Saturday, June 14, 2008

Political Maneuvering

In America you can go on the air and kid the politicians, and the politicians can go on the air and kid the people.
--Groucho Marx (1890 - 1977)

While Tom Duane keeps his media department spinning out updates on his career in a well-organized campaign, he is perched to enjoy some real power if the Dems finally take over the Senate. Though he has not lost any weight recently that does not seem to affect his popularity downtown. He's still one of the few politicians who gets a round of applause when he appears, before he speaks. It’s also hard to tell whether the former rancor between him and Senator Connor, the former Minority Leader of the Senate, is still aglow. Connor felt betrayed by Duane, who bolted during some crucial votes which would have allowed Connor to retain that post. It's hard to tell where that particular hatchet is buried.

Connor has also been recently upstaged by Daniel Squadron, a young, former aide to Chuck Schumer who traveled with the Senator for nearly two years and co-authored a book with him. Recently, a private fundraiser was held in SoHo for Squadron and, understandably, Connor is not happy that D.I.D. also voted to endorse Squadron for the re-election that he had planned on winning -- especially, since the potential control of the Senate makes everyone anxious over having real purse-strings available to them. While Squadron was not available for comment, the event no doubt went well since Schumer was hosting it.
Connor's re-election bid is in doubt now, considering the fact that in his last re-election bid with Ken Diamondstone opposing him, the contest was closer than expected. He had D.I.D. support in that race.

The Glickster, as Assembly Member Deborah Glick is affectionately known, appears to be running for re-election with no opposition. The rumor had been floated that Maria Derr would seek to unseat her in her uncle’s former seat (William Passannante), but now that Derr has been making the rounds for a run against Brad Hoylman and Andrew Berman for Christine Quinn’s City Council seat next year – that is no longer a problem. If Derr loses in that race, she may be back for a challenge later. For now, Glick is unopposed and appreciated in the Village.

Bob Morgenthau is kicking off his campaign for District Attorney next week and while he both older AND wiser, he remains a formidable adversary. His nemesis, Leslie Crocker Snyder, is expected to challenge him again so it should be an interesting contest. Unilike other D.A.'s, Morgenthau has organized a well-oiled team of prosecutors and has an impeccable record. Snyder will have an uphill battle trying to unseat someone who has been cognizant of civil rights as well as the safety of the community.

Brad Hoylman, someone who had been suspected of having no sense of humor has apparently shed his cape and appears to be quite personable lately. Some on Community Board #2, (where he is Chairman), actually have been amused by some of his comments. Out from under his Vice Chair, sub Rosa, persona, under previous Chair Maria Derr, we have someone who may present a real challenge to Andrew Berman in the City Council race next year. Hoylman's close relationship with Quinn may be helpful and Tom Duane is also known as a buddy.
Recently, he was sighted having lunch with John Sutter of the Villager and Hoylman appeared to be leaving in good spirits. Wonder if Lincoln Anderson would have some comments on that? Hoylman also gets points for meeting with Jim McManus and Carlos Manzano – two important political people who control the West Side. Derr has done the same. It should also not be lost on everyone that McManus snubbed Eliot Spitzer when he was running for Governor – and that did not play out well for Spitzer.
McManus is a close friend of Paterson, Rangel, Dickens and the powerful Uptown crowd.

Apparently, Scott Stringer can’t make up his mind about whether he wants 4 more years as BP or wants to throw his hat in the ring for Public Advocate.
While some feel that if he does not run next year for Public Advocate, he will face a vacuum when the second 4-year term as BP expires. Hyperactive politicians fear inactivity and being out of the public eye – and, therein lays the nervousness. While not making an announcement to run, he has been busy making his supplicants on the Community Boards aware that they work for him and not to stray. His connection to Julie Menin of Community Board #1 goes beyond City Council (for her race against Pete Gleason next year) and enters the realm of Big Money for campaigns. Bruce Menin has the cash.
City Councilmember Eric Gioia, meanwhile, has announced that he is in it and intends to win it. His campaign is starting in earnest and he has a well-oiled media organization. His forays downtown appear to be under way and we can expect to hear a great deal about his plans in the near future. It’s likely that he will be deflected from the Community Boards, however, while Stringer decides whether he will challenge Gioia.

