crowd. And by publicizing every kind word a celebrity says Si about him, from Neil Simon to Bono, from Al Gore to Oscar de la Renta. u And through his nearly ubiquitous campaign ads and mailers going negative thorou earlier and more thoroughly than ever before. And by the massive ccampaign spending to support it, demolising existing hims had set. records—which he himself Through all of it, Blo Bloomberg claims he is just playing it safe. “I think it was Jack Kennedy’s father who said he didn’t want to buy a wan to spend one more dollar than he had to,” he said landslide, he didn’t want brea at a recent Crain’s breakfast forum (in front of a recent sell-out crowd in b the midtown Sheraton ballroom, as compared to the empty seats left in the much smaller room at the th Hyatt when Thompson addressed Crain’s a week earlier). “I’m not trying to t spend money that I don’t think is necessary.” And for now, despite all the spending and all the comprehensiveness, Bloomberg has stayed well w ahead but largely static in the polls, with the Thompson campaign gleefully g pointing out elections in this city have historically been tighter than polls predicted, so there may be hope yet. With all of this, and with the anti-Bloomberg a sentiment stronger in many quarters than in his past two elections, ele a big win would help kill any Wednesday morning quarterbacking next week that if not for all that spending, the blessing of the city’s big b publishers to seek a third term and a political establishment that has largely l sidestepped any engagement with him over the course of the campaign, campa he might have lost. And even if he does w win, Bloomberg will face a much tougher opponent, perhaps, than any he has ha ever faced on the campaign trail: the third term curse which has thrashed thrash so many once-strong politicians on the rocks

O

Weighing the risks and rewards of a Bloomberg third term

By Edward-Isaac Dovere

CITY HALL


www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

11

of their own ambitions. He is rolling the dice, going triple or nothing as he looks to cement his legacy, but risks squandering much of the good will he has built up in people’s minds in his quest to make this happen.

“We don’t realize how important we are to set the agenda across the rest of the country,” Bloomberg said. “We are the poster child—not for everything—but for most things in the rest of the country.” Ed Koch, the last mayor to try a third term, saw his end in a sputter of scandal and fatigue. Twenty years later, Koch still resents the suggestion that this is anything but misconstrued history—“our third term was marred by corruption on the part of some people that I was not a part of, but it took place on my watch,” was all he would say about all the troubles he faced. But ask most people, and what they remember about Koch in the end is less the city’s first anti-smoking laws and housing expansion he wants people to think of, and much more Donald Manes and his drubbing when he tried for a fourth term. But for all the people who worry about what will happen, Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio believes that the mayor and his senior advisors may be able to go into next year with enough shake-ups and new directions to make the next four years a success. “There’s nothing inherent that makes third terms failures,” he said. “And I think that they understand that.”

ne week beore Election Day, Bloomberg arrived in a small room on the ninth floor of NYU’s Kimmel Center to deliver what his campaign called the “Vision Speech.” Hyped as his point-by-point projection of where New York City would be on Dec. 31, 2013, this was to a condensed version of what voters could expect in a third term. The speech lasted less than 19 minutes. New Yorkers were told to expect that crime would stay low, he would diversify the economy, and that there would be improvements in, among other things, education, mass transit, immigrant outreach, CUNY investment and public health. The details were thin—more of the

