If you believed the unhappy whispers triggered by the failure of the bill equalizing disability-pension rights for cops and firefighters hired after 2009 to get approval in Albany last week, the one lesson Mayor de Blasio learned from decision-makers in the state capital was the small satisfactions of spiteful sabotage.
By Michael Immitt’s account, it was more important to keep Justin Volpe and Charles Schwarz separated than to ensure that the turbulent Mr. Volpe did not assault a handcuffed Abner Louima at Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct 18 years ago.
The first contested election in 12 years for Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president concludes this week, and one of the most-remarkable aspects of it is the lack of focus from any of the participants on what Len Levitt in his blog two weeks ago called the “most-notable accomplishment” of Pat Lynch’s 16-year tenure: “bringing the union into the 21st century largely corruption-free.”
When the Assembly early on the morning of April 1 created a commission to study raising legislators’ pay after a 16-year freeze, the most-intriguing comment came from Andy Goodell, a Republican from upstate Jamestown. He told Capital New York that he hoped the panel would wait until after the November 2016 elections and that “they don’t raise it so high as to get competent opponents to run against us.”
Even before he came to the New York Yankees in 1977, Reggie Jackson was such a larger-than-life character that an Oakland A’s teammate proclaimed, “There isn’t enough mustard in the whole world to cover that hot dog.”
Ultimately, it may not comfort Dean Skelos much that he lasted longer as head of the State Senate after being served with Federal corruption charges than the five days Shelly Silver continued to serve as Assembly Speaker before his Democratic colleagues decided in late January that his own indictment made him too great a liability to continue as their leader.
The timing of Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries’ call for Federal legislation outlawing the use of chokeholds by cops during an April 27 press conference outside Police Headquarters had a distinctly political air to it. Nearly 10 months had elapsed since the death of Eric Garner during a struggle with police on Staten Island in which Officer Daniel Pantaleo applied what appeared to be an NYPD-banned chokehold that was a contributing factor. And nearly five months had elapsed since a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Mr. Pantaleo on criminal charges. So why pick now to make this proposal?
Three cases working their way through the court system bring to mind a line from a 40-year-old, generally-forgotten Jack Nicholson movie directed by Michelangelo Antonioni called “The Passenger.”
Given that its April 12 front page—the day that Hillary Clinton officially announced she was running for President—screamed “Oh Hill No!” and was followed in smaller type by 11 more “no’s,” you might have figured that the New York Post would greet Mayor de Blasio’s statement that morning that he wasn’t necessarily going to endorse her as the start of a beautiful friendship.
Victor Gotbaum will be remembered as a great labor leader, even though he never commanded a national organization, based on two accomplishments: the growth of District Council 37 during the 22 years he ran it, and his outsize role in helping to rescue the city from the mid-1970s fiscal crisis, in the process preserving collective bargaining and full pension rights for municipal workers.
The contrast was striking April 1 when Governor Cuomo risked straining a muscle by so strenuously patting himself on the back for education “reforms” he said would be “one of the greatest legacies for me and this state” while Mayor de Blasio’s Labor Commissioner told a City Council hearing that the city was ahead of schedule in its plan to save $3.4 billion in health-care costs for municipal workers by 2018.
When the Citizens Budget Commission last week contended that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had underestimated the deficit in its capital spending plan—which had been placed at $15 billion—by at least $4 billion, the logical person to ask about the situation was Richard Ravitch, the former Lieutenant Governor who as Chairman of the MTA 35 years ago put together the massive funding program that brought the city transit system out of notorious disrepair and restored its reliability and rider confidence.
When 53 Democratic Assembly Members last week co-signed a letter to Speaker Carl Heastie urging him not to yield to Governor Cuomo’s demand that the state take over persistently failing city schools at a time when Mayor de Blasio is insisting his own turnaround plan is working, the Governor’s response was telling.
For Uniformed Firefighters’ Association President Steve Cassidy, a victory in an improper-practice case involving an FDNY Battalion Chief taking out his anger over a cell-phone call from a union trustee on Firefighters assigned to sick leave was a good jumping-off point for his drive to improve on a miserly pension benefit for newer union members who become disabled in the line of duty.
When Daily News Albany columnist Ken Lovett last week quoted anonymous sources claiming that Mayor de Blasio was emotionally crushed by Governor Cuomo’s penchant for dumping on his initiatives on a regular basis, the Mayor responded by evading the issue, saying the story was based on “thin evidence.”
