The past year presented A Tale of Two Cities that was not what Bill de Blasio had in mind when he ran for Mayor on that slogan eight years earlier.
In one of those cities, Mr. de Blasio and the City Council, unconvinced that they had done enough in 2020 to punish the Police Department and its officers, last March released an NYC Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Draft Plan that among other things called for "a pension-reduction or forfeiture remedy for the most-egregious misconduct cases; for example, where there is death or serious physical injury which creates substantial risk of death or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ."
A separate, less-long-winded excerpt of the plan would have lifted the 30-day cap on unpaid suspensions without pay for officers who had engaged in "egregious conduct" that caused death or serious physical injury.
Detectives' Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo responded to the proposal by noting that under existing state law, cops automatically lost their pensions if convicted of a felony. Broadening the circumstances that could trigger that loss, he said, was too steep a price to pay for a single act of misconduct in what might have otherwise been an exemplary career.
The portion of the plan lifting the cap on suspensions without pay was believed to be a response to the five years that Officer Daniel Pantaleo continued collecting his salary and accruing pension credit between the July 17, 2014 incident in which his use of an NYPD-banned chokehold was a contributing factor in the death of Eric Garner and the day when he was finally fired after being convicted at a departmental trial.
Mayor Enabled Delay
Left unsaid in the plan's language was that Mr. de Blasio contributed to the process being drawn out that long by not insisting, say two years after the incident, that the city had waited long enough to see whether the U.S. Justice Department was going to bring civil-rights charges against Mr. Pantaleo, and the ongoing conflict between prosecutors in Brooklyn and others in Washington, D.C. meant it was time to move forward with the NYPD disciplinary process.
The potential for similar delays in future cases meant an indefinite suspension without pay was overly punitive for someone who had not been convicted of anything, which may be why the proposal sank without a trace when the State Legislature adjourned last June.
In contrast to the rhetorical energy devoted by the Mayor and Council to this issue, consider the saga of Bernardo Carbajal, which began July 31 when he allegedly stabbed a man inside a Dunkin Donuts in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, during a dispute over his using an electrical outlet to charge his cell-phone. Mr. Carbajal was released rather than being locked up, a product of what was known at the time it took effect at the beginning of 2020 as the state's Bail-Reform Law.
This allowed him, on Nov. 10, to be in a Lafayette St. restaurant in lower Manhattan, where another dispute led him to let his knife do the talking, stabbing the other man in the head. Once again, he was released without bail, as if the criminal-justice system was determined to allow him to polish his craft enough to kill his next victim.
Mr. Carbajal came close on Dec. 22, when standing on a subway platform in the Times Square station, he wound up in another argument and stabbed a 52-year-old man eight times, then shoved him onto the tracks, before tumbling to them himself. His victim was hospitalized but expected to survive; Mr. Carbajal was taken into custody for the third time in five months, and police found a large kitchen knife that apparently was his primary debating point.
Nobody skipped any meals waiting for professions of outrage from the Mayor or City Council Members that someone who clearly needed serious psychiatric help or a long jail term had been let go twice, before yet another confrontation occurred that could have been fatal.
A Lack of Perspective
But the determination of the Mayor and Council Members to target cops for serious financial loss based on the disturbing details of a single police-involved death during Mr. de Blasio's eight-year term, placed against their indifference to the danger routinely posed by unbalanced individuals who are returned to the streets after committing violent crimes by a "reform" that has made life more precarious rather than humane, seems to embody the lyric in the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" that goes, "When logic, and proportion, have fallen sloppy dead."
Voters from the same Democratic Party that gave us Mr. de Blasio and the Council's leadership showed a greater sense of perspective when they nominated Eric Adams for Mayor, with the candidate carrying the hopes of the Defund the Police movement in the city, Maya Wiley, finishing third in the June primary.
Another candidate who'd jumped on the Defund bandwagon in mid-2020, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, wound up fifth, and suffered the additional indignity of having his most-progressive supporters bail on his campaign after a former companion of his accused him of sexually harassing her nearly 20 years earlier.
He was not the only longtime fixture in city government to have a hard fall over the past year. A more-jarring end came to the career of Ed Mullins, who for nearly 20 years had been the Sergeants' Benevolent Association's answer to Yosemite Sam, repeatedly shooting himself in the foot with intemperate comments while embarrassing union members.
He was in the midst of a departmental trial for obscene tweets denouncing a former city Health Commissioner and a Councilman turned Congressman, as well as a retweet containing personal information about the Mayor's daughter, when he abruptly stepped down as president of the union in early October after FBI raids of both the SBA's offices and Mr. Mullins's Long Island home that were reportedly connected to his members' benefit funds.