O ANDREW SCHWARTZ

CITY HALL


12

OCTOBER 26, 2009

CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

began his immigration speech. “Did you know there used to be an F line express? … “The ways out of a recession is there will be again” variety than concrete plans for how more immigration, not less.” to get plans like this approved or paid for, or to explain The immigration proposals, why he had not already pushed his MTA appointees while probably the ones in which to do more on transit enhancements in his two terms Bloomberg is most trying to so far. But in just about every area, Bloomberg said in expand his influence past the standard incumbent-speak, the city was at a tipping traditional limits of a mayor, are point and needed his guidance to see things through. among a series of proposals that Statements like these are about as extensive as people have come out of Bloomberg’s involved with crafting Bloomberg’s third term will go campaign, with others focused publicly, and even privately, his campaign advisors and on reforming government administration officials are insisting to their colleagues operations and voting, getting in government and in response to most questions that more students into community their only focus is on the distance between here and colleges, instituting new crime Nov. 3. fighting technology, reducing gun violence further, expanding charter schools, strengthening city housing and improving transportation. Throughout these, Bloomberg’s team has sketched out policy that would be markedly different from what he has done in his two terms so far—to some, an indication that he has flip-flopped on the very decisions he and his appointees were making for the first two terms, but to others, an indication But there are clues. that he does plan to reinvent Look at what happened in term two. After never himself somewhat in term three. paying much attention to gun control previously in There is another imperative at his political career, Bloomberg spent the crux of his work, too, Bloomberg said. second inaugural address declaring that he was going to “Each of these ideas would become the point man on illegal gun trafficking, taking make the city a better place to the case to Albany and Washington and wherever else live and to work, but they all have he needed to go. After never talking that much about something else in common: that environmentalism, he stood under the giant blue whale is they don’t cost very much,” at the Natural History Museum on Earth Day 2007, Bloomberg said at the Crain’s unveiling his 127-point environmental plan, which breakfast, after rattling off a included what would have been the transformative few of the topics the campaign’s congestion pricing proposal. proposals have addressed. Neither of what have become the two signature “If we’re going to make some initiatives of his second term were part of the 2005 progress, that is going to be a campaign, nor things any mayor before him had ever constraining thing—everything’s thought of trying to do. got to pass that test.” That kind of national leadership has become a major This overriding need for fiscal talking point over the course of the campaign, with the prudence, more than any of the mayor repeatedly appealing to the idea of re-establishing proposals themselves, may well New York as the pioneer, and thereby the pinnacle, of be the defining factor for most of what America is supposed to be. what comes in term three, at least “We don’t realize how important we are to set the in the outset. agenda across the rest of the country,” he said at Crain’s. “Given the budgets, it’s very “We are the poster child—not for everything—but for possible he will be in the position most things in the rest of the country.” In guessing what might be the equivalents of what Michael Bloomberg has a comfortable lead, but is taking no chances of protecting the gains he’s made has grown into the Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal as he campaigns for a big win to help form the foundation of a legacy- and the city has made in a tight fiscal environment,” Cunningham Guns and PlaNYC for term three, former Bloomberg making third term. said, comparing the $5 billion communications director Bill Cunningham pointed out audience of ethnic media reporters in an auditorium at that these efforts may have been new in their size and the CUNY Graduate Center in early October. Bloomberg budget deficit and uncertain economic future to the scope, but Bloomberg had always believed in gun control now uses almost every opportunity he gets to marvel situation Bloomberg faced in trying to preserve city aloud at how amazing it is that Americans are the only services when he originally came into the office in the and been talking for years about environmentalism. Cunningham said he expected that the signature people in the world who identify themselves by using aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. “It could be a lot like his first year in office in the short initiatives of term three will similarly grow out of existing hyphenations—Chinese-American, Ukrainian-American, term,” Cunningham said. every kind of -American there could be. passions. Bloomberg, like Thompson, has remained vague on He talks about this as a moral imperative, but in “He’s always been interested in health, so you might typical Bloomberg fashion, frames it also as an economic what he would do about the budget. Neither can do see something more in that,” Cunningham said. But though Bloomberg has been pushing the health one, a means to pump more money and innovation into much to predict what the budget process will actually message hard on the campaign trail—“if the primary New York and America. That same frustration rising in look like, and whoever is mayor will probably ultimately purpose of government isn’t to let people live longer his throat as when he talks about the people across the be making decisions about how to allocate the last few and healthier, I don’t know what it is,” he told the country who refuse to do anything about the gun trade, hundred millions of dollars in a $59 billion budget. Facing this, Bloomberg will have the difficulty of living congregation at Park Avenue Synagogue—the main he rails against shortsightedness of those who work up to the own very high standards he has set. There is new theme which has emerged on the campaign trail is against immigrants. “If we can give them a little bit of help, that will expand not much glory in crime or the welfare rolls staying low, immigration. This is the subject of one of his campaign’s longest and most detailed policy papers, and was the our economy, it will create jobs, it will increase our tax but, conversely, he will be hung in the headlines if these topic of a rare specific policy speech delivered to an base, it will make this city even stronger,” he said as he or other bad statistics start climbing again. ANDREW SCHWARTZ

He is rolling the dice, going triple or nothing as he looks to cement his legacy, but risks squandering much of the good will he has built up in people’s minds in the quest to do so.


CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

ayors coming up against history tend to go after legacy projects—the kind of grand brick-andmortar capstone that, once upon a time, the West Side Stadium was supposed to be for Bloomberg. If the schedules keep, the No. 7 extension will almost be finished, as will the third water tunnel. But if he looks for something more, Bloomberg will be facing a difficult real estate market which may force him to spend more time badgering Related to actually get started at Hudson Yards than cutting any ribbons. Many people have called for Bloomberg to seek and get control of development at Ground Zero, but to date, he has given no indication that he wants that particular albatross. Still, his frustrations at past failures simmering just below the surface, he does not seem content to have his biggest contributions to the skyline be whatever has grown out of his administration’s comprehensive rezonings over the last two terms and the new Bloomberg LP headquarters on the Upper East Side. “We have to do the big projects,” he said at a recent press conference, his face scrunched in a grimace as he addressed the current condition of Atlantic Yards. Throughout his second term, Bloomberg beat back the lame duck idea through some clever politicking: the day after the 2005 election, Kevin Sheekey was on NY1 suggesting a presidential run that aides kept winking at all the way through the end of February last year, when they instead switched to promoting the idea of him running for governor that lasted right up until the real will-he-won’t he term limits extension talk began. There are no more of these gambits left. All Bloomberg will be playing for is the history books. His supporters say he will be emboldened to make the tough choices. “Once you make a decision that you’re not facing any future elections, does it give you a greater sense of independence? It does,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who this year endorsed the mayor for the second time. “It does, there’s no question about it. I don’t think to the level of irresponsibility, or being a hardhead or telling people to take a walk—I don’t think that’s where he’s at.” Bloomberg’s critics, though, believe that the search for some legacy project is precisely the thing to fear most about him having a third term, and which may in the end result in a deaf, imperial mayor. “He’s so enamored of the big mega-projects, and they always want to be the skyline of New York, and it hasn’t happened. The danger would be that in the third term he will try to create that legacy and push through big projects that don’t make sense and will be destroying neighborhoods and communities,” said Thompson campaign manager Eddy Castell. “The fear is that he may