We hear that some changes are planned for Community Board #2.
There is speculation that a few members who have recently been dropped from the Board may shortly be invited to join again.
Don’t be surprised if Phil Mouquinho, for example, Hudson Square activist and owner of P.J. Charlton’s soon re-appears on the Board.
It’s not only important what you do in politics; it’s just as important what you Don’t do. He has been a prolific and successful fundraiser – and has produced quite well in support of the DSNY Steering Committee.
Unlike some minor political activists who would benefit from an anger-management course, Phil is a friendly guy who always has a smile and handshake ready, even for political opponents. And, after being the good neighbor on the block for 50 years, he knows his politics.
With close friend Maria Derr, former Chair of Community Board #2, running for City Council as well, Phil is in good company.
Who knows, maybe Bob Rinaolo, former Chair of the Community Board #2 Business Committee and owner of The Garage and Senor Swankey’s – may decide that Florida is not enough to satisfy his needs.

The Mayor’s race is at a minor lull right now since Bloomberg’s media machine has him seeking a third term, running for Vice President, running for Governor, and finally, operating some sort of philanthropical entity. While he decides what he plans to do, not that we have anything to say about it, Quinn is wading through Slushgate.
Some downtown people say she is politically dead – others claim that she is tough enough to withstand the stiff breeze blowing over from the former Staten Island landfill, where all recent Mayors have drawn their support. Bill Thompson seems to have avoided any fallout from that particular dung heap and is poised to present the biggest challenge to a field that is otherwise limited to Weiner and Avella.

As Don Ameche said, Thing’s Change.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Political Notes

It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians.
--Henrik Ibsen (1828 - 1906)

The recent attempted coup at D.I.D., SoHo’s reform Democratic Party club, was finally resolved at Wednesday evening’s meeting. With the Meninites in high gear, led by David Reck, Julie Menin, Ian Dutton and Pat Morris, a subdued vote was cast without much in the way of histrionics. Although there were a few personal attacks that sought to cast current President Sean Sweeney in a negative light, for the most part the fully packed meeting was conducted civilly.
Of course, the vote cast, tells a different story. Sweeney was re-elected President by a large margin and both Jim Stratton and Marc Ameruso were elected as Vice Presidents while Julie Nadel garnered the vote for Treasurer. The fact that this slate won in its entirety was in itself a strong indication that whatever shortcomings may have been highlighted, the membership was not happy about the blitzkrieg attempt to take over the club. Whether D.I.D. members were more resentful that Julie Menin may have been intending to use the club for a Council race springboard, or were offended by a process whereby dissension with Sweeney’s Presidency was handled so rudely – is difficult to tell.
Sweeney has indicated that it has been difficult to handle the full time job of running the club and would welcome help in doing so.
Now, it appears, he has that help. Rumors of some serious further changes are now rife. Stay tuned.

With Quinn seeming to be gaining her footing once again, despite the Slushgate problems – many of which she inherited from Vallone and Miller – most people downtown are taking a wait and see approach to her impending mayoral bid. She and Duane, who is very popular, are aware of the need to be seen and heard by the residents. Duane actually receives applause before he speaks at many community meetings. Quinn is popular but has not made the attempt at being perceived as personable and warm. Politics aside, this could be her undoing. Bloomberg is not exactly Mr. Warmth, but those
With Quinn seeming to be gaining her footing once again, despite the $500,000 checks sent to various constituencies go a long way towards endearing one. Even the office staff of Harvard boys can be overlooked with that kind of gravy being spilled.

Those who see the train coming know that in addition to the rising star of Bill Thompson, Charley Rangel and, not the least of personas, Mr. Obama – we have Inez Dickens and Denny Farrell coming our way to a City Council near you.
The future seems to include Farrell resigning as County Leader and running for City Council, Dickens ascending to the Speaker’s post after Quinn and a Mr. Wright becoming County Leader.
Black leadership will be a breath of fresh air and flush out the racists, if there are any left.
While Bloomberg has stepped up his attacks on Paterson, looking for a spot he can grab since his White House initiatives have fallen on deaf ears – he might consider dropping that particular route to immortality. Challenging term-limits would even irritate his friends and give credence to the feeling that he adjusts his politics longings to the tune of ‘what’s available today?’ He also should not expect any help from downtown, where he has allowed development projects to be pushed through like Trump SoHo and the D.S.N.Y. garage in Hudson Square; allowed film crews to use us a back lot for Hollywood; and, sat back as our buildings have been festooned with billboards. Harvard Square and SoHo appear to have different political agendas.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Never believe anything until it has been officially denied
--Claud Cockburn