It is hard, watching Rudy Giuliani morph into a slightly-more-intelligent version of Donald Trump in questioning whether President Obama really loves the United States the way people like Rudy do, not to believe that he is trying to re-fight the 2008 presidential election, the one in which he got a single delegate vote while Mr. Obama captured the grand prize.
Far too often over the past decade, the dissident group within Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents school-bus employees, has had seemingly golden opportunities to bring reform to the union dashed by bad luck, bad timing and the caprices of the Department of Education.
A friend of mine who worked for one of the city’s tabloids a long time ago once described the vast difference in the information he’d get from two columnists on those nights when they couldn’t get back into the office before deadline (in those ancient times before laptops) and so called in their notes to the paper’s rewrite desk.
In 1995, even as it was becoming clear that the United Federation of Teachers was having a tough time convincing its members to accept a tentative five-year contract that began with a two-year wage freeze, District Council 37’s leadership agreed to the same terms with the Giuliani administration.
From Mike Mulgrew’s standpoint, the irony of Shelly Silver sitting next to Governor Cuomo when he gave his State of the State speech in Albany Jan. 21 and being arraigned on criminal charges the following morning in Manhattan was that the man most likely to head off Mr. Cuomo’s full-bore offensive against the state’s Teacher unions was no longer in any position to do so.
Crooks like Carl Kruger and Pedro Espada are easy to spot. It may take decades, but it seems just a matter of time before the law catches up to them.
It would seem that a challenge to Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch’s upcoming bid for a fifth term could gain some traction, as was suggested by tabloid coverage of last week’s raucous delegate meeting and was flatly stated by Juan Gonzalez, the estimable Daily News columnist.
Back in the 1990s, following the death of an unarmed civilian at the hands of a police officer, the Mayor at the time attended the dead man’s funeral and told his family that he was “shot under conditions that raised a tremendous amount of questions.”
We will remember 2014 in New York as a tale of two Democratic elected officials, one plowing ahead certain in his convictions and progressive principles, the other convinced that such matters were unneeded baggage that would only weigh him down as he triangulated his way toward a White House run.
“This is probably the worst day for the Police Department since 9/11,” a veteran officer said Dec. 23, referring to the murders of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as they sat in their patrol car outside a Brooklyn housing project three days earlier. “There’s like shell-shock.”
A cop I’ll call Sean, asked a few days before two cops were murdered his reaction to Pat Lynch’s asking Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association members to sign a letter telling Mayor de Blasio they didn’t want him attending their funerals if they died in the line of duty, replied, “To me, it was like a sign of desperation. It seemed kind of macabre and morbid.”
Sergeants’ Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins last week called Mayor de Blasio’s accounts of cautioning his son Dante about the importance of minding his manners in any encounter with police “really hypocritical and moronic.” Apparently not convinced he had covered the key bases, he then added, “Ultimately, if this individual who’s in charge of running this city doesn’t have faith in his own son being protected by the NYPD, he may want to think about moving out of New York City completely.”
“I’m glad they didn’t indict the cop,” a veteran police officer from another borough said shortly after the announcement Dec. 3 that a Staten Island grand jury had opted not to bring criminal charges against Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner for his use of a chokehold in bringing him to the ground. “He made a mistake, but I don’t think he should be indicted or lose his job.”
Early in 2002, when reformers within District Council 37 had grown as weary as the Old Guard among the union’s local presidents of being under an administratorship of their national union but couldn’t find someone among themselves they could agree upon as their leader, they turned to Lillian Roberts as a compromise candidate who had the respect of both sides.
When I was 17, for reasons I can’t remember I borrowed a movie discount card from a high school classmate named Bruce Kleinberg. This became memorable because of a night in April 1971 when I was trying to sell two Knick playoff tickets at a profit and having a tough time of it using the mumble common to the art of scalping, and so raised my voice a few decibels.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association wasn’t aiming for subtlety in its full-page New York Post ad Nov. 12 that asked, “How do Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito take care of their ‘moral obligations?’”
“What happened to union power?” one Democratic Party insider asked the morning after city unions’ prime objective—electing a clear Democratic majority in the State Senate—turned into as big a debacle as the national party’s efforts to maintain control of the U.S. Senate.
It was what one cop on a police-oriented website called “the gentlest” of summonses: a ticket for driving with a defective headlight, one that could be wiped out by having the problem corrected within 24 hours.