M

actually succeed.” There are other worries circulating—that he will not actually infuse his administration with as much new blood as he has promised, that his staff will eventually run out of new things to try, that they may get bored before finishing the term, that Bloomberg’s legendary crankiness may begin to shine through and complicate relationships. And there is the concern that by bypassing most of the traditional forces that support candidates in this city—many of the people who have backed Bloomberg say they did not even consider Thompson as a possibility—the mayor would come into a third term without owing enough to people to have to listen to them. This, they complain, will result in an administration that goes more for headlines than comprehensive help for New Yorkers. “I liked The Gates,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union president who has become a consistent Bloomberg critic, referring to the public art project that lined Central Park in February 2005. “I would have preferred a sound economic policy.” The mayor’s critics have always accused him of imperiousness, and without another election to think about, that tendency of his may grow. His fellow political players, already emboldened, may find that the anti-Bloomberg message gains more traction than it has before. He will be facing very different political circumstances than over the last eight years, with everyone expecting John Liu and Bill de Blasio to be stronger critics than either Thompson or Betsy Gotbaum ever were. The City Council chamber, meanwhile, will be more diverse in background and political allegiances than ever before. Many of the prime players throughout the ranks of city politics will be jockeying early and hard for their own spots in the 2013 elections— hardly a recipe for cooperation, especially if Bloomberg does indeed call the charter review commission he has promised. With things like the future of the public advocate’s office and the role of borough presidents potentially on the table as he seeks to remake government in his own image, Bloomberg could end up in conflict with many of these forces directly. And Bloomberg, who overturned a promise not to overturn term limits, who has sunk a combined quarter of a billion dollars of his own money and shelled out countless more millions to keep the city’s various factions happy, may finally find that he is unable to put the imprint that he desperately wants to on his city. “Like anything else, when you buy a certain detergent and then another package comes out that’s blue and not red, you wonder maybe that one’s better than the one you’ve been using,” Markowitz said. “We all, in public service, have a shelf life.” eidovere@cityhallnews.com

“I’m paraphrasing it, but LBJ said something along the lines of ‘If you do everything you possibly, humanly can and then a little more, you should win,’” said Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk. “That’s how I see it too.”

C

OCTOBER 26, 2009

13

THE

OF

The weird and woeful mayors through hizz-tory

The Three-Peater Even if Michael Bloomberg succeeds in joining that very small club of threeterm mayors, he will still not match the record of William F. Havemeyer, who will remain unique in that none of his terms were consecutive, he twice refused re-nomination, and he holds the longest stretch between terms in New York mayoral history—24 years. Havemeyer first won office in 1845 on the Tammany ticket, then proceeded to endear himself to his backers by proposing a new city charter that would give him veto power William Frederick and severely rein in the TammanyHavemeyer controlled Common Council. Democrat, Democrat, The Council, having none of that, Republican, 1845-1846, declared open season on the mayor, 1848-1849, 1873-1874 turning his first term into a verbal sparring match. Surprisingly, amid the infighting, Havemeyer scored one major accomplishment: establishing the New York Police Department, largely in its current incarnation. Battle-scarred, Havemeyer refused re-nomination in 1846. Two years later, however, apparently for lack of a better idea, Tammany re-nominated him at their 1848 convention, a gathering that featured a number of fistfights (as all good nominating conventions should). Havemeyer’s second term looked a lot like his first, with the mayor’s calls for reform falling on deaf ears at the Common Council. But again Havemeyer managed to achieve some tangible results, namely in education, garbage collection and street lighting. Nonetheless, his indecisiveness about the job apparently remained high. In 1849, Havemeyer refused re-nomination again. The decision marked the start of a quarter-century absence from City Hall for Havemeyer, but it did not mark an end to his war with Tammany Hall. In 1871, he led the “Committee of Seventy,” a group that was pushing to expose the rampant corruption of the Tweed Ring. They succeeded in getting a look at the city’s books, as well as the personal bank accounts of Tweed and others. That just about spelled the end for the Boss and crew. It also spelled the end for his connections to the Democratic Party, which meant that when Havemeyer jumped into the 1873 race, he went with the Republicans. He won, but had he known what kind of term lay ahead, he probably would not have come out of retirement. First, he fought so much with the Republican-controlled Council that his own party tried to get him removed from office. Though he survived, he was attacked by Republicans for working with Democrats and by Democrats who hated him for what he had done to Boss Tweed. Havemeyer became the mayor everyone loved to hate. He did not take it well. While a libel lawsuit against him brought by Tammany Boss “Honest” John Kelly was working its way through the courts, Havemeyer had a massive heart attack. True to form, given his unwillingness to let go of the mayoralty, he dropped dead in his office at City Hall in November 1874. —James Caldwell


14

CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

FOCUS ON BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS

As Their Numbers Grow, Questions Persist About Role Of BIDs In New York BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

D

an Biederman, co-founder of the Grand Central Partnership and several other business improvement districts (BIDs) throughout the city, was nervous about his lunch date. It was March 2002 and Biederman was to meet Dan Doctoroff, the new deputy mayor for economic development, at the Bryant Park Grill to discuss the future of BIDs in New York. For the past several years, Biederman had been getting brutalized by the Giuliani administration. The former mayor had soured on BIDs toward the end of his time in office, forcing Biederman to relinquish his leadership positions at two of the three BIDs he had led. Biederman was unsure what to expect from Doctoroff or the new administration. Would Michael Bloomberg also try to undermine the city’s successful BID program? With one wave of the hand, Doctoroff set Biederman straight. “That’s all over,” Doctoroff said, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting. “Don’t be second-guessing yourself. Go back to your work.” So Biederman did. The number of BIDs in the city has exploded in the years since, growing from 44 to 64 in the years of the Bloomberg

