SOHO POLITICS: Currents

“If I’d written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people—including me—would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”    —Hunter S. Thompson

For those of you who have an involvement in the dangerous game of politics, it may be of interest to know who’s telling the truth these days, and, whether the articles we read are fact or disinformation, emanating directly out of governmental PR departments. No genuine journalist would ever rely on such sources for the truth. Many of the mainstream media writers will eat their own for sales, as well as take orders from their masters—corporate, financial and political masters. Thompson called them “pimps.”

Always pay attention to the agenda. Read between the lines. That is the basis of real reporting and political comprehension. Not the rehashing of a press release.

Gary Tilzer’s True News is one of the few remaining sources for investigative reporting. His fearless reporting of the truth in political circles is worth noting.
Tilzer is a political consultant, writer and blogger whose articles have appeared in the New York Sun, the Village Voice as well as True News. His online periodical is as close to good, old-fashioned muckraking as you can find. Tilzer’s investigative pieces offer analysis and commentary about breaking political events. True News has broken stories about corruption involving both the Brooklyn and Queens county leaders and other officials that that have been picked up by the city’s old media including the New York Times. Tilzer was nominated by the Village Voice for an investigative series of articles about landlords that used ‘block busting’ to qualify for federal housing grants entitled the “Lords of Flatbush.”

In political news, Pete Gleason was responsible for separating Wayne Barrett from the Village Voice, through a series of exposes on what Gleason asserted was yellow journalism for an advertising base of escort ads. Gleason’s bone to pick was that in his run for City Council, personal information such as where he lived, details of his medical information, and personal comments about his family were published without his permission.

Consequently, it will be interesting to see how the Villager and its sister publications recently sold by John Sutter, changes its views. Rumors have surfaced that this is part of Murdoch’s move to consolidate influence through the acquisition of community-based newspapers. It could be a potential game-changer for Downtown.

With respect to the current City Council seat in SoHo proper, many of Margaret Chin’s grass-root supporters have become disillusioned with her seemingly pro-business and anti-constituent agenda. Behind the scenes, one SoHo resident who supported Chin said, “The district missed a tremendous opportunity in not getting behind Gleason. He was like a warrior compared to Chin who had loyalty without deserving it.” When reached for comment Gleason admitted he was flattered by his new found support from former Chin allies and said, “Like the Chinese proverb, Margaret’s campaign provided only persuasion, [and] only truth can buy loyalty.” [sic] It was clear that Gleason was referring to the SoHo Bid.

Julie Menin, Board #1 Chair, is definitely running for Scott Stringer’s seat asManhattan Borough President. While it would be unreliable to claim that she has it locked up, Sean Sweeney, of the Downtown Independent Democrats and Director of the SoHo Alliance, spoke well of her and alluded to potentially doing some fundraising on her behalf.That, in itself, speaks to her grasp on a potential endorsement. Sean, while possibly dangerous to himself, is extremely helpful to candidates, and those whom he supports seeking election. In fact, he and Jeanne Wilcke, President of D.I.D., along with Adam Silvera and Jim Stratton, are people who candidates must see if they wish to gain traction with Downtown voters. SoHo has increasingly become a “swing state,” which is credited with electing Scott Stringer, Cy Vance and Eric Schneiderman.

The dynamics, alliances and sub rosa deal-making involved in politics was made more complicated by the recent abdication of State Senator Tom Duane, the favorite of Greenwich Village. He has announced that he is retiring at the end of this year, thereby creating a political frenzy for this year’s otherwise lackluster Primary season. Although it may have been known for quite some time among the cognoscenti (political moves are like insider trading among the electeds, except it is perfectly legal) but residents knew nothing.

Among other reasons, Duane cites the fact that he is tired of the travel to Albany. His supporters, of course, are disappointed. But, the effect of his withdrawal has been to reinvigorate the election. Hoylman was quick to change tracks from next year’s City Council race in a crowded field to a State Senate race this year in a very narrow field, and was quickly endorsed by a number of supporters.

One political theory has it that Duane had planned this for some time and that Quinn as well as Hoylman knew about it. As Positivist theory points out, the acid test is “what is the cash-value” of believing something. In this case, a State Senate salary of $80,000 plus as opposed to roughly $160,000 as a Deputy Mayor under Quinn goes a long way towards clearing up any ambiguity. Unless, of course, Bill Thompson were to win the election. Duane’s fallback plan is to be a consultant. Such a move would be highly successful in the view of political strategists. He has paid his dues and has numerous contacts to draw upon. His sense of humor and standing in the community would be valuable.

The timing of Hoylman’s resignation as Vice President and General Counsel of PFNY, the Partnership For New York (a real estate “non-profit,” if there is such a thing), is fortuitous. It was announced in time for his second bid to Chair Community Board #2 and thought to be his way of announcing that he wishes to be independent of that organization for his run for City Council next year. As it turns out, of course, it is extremely beneficial for the State Senate run.