Let’s at least give Governor Cuomo credit for a debate performance in which he provided an example to Michael Grimm of how to seethe with anger yet not threaten to throw your antagonist off a balcony.
For much of the past decade, as he came back from a disastrous 2002 run for Governor and a painfully public divorce, Andrew Cuomo seemed to have the political gods smiling upon him.
When Zephyr Teachout was asked Oct. 8 about a Capital New York story the previous morning that the Cuomo administration had delayed releasing a Federal study on fracking until it could edit out some of the more-damning conclusions, she responded less with outrage than the world-weariness of someone who’s gotten used to dealing with an incorrigible child.
Preet Bharara, the most interesting man in New York government, sees a nexus between corruption on Wall Street and in local politics and the “broken” governance of Rikers Island that he recently asserted has left adolescent inmates with as much to fear from violence at the hands of correction officers as from their fellow prisoners.
Wally the Ex-Firefighter wasn’t yet aware that game-used Derek Jeter socks were being sold by the Yankees for $409.99 when he drove to their mall of a ballpark Sept. 23 with his own take on the “Re2pect” t-shirt paying homage to the shortstop’s uniform number.
A week after the union representing school-bus drivers and escorts held a strike authorization vote in reaction to a school-bus company attempting to create a two-tiered workforce in defiance of the de Blasio administration, a deal was reached Sept. 18 between Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Reliant Bus Company that averted the threatened walkout.
Early on primary night Sept. 9, a veteran Democratic strategist, asked to assess how well Zephyr Teachout was likely to do, said he was inclined to rule out the anecdotal evidence he’d been offered during the day because “everyone I speak to has some problem with Cuomo.”
Andrew Cuomo, who normally takes himself so seriously that you could imagine him ordering corporal punishment for anyone other than tabloid headline writers who dared to call him Andy, practically pulsated with mirth when he was asked Sept. 2 about his refusal to debate his Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, or to pledge to participate in a televised faceoff with Republican nominee Rob Astorino between now and the Nov. 4 general election.
Back during the 1997 mayoral campaign, a friend of mine spent several days with the Rev. Al Sharpton for a three-part series on the street activist’s march away from rabble-rousing toward respectability, and came away fairly impressed.
It had already been a long but productive day for Zephyr Teachout by the time she walked down the stairs in the backyard of a Park Slope district leader at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14 to address a gathering of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democratic Club.
Andrew Cuomo, perhaps having come to believe he can commit almost any politically dubious act and suffer no significant damage from a comfortably-numb electorate in his re-election run, was on quite a roll before, like a frat boy on a losing streak, he tried to change his luck with a road trip to Israel Aug. 12.
Fifteen years ago, when anger over the killing of Amadou Diallo by police provoked enough outrage with the Giuliani administration’s policies to produce mass demonstrations on a daily basis outside 1 Police Plaza, and former Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins were among those who submitted to arrests to register their own disapproval, an unlikely figure echoed a charge by the Rev. Al Sharpton that Mayor Rudy Giuliani failed to grasp the anger felt toward cops in the city’s black and Latino neighborhoods.
Those inclined to regard Andrew Cuomo as the Duke of Duplicity should at least give him credit for not proclaiming, in light of the revelations about his underlings’ attempts to steer the Moreland Commission off the scent of his patrons, that he was “shocked, shocked! to find that manipulation is going on here.”
The most striking thing about the video of Eric Garner’s fatal confrontation with Staten Island cops is how quickly Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo escalates the situation by wrapping his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck.
Santos Crespo says he expected a tough battle in his bid for re-election as president of Local 372 of District Council 37 from the time that his main challenger, Shaun Francois, was joined in the June election by two other candidates who had previously run for the top spot in the 23,000-member union. Rather than counting on them to divide the anti-incumbent vote, he worried that the new entries could chip away at his support among a membership not known for political activism.
Governor Cuomo’s changing pronouncements on a solution to the Long Island Railroad contract stalemate last week offered evidence that either he has a short memory or he counts on the rest of the world having one.
Last fall, a recently-departed official of Schools Local 372 of District Council 37 called with a story about the president of the union, Santos Crespo, allegedly having moved to seize control of the union by shutting out board members and replacing capable staffers with people whose loyalty he could count on.
At 11:12 p.m. June 24, Bob Liff, a longtime consultant to Charlie Rangel, approached reporters in the Congressman’s election-night headquarters in the Taino Towers gymnasium on East 123rd St. to inform them that he would be coming down to make a statement in 10 minutes.
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