W

administration. These days, New York has the most BIDs in the U.S.; Toronto is the only other city in North America with more. And most observers predict that their numbers will continue to grow, with some estimating that the city could have up to 100 BIDs within the next decade. But concerns persist about the privatization of public space and the outsourcing of city services, like street cleaning and public safety, to private businesses. Some advocates complain that BIDs are examples of municipal governments sloughing off their responsibilities on the private sector, while neighborhood preservationists decry the gentrification that usually accompanies a BID’s arrival. “In the case of business improvement districts, the public allows private employees of private associations to do the work that police should do,” said Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. “This starts us down a slippery slope.” Zukin, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said there have been numerous instances of security employees hired by BIDs pushing unsavory types, like homeless people, skateboarders or demonstrators, out of certain neighborhoods, which raises a host of

hile some cities, like New York, seem to launch new business improvement districts every week, proponents in Boston have spent years battling police unions, wary merchants and stubborn politicians to create just one BID, a special zone where businesses opt to pay an added tax to fund improvements. But this year is looking different. “In Massachusetts, politics is a contact sport,” said John Rattigan, chairman of the Downtown Crossing Partnership, which is spearheading the BID initiative in Boston. “Rather than get tangled up with the politicians, our approach is to get the property owners to look each other in the eye and say, ‘We’re going to work together on this.’” If they are successful, Boston will join the many American cities that have bid hello to BIDs, with all the benefits and headaches that come. San Diego was the first to legally allow for the creation of a BID, establishing the Downtown Improvement Area in 1970. But the movement did not really take off until the mid-to-late-’90s, when cities hit hard by recession and crime began looking at BIDs as a way to revitalize urban neighborhoods, with an eye towards transforming them into dining, entertainment and residential destinations. Over the next 15 years, their numbers have grown to over 1,000, in cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles. New York alone has over 64 BIDs. Many cities look to New York, specifically the Grand Central Partnership, the city’s first BID, as a shining example of how these zones should look. “We borrow a lot of ideas from [New York],” said Paul Levy, president of Philadelphia’s Center City District, a

legal and ethical questions about the role of BIDs in relation to city agencies, like the NYPD. “City streets and parks managed by business improvement district become like privately owned shopping malls, where the BIDs decide who are the legitimate people who can use that public space,” Zukin said. Others believe the problem with BIDs is much more sinister. Robert Lederman, a street artists and activist, complained that BIDs wield an unprecedented amount of power in the city, operating their own private police forces and courts, advocating for the passage of antivending laws and strong-arming business owners into joining. “This is public space,” Lederman said. “This is what remains of public’s rights. Where are you going to protest if the sidewalks have all been corporatized?” For the city, BIDs have proven to be an attractive economic development tool, with little strain on precious city resources. In 2008, the city’s 64 BIDs invested over $100 million in supplemental services, according to data provided by the mayor’s office of Small Business Services. Over 530 sanitation workers and 360 public safety officers were hired by BIDs in that

ELSEWHERE

Nationwide, Some BIDs Outpace New York, Some Look To Catch Up By Andrew J. Hawkins

BID located in the city’s downtown area. One thing New York has that Philadelphia does not, though, is a city-operated Small Business Services office that helps coordinate BIDs throughout New York. Levy said that the lack of that kind of centralized coordination has led some of Philadelphia’s smaller BIDs to flounder. BIDs differ structurally from city-to-city, just as the laws governing them vary. Whereas New York’s are non-profit corporations, Philadelphia’s are municipal authorities, which allow those BIDs to bill and collect fees directly from property owners. In New York, those fees are tacked onto property owners’ real estate taxes. Relations between BIDs and city governments can also vary from city-to-city. In New York, Rudy Giuliani famously clashed with BID leaders in what many saw as a fight over who could take credit for lowered crime rates and improved conditions in some neighborhoods.

year. BIDs held over 640 events in 2008, from concerts to walking tours, that drew approximately 2.7 million attendees. “They really put their money where their mouth is,” said Brigit Pinnell, executive director of the Jamaica Center BID in Queens, of the Bloomberg administration. “They’ve been very supportive and very aware of the needs of businesses.” The administration’s love for BIDs should come as little surprise, considering Robert Walsh, commissioner of Small Business Services, came to the job after

BID Map by Borough leading the Union Square Partnership, one of the city’s oldest and better-funded BIDs. BID proponents say most critics are won over when they walk through their

Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle BID in D.C., which stretches from the White House to Dupont Circle, said that even though her organization is a 501(c)6 corporation, which prohibits it from lobbying government, she still sees the BID as a conduit between local authorities and the business community. “Our role is to be a facilitator between the two,” Agouridis said. “The two worlds are different, so you need someone to bring those worlds together.” Other BIDs take a less sympathetic approach to their relationship with city officials. Critics often grumble that BIDs perform tasks that cities are mandated to provide, like street cleaning and safety patrolling. Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Downtown Center BID in Los Angeles, embraces that perception. “On one level, it shows the failure of government in providing the basic services, that you need these things at all,” Schatz said. “The property owners have control over their own environment.” As L.A.’s local government is hit hard by the economic downturn, forcing officials to scale back city services, Schatz said that the BIDs have a responsibility to step into the vacuum. And in times like these, running a BID can feel empowering, Schatz said. “You’re really, quite frankly, creating a city-withina-city,” she said. “You have your own little police force, your own little sanitation department. In our case we have an economic development department.” “And,” she added with a laugh, “I’m the mayor.”

ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

C


CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

At Grand Central, A BID In Transit BY JOHN DORMAN

W

hen the Grand Central Partnership was established to help manage the area around the storied rail station, the sidewalks were home to many homeless, graffiti stained Art Deco buildings in the area and litter covered the streets. Many of these problems began to decrease within a few years, with the Partnership becoming an anchor for revitalization in the area. Anchored by Grand Central Terminal, with East 54th Street to the north, Second Avenue to the east, Fifth Avenue to the west and East 36th Street to the south, these boundaries roughly make up the area maintained by the Grand Central Partnership, a district which, at over 76 million square feet of commercial space, is one of the largest districts of its kind in the United States. Alfred Cerullo, who has been president of the Grand Central Partnership since 1999, credits the organization with substantially improving the local districts and see the tangible results: cleaner streets, higher property values and more livable public spaces. And at a time when city budgets are tight and the prospect of service cuts and layoffs looms large, BID officials say they provide a safety net for business and property owners concerned about a decline in quality of life. “There are very specific services that the city provides,” said Jennifer Falk, a former Bloomberg aide who now holds Walsh’s old job as executive director of the Union Square Partnership. “But the BIDs can be a little more nuanced and be more entrepreneurial.” She added, “Tough times illustrate the importance of these programs.” Falk’s group, though, has seen its fair share of controversy. The partnership’s