Not Known for Discretion
Somewhere in the unwritten handbook for criminals is the maxim that if you have robbed a bank and the cops aren't yet on your tail, you should be sure not to blow through stop signs or exceed the speed limit. It's not clear whether Mr. Mullins attracting attention with his ill-advised tweets placed him on investigators' radar, but they probably ensured that even within the union's ranks, few tears were shed or words wasted on the loss of his leadership.
Also making herself conspicuous with at least one outburst was someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who as conditions deteriorated on Rikers Island this fall decided the solution was to call for all detainees to be released. It was a reminder that there are some government jobs whose benefits include being able to say whatever pops into your head and not worry about being held accountable for them.
The year began with one of the rare times that Donald Trump wasn't guilty of exaggeration—although a bundle of other charges may be confronting him in the new year—when he convinced his followers to come to Washington, D.C. on the day his election defeat was scheduled to be official by promising that what happened would be "wild."
It's unlikely that Andrew Cuomo saw his descent into disgrace coming, no matter how much he sowed the seeds for his downfall, with no reason to believe the worst isn't yet to come for him as well
But enough about what can be reasonably known about 2021—it's time to offer our annual forecast of what might happen in 2022, with a reminder that past results of our predictions are not a guarantee we'll be wrong far more often than not once again:
Jan. 10—The sound of Emergency Medical Service workers protesting on the steps of City Hall leads Mayor Adams to ask Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo why they're out there.
"They say you promised them pay parity with Firefighters on your first day in office, and they gave you a week but now it's time to make good," she explains.
"Don't they realize that campaign promises are written in pencil?" he responds.
"They said you sounded sincere."
"I was, until I realized something," the new Mayor replies. "We're just wrapping up the oral arguments in the PBA contract arbitration this week. If I give EMS parity with Firefighters, Pat Lynch is gonna ask in the final written brief that his members get the same 65-percent raise I had to give EMS workers to get to parity."
"So that's a no?"
"Explain to them that I said throughout the campaign that public safety was the path to prosperity. If I make the cops unhappier than they already are, it hurts public safety, which creates a detour on the path to prosperity, which means I can't get them to parity anytime soon."
Jan. 24—After failing to hear back from MSNBC about a night-time talk-show job, Bill de Blasio calls a press conference outside the Park Slope YMCA to announce that he's running for Governor. It's attended by three local camera crews but no reporters, although the 36 hecklers who show up bombard him with questions that range from "Are you kidding?" to "Where do you get the nerve?"
"Nobody thought I'd wind up Mayor at this point in the campaign nine years ago," he responds.
Feb. 14—The morning after The Tennessee Titans upset the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin hold a press conference outside SoFi Stadium to announce they reached a deal sitting in a luxury box during the game that will assure the West Virginia Senator's support for Build Back Better at a price-tag of $1.92 trillion.
Asked what sewed up the deal, Majority Leader Schumer replies, "I talked Roger Goodell into awarding the 2026 Super Bowl to Morgantown at beautiful Mountaineer Field."
When Senator Manchin is asked why he agreed to a cost that is $17 billion greater than the bill he rejected, he replies, "Well, $16 billion of that goes toward the construction of four luxury hotels in the heart of downtown Morgantown, with the other billion paying relocation expenses for the affected residents and businesses."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had watched the game at his Kentucky home and rooted against Tennessee, when reached for comment sputters, "Why that's worse than the Cornhusker Kickback that got the Democrats their last vote for Obamacare. We're gonna campaign against it in the mid-terms and call it the Mountaineer Mineshaft."
March 7—Bill de Blasio is spotted outside George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, where the Yankees are playing an exhibition game against the Red Sox.
"Who are you rooting for?" a reporter asks him.
"I respect the question," he replies, "but what cave have you been living in? A true fan doesn't change his loyalties, and if you doubt me on that, just ask those PBA delegates behind you who are chanting "De Blasio's Sox!"
"Uh, ex-Mayor," someone says, "that isn't 'Sox' they're chanting."
March 17—While the Forbes Magazine annual list of the world's richest billionaires shows that Donald Trump isn't in the top 2,500, The Onion points out that having raised more than $500 million in small contributions from his supporters over the past year, to root out the real thievery in the 2020 election while raising money for lawyers to defend him against possible criminal charges, makes him The World's Richest Welfare Recipient.