Last week at Downtown Independent Democrats, the new guy on the block became a contender for the Senate seat currently held by Martin Connor.
In a close race, by a margin of five votes, a former staffer for Chuck Schumer, Daniel Squadron, succeeded in gaining the endorsement from a club that is itself in flux. Connor had been endorsed by this club for many prior years, including during his last run against Ken Diamondstone.
Several of those who were asked their opinion as to why Squadron’s challenge appears to be gaining momentum had less to do with Connor and his nearly 40 years in office and more to do with campaigning style. His eagerness in seeking out community activists seems to have helped Squadron learn about what the current frustrations are and gain support. The connection to Schumer is a double-edged sword since some are not enamored with his former boss and Squadron does not seem to want to be elected based upon that association.

The D.I.D. saga continues with the two slates about to bring the attempted coup by the Julie Menin contingent – among those including Ian Dutton and David Reck of Community Board #2 – to the floor for a vote this Wednesday (June 4th). While Sean Sweeney faces Dutton for the Presidency, additional new candidates including Marc Ameruso for Vice President and Julie Nadel for Treasurer are supporting the Sweeney slate. Change is in the air, regardless of who wins the election.
The heat will rise as it always does and depending upon the results old wounds will heal or new heels will be wounded. Aside from the bad pun, the dubiousness of Club politics will either result in a broader platform under Menin’s run for City Council or set the stage for a change in the future make-up of D.I.D.

The most recent crane collapse, with a crash that actually was heard by residents downtown – loudly – is not unexpected by those who have been criticizing the Department of Buildings and the Mayor for years.
What no one seems to want to simply say is that the Department of Buildings is a corrupt city agency. It is not simply incompetence.
Not only do we have regulations for billboards and no enforcement to remove illegal signs; not only are tenants all too familiar with being ignored when making complaints over construction without permits; and, not only have D.O.B. inspectors been observed reviewing serious building violations in apartment dwellings with no effect – but, construction sites have been notoriously unsafe in several downtown communities.

The Mayor has completely ignored complaints about the Film Office and how communities have been turned into back lots. He has ignored the proliferation of illegal billboards. And, he has ignored the damage that residents have had to experience through the out of control development which seeks to morph Downtown into the vision that the “Boys from Harvard” have for SoHo and The Village. A more disconnected politician with great PR and lots of money is difficult to find.
"Self-certification,” has been the ticket for this abused process which allows architects and other company employees who are applying for permits, to fast-track their applications through the City bureaucracy. That particular idea started with Giuliani, however. And, is continued by the current Republican in sheeps clothing.

The results: huge, illegal billboards, unsafe buildings, and rampant landlord abuse. Lots of media including in taxis & video billboards - can you say Bloomberg?

When the Mayor said the situation was “unacceptable,” the response by downtown residents has been – “Are you kidding?”
How many construction workers have to die, how many billboards have to be plastered over Downtown, how many film shoots that disrupt our lives have to be permitted, and how many “Inspectors” have to slap the backs of landlords before he sees the real problem – or, having known about it for a long time – will he do anything about it? Don't hold your breath.

The current field of candidates running for Quinn’s seat in the “09 City Council is becoming almost as interesting as the Menin/Gleason/Freed? run when Gerson bites the dust.
Berman is well respected as Director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, Hoylman is Chair of Community Board #2 and Vice President of the Partnership for New York, and Derr is heir to the Passanante name and a stint as Chair of Community Board #2. Brian Ellner has also been mentioned.
No one is giving odds yet but they’re making the rounds.
Not only have they been attending the right fundraisers and parties (checks in hand) but they have also been seeking endorsements.

One major political power, Jim McManus of the Midtown Democratic Club, whose district encompasses Quinn’s Council seat, has already been contacted by both Hoylman and Derr – Berman, apparently, has yet to call.
Among the theories being bandied about by local political junkies is that Hoylman and Berman eat up each other’s constituencies and Derr takes the seat by default.
So much for theories.
Jim McManus and that club’s President, Carlos Manzano, who is a major Bloomberg EDC Executive in Latin Media, are both playing their cards close to the vest on any endorsement which would carry a great deal of weight in this election.
Since McManus owns a funeral home, there’s apparently a limit on what one can offer him in terms of new business incentives.

Note: Be sure to visit to view the police sketch of the SoHo rapist – and keep your eyes peeled for the perpetrator. And, a thanks to the prompt, late-night notification by Grey Elam of the Speaker’s Office in getting this information out quickly to the community.