efforts to turn the Union Square Pavilion into an upscale restaurant were blasted by critics as an attempt to rob the city of one of its most vibrant public spaces. Lawsuits were filed and a website called “Union Square Partnership Sucks” went up in reaction, but the outcry failed to stall the plan. After two years of protests, the city recently announced it was finally accepting bids for the space. But opponents remain unbowed. “Not surprisingly, the Bloomberg administration thinks [BIDs] are the greatest thing since sliced bread,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of the NYC Park Advocates, which opposes the city’s and the BID’s plan for the pavilion. “There’s no accountability. It’s just another layer of government and another layer of tax.” ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

C

economic climate by giving the city a solid foundation to attract businesses. The BID has been able to operate without worrying about the budgetary shortfalls, since businesses in the area tax themselves a specified fee and use that fund to pay for upkeep. “We have our team of public safety workers, sweepers, sanitation and managers continuously out there,” Cerullo said. “We manage our organization within the budget so that we can maintain services in the business district effectively.” The Grand Central Partnership is currently working on two major projects that they hope to unveil in permanent scale in the upcoming months. In order to help people successfully walk throughout the neighborhood, the Partnership is planning to install plaques in the sidewalk to act as visual compasses. They have been working with the city for more than a year to get final approval. The project even caught the attention of David Letterman, who turned the plaques into a punch line. “Having the plaques mentioned on the Letterman Top Ten list really brought attention to the project,” Cerullo said. “We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about them and people in the neighborhood really enjoy them”.

Sixty-four Reasons Why NYC is Great for Business.

15

Noreen Tomassi, executive director of the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction, a 188-year-old literary organization in the district, first collaborated with the Grand Central Partnership for film and reading events last year and appreciates the organization’s outreach. “This area is dominated by many larger businesses and it’s easy to feel small, so us working with the partnership has only increased visibility for our organization events”, Tomassi said. A public plaza program is also being developed in the district to occupy a space between 41st and 42nd Streets. The Partnership has spent over $32 million in capital improvements in the business district, upgrading street lighting, cleaning up newspaper boxes, installing new benches and setting up dedicated bike areas to encourage alternative transit. Cerullo, a member of the City Planning Commission and a former Council member in Staten Island, said the organization focused on green building before most cities had even thought about investing in environmentally conscious projects. “We set a vision for what the neighborhood could become and knew that with the strong commitment from property owners and residents, progress could be made,” Cerullo said. Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

C

F

OR OVER TWENTY YEARS, NYC’s Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have helped keep our neighborhoods clean, safe, and good for business. Since its inception, the City’s BID program has contributed over $930 million in supplemental services to invigorate our neighborhoods. The BID program is growing. There are now sixty-four established BIDs and eleven in planning across all five boroughs. The NYC BID Association thanks the Mayor, City Council, Comptroller, Borough Presidents, and NYC Department of Small Business Services for their continued support. To learn more about the NYC BID Association, visit our website at: www.nycbidassociation.org. Dan Biederman Chairman NYC BID Association


16

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

the

Art

of Politics

CITY HALL

Political Pirate Radio From a cluttered basement studio, Roberto Perez talks politics and aspirations

BY JULIE SOBEL eek after week, prominent New York officials make the long journey down to the basement of LaGuardia Community College in Queens, navigating their way through a room cluttered with boxes, file cabinets, upsidedown tables and a row of dusty computers. There, in a cramped studio with foam-padded walls, they talk politics on a radio show called The Perez Notes, hosted by a part-time mailman named Roberto Perez. The political web-radio program, which is accessible via Perez’s blog, thepereznotes. blogspot.com, has attracted many of New York’s political heavyweights, such as David Yassky, Doug Muzzio, Eric Gioia, Hank Sheinkopf, Joseph Crowley and Ruben Diaz, Jr. “Politicians, they’ll go anywhere for any type of press,” Perez says modestly of his ability to lure so many leading political figures to the basement studio. His fans give him more credit than that. “He asks really good, informative and fair questions,” said Assembly Member and Bronx Democratic Party chairman Carl Heastie, who was recently on the show. “And actually some tough questions. But even asking those tough questions, he asks them in a dignified and professional manner.” Lynn Schulman, who was a recent guest on the Perez Notes, says it was a “pleasure” being interviewed by Perez. “He’s very knowledgeable about politics,” said Schulman, who was beaten by Karen Koslowitz in the primary for Melinda Katz’s Council seat. “And he’s also very versed in what’s happening in the news right up to the minute. So he really keeps his interviewees on their toes.” Schulman also noted the value of reaching Perez’s audience. “He has a significant following that’s important, he’s had some very important people on the show,

My Pick

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

W

“I’ve had people refer to me as the Dominic Carter of the Internet,” said radio host Roberto Perez. which shows the kind of niche that he has, and I think he’s got an important voice,” she said. Perez estimates that his audience is likely a few hundred people, mainly comprised of students and political junkies. The nature and number of his listeners may contribute to the informal feel