Jailbreak at Tiffany's
March 28—During the stated meeting of the City Council, testimony by Board of Correction officials about upheaval in the jail system is interrupted by a surprise appearance by Mayor Adams in the Council Chambers.
"What do you mean by upheaval?" he asks. "Have you told the Council that due to more-effective enforcement by my police officers that's led to more arrests and more judges being willing to lock up people who commit violent crimes, the jail population's back above 6,000 and yet assaults against both officers and inmates are at their lowest level in more than five years?"
Council Member Tiffany Caban responds, "That's because you're psychologically brutalizing the detainees by restoring punitive segregation."
The Mayor replies, "Isn't that better than a small number of inmates brutalizing everyone in their path? And our attendance rate for officers is up above 90 percent and no one's working triple shifts anymore."
"That doesn't justify dehumanizing the detainees by holding them accountable for bad behavior," Ms. Caban says.
"Well, Ms. Kaboom--"
"That's Caban," she responds angrily.
"My apologies. I was about to ask whether you weren't the person who while running for Queens DA three years ago called for Rikers Island to close, but didn't want a jail built in Queens to help house the inmates."
"I believe in decarceration," the first-year Councilwoman says.
Mr. Adams replies, "And if you become Mayor, you can give that a shot. Right now, what I'm aiming for are safer jails and safer streets so we can spend more money on helping people better themselves instead of housing 6,000 inmates at $550,000 per."
April 20—With a new Democratic gubernatorial poll showing Governor Hochul leading Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, 41 percent to 26 percent, and Mr. de Blasio trailing in the four-candidate race with just 7 percent, Republican insurgent Andrew Giuliani attacks GOP front-runner Lee Zeldin as a weak candidate despite his endorsements by both the GOP and Conservative state parties.
"Congressman Zeldin got the support of party bosses by showing them polls in which he whipped de Blasio by 30 points in a general election," he said. "Big deal! He claims he's a Trump supporter, but anyone could vote against certifying the election—that didn't take guts for any House Republican. You know who showed guts? My dad when he whipped up the crowd at The Ellipse Jan. 6 by calling for trial by combat as the President's warm-up act. And as my friend Curtis Sliwa can tell you, I'm even more popular than my dad is among true seditionists."
May 10—Andrew Cuomo, having so far dodged indictment for actions he took involving state nursing homes during the early weeks of the pandemic, decides the time is right to launch a comeback by announcing he is running for Governor "so I can finish the job."
Asked how he expected to be a viable candidate after resigning in disgrace, given Ms. Hochul's big lead against the rest of the field while being backed by most of the Democratic establishment, Mr. Cuomo responds that this isn't the first time he ran for Governor as an underdog.
When it's pointed out that when he last did so in 2002, he wound up dropping out of the race before the primary because his campaign was floundering, he replies, "Well, this time, I'm starting out with $18 million in my campaign account and even more name recognition."
"You mean notoriety," a reporter says.
"Listen, my friend," the former Governor responds, "All those DAs from upstate to the suburbs who decided not to charge me for forcible touching have shown the voters I'm not nearly the bad guy that Tish James made me out to be. And if I see I'm not making up ground on Hochul by this time next month, I'll take half the money in my campaign account, bet it in Vegas on my beating de Blasio in a head-to-head matchup, and at least make enough cash to cover my expenses and my brother Chris's old salary."
Asked to respond, Mr. de Blasio expresses sympathy, saying, "I still haven't raised enough to pay off the lawyers who represented me in my past criminal investigations."
June 9—With his team languishing in third place in the American League East behind Tampa and Boston while the Mets have used a recent hot streak to open a seven-game lead in the National League East, Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner asks general manager Brian Cashman whether he thinks the team could trade manager Aaron Boone for Mets skipper Buck Showalter.
"I don't think the Mets would go for that," Mr. Cashman said. "Showalter cleaned up the clubhouse culture there, he's even got Robinson Cano running out grounders, and their bullpen stopped blowing late-inning leads."
"Yeah," Mr. Steinbrenner said, "but Boone was always a better hitter than Buck, who never made it out of the minors. And he could probably still outrun him on an extra-base hit."
"That really isn't what teams value most in a manager," Mr. Cashman replies.
"Yeah, I know—it's the analytics," the Yankee owner replies. "Well how about if we give up Gary Sanchez as part of the deal?"
"Not even if we paid his salary for them."
The Primary Results
June 28—Governor Hochul wins the Democratic primary with 46 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Mr. Williams. Congressman Tom Suozzi finishes third with 12 percent, while Mr. Cuomo wins his Vegas bet by getting 6 percent to 3 percent for Mr. de Blasio.