By Assembly Member Michael Den Dekker Well, I started in theater when I was in grammar school. And I caught the bug from there. Just fell in love with theater, stage. I loved everything about it. Anything from lighting to set design to actually being in the production. Obviously one of the movies that we could talk about would be E.T. That actually made you believe that there was an alien from another planet that was on our planet. And children believed that E.T. was real. That’s the magic of movies and the magic of theater and productions. The production on Broadway right now of Mary Poppins, I think, is astronomical, from the set design to all the special effects. You actually feel that Mary Poppins has flown away from the stage, just as in the movies. So the magic of Broadway is fantastic—and theater.

to the show. He strives to make his guests feel comfortable. “I like to say it’s like jazz,” he says. “Just two guys on the street corner talking about things happening throughout the city.” Perez uses no notes during the show, which he chalks up to both his voracious reading and enthusiasm for politics. He will often talk about certain politicians, most of whom are virtually unknown outside their districts, with the same enthusiasm other hosts talk about having George Clooney or Alex Rodriguez on their shows. “There are people who don’t have the opportunity to talk to their elected officials in depth,” he says excitedly. “How many people can say that they get that opportunity? To talk to a Joe Crowley for an hour—a whole hour!—about various things.” Born in a Lower East Side project, Perez grew up in Woodside, Queens, and has lived there ever since. He started college at LaGuardia and still thinks about returning to school to finish a degree.


CITY HALL While a student at LaGuardia, he met a professor who saw a natural radio host in the inquisitive, opinionated student. He suggested Perez listen to Howard Jordan’s radio show, The Jordan Journal, on WBAI. Perez liked what he heard so much he went to the station and approached Jordan. “He showed up at the radio station up at WBAI one day and he said he wanted to get involved in radio,” Jordan recalled. “I was scheduled to go on in half an hour, so I just told him to come on in.” When Jordan needed someone to stand in for him during several programs, he picked Perez, keeping a watchful eye on Perez’s developing skills. “He developed his own style, and it was a very interesting process, because in the beginning it was more me sort of navigating him through the process. And then after a while, as with most mentor-mentee relationships, he started teaching

www.cityhallnews.com

me a lot about the process,” Jordan said. “So it sort of inverted itself.” Perez is now an assistant producer on Jordan’s show and continues to guest host. This was a wise career move, said his mentor. “The other possibility he had was a potential political career, but I told him to stay away from that,” Jordan laughed. “That’s dangerous.” Perez may have resisted the urge to become a politician, but nevertheless, politics has shaped his career. Since he does not get paid to do the Perez Notes, he supports himself working as a mailman. He delivered mail in the financial district until March, when he became the union’s legislative chair. Perez says he became interested in politics after the hotly contested 2000 presidential election. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with

Hurray For The Underdog! New doc celebrates third-party candidates in all their weird and frustrating glory

“I will be an entertaining mayor,” blogger Andy Horwitz tells a nervous-looking supporter in the new documentary The Promise of New York. “I will be your dancing monkey. I will have bi-annual sex scandals.” There is no question Horwitz or any of the other colorful third-party candidates featured in the film would be more entertaining on the job than either Michael Bloomberg or Freddy Ferrer. Too bad their fate has already been sealed. The film follows four political neophytes as they attempt to collect petitions, get on the ballot, raise money and generally navigate the 2005 New York City mayor’s race. They prowl the streets for signatures, crash debates and get arrested for allegedly threatening journalists. The film, written, shot and directed by first-time filmmaker Raul Barcelona and produced by theater veteran Cassandra Hohn, is at times whimsical, frustrating and hilarious, and the perfect vehicle to show how the political process in New York stifles rather than cultivates democracy. Seth Blum, a math teacher and candidate for the Education Party, is, unlike the others, running less to stoke his own ego and more because he actually believes in something. The rotund and smiling Blum runs because he disapproves of a non-educator like Bloomberg being in charge of all the city’s schools. Christopher Brodeur, a gadfly and provocateur, wages his campaign to get on the Democratic ticket seemingly because it affords him the best opportunity to piss off the most people. Horwitz, a blogger, theater producer and comedian, is just out to prove that “some guy” can run for the highest office in New York. Last, and least serious, is Chris Rigg, a lanky, foul-mouthed artist, whose reasons for running seem the most flippant. But Riggs is also the most indicative of the film’s do-it-yourself, three-cheers-for-the-underdog message. “I called Bloomberg’s office like 2,000 times, whatever,” Riggs says in the film while rolling a joint. “If Bloomberg is really that out of touch with the city, then maybe I should just fucking run for mayor.” The conclusion, of course, is foregone. But the joy in the film is watching these four candidates achieve smaller victories, like getting on the ballot or, in Brodeur’s case, actually eking out 4 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary (and polling ahead of Council Speaker Gifford Miller in the Bronx). The film also celebrates the loyal girlfriends and associates who believe in these individuals, despite the impossible odds they face. “Anybody can run,” former mayor Ed Koch says at one point in the film. “Should they? No.” —AJH ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

17

the way things went down,” he said. “I felt like somebody had taken the blinders off as to how the power structure works.” He recalled working with Jordan during the election. “After that it was like, ‘Wait a minute, I need to know who really pulls the strings.’” Perez would like to continue to develop the show, which he thinks fills a Latino media gap. “I think there’s a niche for me,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me that. I’ve had people refer to me as the Dominic Carter of the Internet.” Times are tough, with most public universities looking for ways to trim costs. But Perez says he hopes for a larger commitment from LaGuardia. “I think I could do a hell of a lot with more resources, I think I’ve done a lot with limited resources,” said Perez. “I think the sky’s the limit.” jsobel@manhattanmedia.com


18

NY DAILY NEWS

‘Rent Is Too Damn High’ Party Candidate Gets Under Liu’s Skin

Comptroller candidate Salim Ejaz may have lost the support of the Rent Is Too [Damn] High Party, which originally put him on the ballot, but at a debate with Democratic nominee John Liu on Oct. 16, he managed a feat many of Liu’s Democratic rivals tried, but failed, to achieve: He put Liu on the defensive.

Van Bramer Piles On Against 25-Year Old Republican The Jimmy Van Bramer bandwagon is suddenly getting very, very crowded. In the weeks since Van Bramer won the Democratic primary in the race to replace Council Member Eric Gioia, a who’s who of political figures have

thrown their weight behind Van Bramer, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, Reps. Anthony Weiner and Joe Crowley, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and his two opponents in the Democratic primary, Brent O’Leary and Deirdre Feerick. This could be more easily explained if Van Bramer faced a competitive general election. But in a heavily Democratic district, his opponent is a 25-year-old Republican named Angelo Maragos. Maragos’ father, George, who is

CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

In an interview with two reporters after the debate, he questioned the authenticity of Liu’s background as a certified actuary. One of the reporters, Frank Lombardi of the Daily News, then pressed Liu on the claim. It may have edged into the realm of conspiracy

working as his son’s campaign secretary, attributed the flood of endorsements for Van Bramer to trepidation about the general election. “The only explanation I have is that they’re scared,” said George Maragos. Van Bramer’s campaign, meanwhile, said the endorsements were simply an effort by the Democratic Party to come together after a heated primary. Campaign spokesman Dan Hendrick disputed the idea that Van Bramer is scared— just eager for as much support as possible. “The district is 12-percent Republican. There’s no way this guy can win,” Hendrick said. “This is about putting our best foot forward.”

Schneiderman Talks Exoneration, But Not Of Monserrate On Oct. 20, State Sen. Eric Schneiderman held a press conference to discuss his chairmanship of a new Senate committee that will consider Hiram Monserrate’s political fate in the wake of a misdemeanor assault conviction. The very next day, Schneiderman

theory, but Ejaz’s attack at least shifted the attention, momentarily, away from his own problems: He is vastly outmatched in money and name recognition; he moved back to New York City from Long Island only last year; his own party has rejected his candidacy and endorsed Liu. Each was touched upon in the debate, moderated by an oftenexasperated Diana Williams (“Okay, Mr. Ejaz,” she would frequently interrupt). As Liu delved deeply and relentlessly into the minutiae of the city’s pension portfolio, Ejaz assailed what he saw as a citywide assault on middle- and working-class families. “This is a horrendous state of affairs,” he said in his thick Pakistani accent. “This is the typical government in action. Incompetent. Inefficient. I’ll repeat the word: Incompetent.” One of Ejaz’s rare openings came when Williams questioned Liu on the scandal that nearly ended his campaign: Allegations that his claim to have worked in a sweatshop as a child had been embellished. Liu gave the standard line. “People like to say that I was made in Taiwan,” he joked. Ejaz attempted perhaps his most withering attack. “To obtain the sympathies of the working class, John comes up with a sob story,” he said. “Sympathies of the working class. It can be arrived at by actions.” He then pledged not to support any new tax increases to balance the budget, which prompted Liu to quip, “I think Mr. Ejaz is repeating Mayor Bloomberg’s line of ‘no new taxes.’” After the debate, Liu would not say whether lines like those had allowed him to effectively neutralize his general election competition. But Ejaz, when asked who had won, was not so gracious. “I did, of course,” he said. “What did you expect?”

held another press conference, with a seemingly related topic: exoneration. Not of Monserrate, mind you. Schneiderman, chair of the Senate Codes Committee, along with Assembly Member Hakeem Jefferies, was touting the Actual Innocence Act, which would make it easier for the wrongfully accused to have their convictions overturned. And though Schneiderman’s bill will likely apply to people facing far graver legal situations than Monserrate, there was some discussion potentially relevant to the senator’s case. With Monserrate’s misdemeanor conviction based in part on security footage of the senator pushing his girlfriend from his apartment, Robert Perry, the Legislative Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said at the press conference that wrongful convictions can occur, because “digital video that is used in criminal prosecutions can often go wrong.”

With Holzer’s Help, Lincoln Comes To New York In New Exhibit From the moment he stepped out on the stage at Cooper Union to deliver the speech that launched his 1860 presidential campaign, to the outpouring of grief at

his funeral procession in 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s life has been intertwined with the lives of residents of the city of New York. A new exhibit at the New York Historical Society highlights this relationship between Lincoln and New York. Running through March 2010, the display features photos, archival records and artifacts, including a handsome, meticulously detailed catalog edited by noted Lincoln historian Harold Holzer. Holzer, who once served as press secretary to both Mario Cuomo and Bella Abzug, is senior vice president for external affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In a release, Holzer described how the city played a central role in the career of the 16th president, and how residents of the city were not always supportive of Lincoln. “For the first time,” Holzer said, “this exhibition will show how the city’s politicians, preachers, picture-makers and publishers—its citizens, black as well as white, poor as well as rich—continued to aid, thwart, support, undermine, promote and sabotage Lincoln and his political party.” By Chris Bragg, Sal Gentile and Andrew J. Hawkins

C


CITY HALL

www.cityhallnews.com

OCTOBER 26, 2009

19

Talking (Campaign) Heads

W

ith the election entering its final stretch, City Hall sat down with the two men running the two big mayoral campaigns. They agreed on their plans for the day after Election Day, but other than that painted starkly different