The ex-Governor's jubilation is tempered, however, as he leaves the Midtown hotel where he used the smallest ballroom for his election-night vote-watching party after a couple of Federal investigators approach, read him his rights, and place him under arrest for conspiracy to commit fraud to land his big book deal.
"Well," the former Governor says, "this means my brother's gonna have to get a job, because I'll need my winnings to pay my lawyers."
On the Republican side, Mr. Zeldin, helped by a commercial in the closing week of the campaign portraying his opponent as the son of a crackpot election lawyer—using footage of Rudy Giuliani with mascara streaking down his face—routs Andrew Giuliani by 27 points.
Mr. Sliwa consoles the losing candidate by reminding him that he won't be leaving his election headquarters in handcuffs.
July 14—A late-fiscal-year surge in tax revenues leaves the city with a $1-billion surplus, but Mayor Adams insists he can't use it to significantly improve wages for EMS workers at a point when the PBA arbitration award hasn't been decided.
July 27—A final vote tally in Bessemer, Ala. shows that the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has won a union-representation election at an Amazon warehouse there, a breakthrough that sends shock waves across the nation. The surprisingly large margin of victory is attributed to a message from Mr. Trump, using a half-hour of his time as a guest on Sean Hannity's show, telling workers at the warehouse that if they voted in favor of the union, it would help President Biden, and he'd have no choice but to endorse primary opponents against them.
"We weren't sure what he was babbling about," RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said, "but we were fine with it just as long as he kept babbling."
Aug. 23—After the Mets complete a two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium that leaves the Bronx Bombers 12 games out of first place in their division, the team fires Aaron Boone and releases Gary Sanchez after he allowed four passed balls in the series.
Sept. 12—More than five years after the union's previous contract expired, an arbitration panel releases an award to which both sides had consented, allowing the deal to exceed two years. The new five-year contract matches the 7.95-percent raise over three years that was the pattern for other uniformed unions, then tacks on 5-percent raises in each of its final two years.
"Whoever criticizes President Biden for driving up inflation has to deal with me," Mr. Lynch says regarding the largest percentage raises his members have gotten in nearly 20 years.
Oct. 14—EMS union officials agree to basic wage terms matching the PBA award and negotiate an added differential for its members who agree to provide first-aid training to police recruits that had long been neglected during their Police Academy training.
"It's not parity," Mr. Adams said, "but one step at a time."
Nov. 8—Defying predictions that they would lose their majorities in both houses of Congress, the early improvements in ordinary people's lives under Build Back Better and the infrastructure plan passed a year earlier, combined with bad publicity for Republicans from the House Intelligence Committee's findings in its investigation of the insurrection at the Capitol 22 months earlier, propel Democrats to surprise mid-term wins that increase their slender advantages in both the House and Senate.
"If this keeps up," Mr. Biden says in a televised address the following morning, "We may actually be able to take on Big Coal and Big Pharma next."
Nov. 30—The Manhattan District Attorney's Office indicts Donald Trump on fraud charges for inflating and deflating the value of his family's properties, depending on whether the Trump Organization wanted to maximize the amounts it was being loaned against them or reduce the taxes it had to pay.
A small group of Trump supporters stands on Centre St. facing off against a larger cluster of critics of the former President, each chanting, "Stop the Steal," though for different reasons.
The former President, standing in a packed courtroom as the charges against him and the business bearing his name are read, mutters, "Where are the Proud Boys when we need them outside?"
"Under indictment or in prison," one of his attorneys responds.
Dec. 22—Unable to land their own cable-news shows, Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo begin a limited Broadway run of a revival of "On the Waterfront," with the indicted ex-Governor playing Charlie Malloy and the ex-Mayor starring in the Marlon Brando role as his younger brother Terry. During the fateful conversation in the back of a taxi-cab in which Terry accuses Charlie of letting him be exploited, no sooner has Mr. de Blasio declared, "I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender" than Mr. Cuomo goes off-script and roars, "Contender my ass, ya big palooka" and begins pummeling him.
The theater explodes with shrieking and shouting until security guards pull Mr. Cuomo off Mr. de Blasio. While the show doesn't resume, two Fox News executives in the audience get the two combatants backstage and offer them a three-year contract to do a one-hour nightly show airing their grievances with each other.
"We'll pay you each $7 million a year, with a ratings bonus thrown in," one of the executives tells the former Governor.
"More than my brother?" he says, a gleam in his eye.
"Not for me," Mr. de Blasio says. "Eight years was enough."
Happy New Year.