Eddy Castell What is the one thing people should know about the other candidate before they decide to vote for your guy? Eight is enough. Describe the experience of managing your campaign in one word. Exciting. What has been the biggest surprise in your campaign operation over the last few months? That term limits—while we knew it would be an issue—I’m surprised at the depth of the resentment that the public’s having on term limits. What has been the biggest surprise decision or move by the other side? Certainly for them to roll out Rudy Giuliani and for the mayor to echo what were basically fear-mongering comments with racial undertones was surprising. I didn’t think the mayor would stoop that low. On that issue, you thought he would be better than Giuliani… It was one of the things he said, that eight years of Rudy, there were some positives. There were also negatives, and the polarization of the city was one of those. Michael Bloomberg had said that he wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case. And he’s tried to—and I always took him at his word—he’s tried to rule that way. And now, when things get tough, when things are starting to get close, when he gets his ass beaten in the debate, you see that he’s no better than Rudy Giuliani. You see that he’s willing to try fear-mongering and divisiveness and polarization, if it means his re-election. When the book of this campaign is written, what will go down as your smartest single move? Without a doubt, not being scared off by the fact that he had all this money, not being scared off by the fact that everyone before the race started said it was going to be over. And the smartest move for Bill Thompson was to believe that this city and the voters of this city were sophisticated enough when it was time for change. What will go down as your biggest blunder in that book? That one hasn’t been written yet. What will the title of that book be? What’s that line from Muhammad Ali when he beat Sonny Liston? Shock The World. The other thing it could just be is Yes We Did Again. Is there anyone from the other campaign that you would want to hire to work for you in the future? Not at this point. What piece of advice would you give your counterpart in the last few days for managing the other campaign? At this point, I’d tell Bradley Tusk to stay the course that they’re going on, because I think it works to my advantage. Keep doing what you’re doing. What would be the best thing about your candidate winning? I think the opportunity over the next four years for him to be able to demonstrate that you can manage this city through tough times and still protect the middle class. What would be the worst thing about the other candidate winning? I think a third term would be horrible. I think you’re going to have a not only out-of-touch mayor, but a disinterested mayor, and third terms are historically, notoriously not great. I think in this case it would be particularly bad because you have someone who’s sticking around just because they don’t want to get off the stage. What is your plan for the day after Election Day? Sleep and reintroduce myself to my wife and kids.

versions of the stakes of this race, their own internal operations and their view of each other from afar. Eddy Castell’s proposed title for a book about the campaign? Shock The World. Bradley Tusk’s? It’s Not Rocket Science. —Edward-Isaac Dovere

Bradley Tusk What is the one thing people should know before they decide to vote for your guy? He’s a good mayor. Describe the experience of managing your campaign in one word. Complex. What has been the biggest surprise in your campaign operation over the last few months? How few surprises there have been. What has been the biggest surprise decision or move by the other side? The most out-of-the-box endorsement they got to me was the firefighters. Everyone else was purely based on partisan loyalty, people who endorsed Thompson because they had to. The firefighters’ [endorsement] was a little bit outside of that, a little different. When the book of this campaign is written, what will go down as your smartest single move? I put together a great team. What will go down as your biggest blunder in that book? There’s two weeks to go, so I’m not going to put a jinx on it. What will the title of that book be? It’s Not Rocket Science. This is my fundamental view, which is probably bad marketing on my part: we have a really cool campaign—every great kind of resource you could imagine, all the smart people you could possibly assemble, we do all kinds of great, crazy stuff, we’ve got ads up in eight different languages… With all of that said, if your candidate’s the incumbent and has done a good job managing the city, running the schools, keeping it safe, keeping it clean, people are going to think he’s a good mayor and re-elect him. Fundamentally, if you are bad at all of those things, it would be very hard to re-elect him, and all the cool stuff that we do may help us turn out our vote, may help us identify our voters, it may help push our message a little bit. But at the end of the day, it’s really based on his performance as mayor and not our campaign. It’s really not rocket science at all. Is there anyone from the other campaign that you would want to hire to work for you in the future? We really have remarkably little interaction with them. But every interaction I’ve ever had with Eddy has been really positive. He seems like a really smart guy. What piece of advice would you give your counterpart in the last few days for managing the other campaign? Eddy has done very well in his career to date. He doesn’t need my advice. What would be the best thing about your candidate winning? The city would continue to be a really good place. He makes New York City a better place not just for the next four years, but—I’ve been saying this a lot lately in my speeches—he’s one of those rare elected officials who looks 10, 20, 30 years out and tries to make decisions for the long term, and that’s incredibly rare in an elected official, and I think New York City, now more than ever, would really benefit What would be the worst thing about the other candidate winning? I think that we’ve made tremendous progress in schools in the last eight years. I think that his tenure at the Board of Education was not successful. I think that, after all the gains have been made, to return to someone who was not successful the first time around would be a mistake. What is your plan for the day after Election Day? Take my kids to school, go to the gym, try to sleep more than four hours that night, and come to the office and try to figure out how to help everyone here transition to their next thing.


FLI=LKLI<

K8B<J=C@>?K% ;<CK8:8CCJE<NPFIB?FD< @e i\Z\ek p\Xij# ;\ckX _Xj kXb\e X eldY\i f] jk\gj Xe[ dX[\ dXafi `em\jkd\ekj kf jfc`[`]p `kj Zfdd`kd\ek kf E\n Pfib% N`k_ k_\ i\Z\ek XeefleZ\d\ek f] fli dXafi \ogXej`fe f] fli [fd\jk`Z_lYflkf]CX>lXi[`XXjn\ccXjfli]lkli\ \]]fikj kf ^ifn Xe[ `dgifm\ fli A=B ]XZ`c`k`\j# n\ Zfek`el\kfnfibkfnXi[jfligifd`j\% N\Ëi\ dfi\ k_Xe EPËj dfjk ^cfYXc X`ic`e\2 n\Ëi\ E\nPfib\ij%

City Hall - October 26, 2009  

The October 26, 2009 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and Sta...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you