But, it is far from a clear field. Of the other potential candidates, one is Tommy Greco, a businessman and restaurant owner. His bona fides relate to the plight of small business in New York City, especially in Manhattan. Our highly bureaucratized City government has placed the small business owner in the midst of attorneys, lobbyists and special interest groups which have access to Albany. The daily fight to succeed in a small business, the businessman on the ground, knows what must be changed in Albany. Since 9/11 and the economic meltdown of 2008, the City and the State has allowed SoHo, Greenwich Village and other Areas Downtown as well as Midtown to wither under the constraints of red tape and taxes. Tommy Greco has to be considered in this regard. He has been a winner for businesses and the average resident in Manhattan.

In Democratic town, the winner of the Primary wins the race for the general election. The question to be asked is, “What’s good for SoHo?”

The political landscape has changed recently for the major candidates vying for office that affect SoHo. The City Council seat currently held by Christine Quinn will ne up for grabs next year and she is running for mayor. That City Council seat has had a field of candidates consisting of Community Board #2 Chair Brad Hoylman, activist attorney Yetta Kurland, Community Board #4 Chair Corey Johnson, and Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Corey Johnson, the Chair of Board 4, is climbing in the polls and is an aggressive campaigner. His weakness is simply being the new kid on the block. His strength is his tenacity and commitment to the community. While younger than the other candidates, he has risen in the eyes of a very attentive Board, which found out the hard way that being antagonistic towards progress and Corey’s agenda is a mistake.

What is needed in this Council seat, is a very aggressive candidate that uses the power of the office to follow through on affordable housing issues, stopping the decimation of rent-controlled and stabilized apartments by corrupt landlords, creating a dialog with developers, and the urgent needs of healthcare and education in lower Manhattan. Johnson has spoken well on these issues, and has made it clear that he is not above launching investigations and holding hearings. We look forward to that.

Andrew Berman is an effective and dedicated supporter of responsible community development and land use as well as zoning. He has manned the barricades on some contentious Greenwich Village and SoHo projects, including the Tunnel Garage and the much reviled and ill-conceived Trump SoHo.

Berman is the ‘cerebral’ candidate who weighs his decisions carefully and takes a deliberate and highly planned approach. He had a long history of fighting established interests—from developers to City bureaucracy, like City Planning—in favor of the community. He has been very effective. However, recent comments seem to indicate that he may not run.

Yetta Kurland, an activist and civil rights attorney who defeated Quinn at an endorsement race held two years ago at Downtown Independent Democrats, has devoted a great deal of her recent energies in opposition to the Rudin development, and in support of a new hospital to replace St. Vincent’s. Unfortunately, Rudin has succeeded in plans to create a condominium development. Construction has already begun, leaving the community with only an Emergency Care facility to replace a full service hospital. It’s a bad deal for SoHo.

Kurland hosts a weekly radio show, as well, which supports issues important to the community, including recent OWS dialog. She is perceived as a firebrand and is a bright, committed activist who leads with emotion and conviction. She is not afraid to ruffle feathers or put herself on the line for what she believes in.

The Mayoral campaign seems to be a contest between City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson. The dark horses are Bill DiBlasio, Borough President Scott Stringer, and current Comptroller John Liu.

Liu is undoubtedly out due to the Federal investigation thus far. DiBlasio and Stringer are in the single digits according to polls. However, Stringer’s positions on affordable housing and his help with traffic agents in SoHo are decidedly positive moves on his part (despite Margaret Chin’s attempt to take credit, it is Stringer’s efforts that paid off.) Truth be told, Stringer has performed. Quinn has held a lead and enjoys the support of Bloomberg’s cash-heavy organization. Assuming he does not pull an FDR and run yet again, Quinn should benefit from his largesse for having delivered on a number of contentious communityissues like Trump SoHo, the D.S.N.Y. garage, and, last but not least, making his third term possible. While she had been a supporter of tenants’ rights her recent efforts have been tepid. For many, Quinn has largely rubber-stamped Bloomberg’s wishes. The question is whether, once out from under Bloomberg’s thumb—if that is ever going to be possible—would she return to supporting the community?

She is the first openly gay mayoral candidate and has recently married her partner in a widely social event. Many local and State Democratic leaders were inattendance, even if a few borough leaders were less than enthusiastic. The question is how the more conservative borough leaders, from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island who won the elections for Giuliani and Bloomberg, will vote

Despite Bloomberg’s money, however, the last race was incredibly close. Bill Thompson surprised not a few experienced political strategists who had written him off when Bloomberg announced he was running again. Yet, despite Bloomberg spending in excess of $120 million (that’s the reported number), Thompson nearly won. Had the Democrats supported Thompson in only a modest way, he would have beaten Bloomberg. Democratic leaders assumed that Bloomberg would win and did not rally the troops. He had wide support and his political record is strong. He is also a congenial and personable individual and is known to be a “hands-on” politician. He is someone who would bring back community participation to the Mayor’s office. He would “pick up the phone” if called on by community leaders.

This is a clear difference from the Deus ex machina approach of the Boys from Harvard who now occupy Gracie Mansion.

While both Quinn and Thompson have ‘issues’ (Slushgate for Quinn and Comptroller irregularities for Thompson), it is unlikely that either will play a significant role in the race.

The real issue for SoHo is who will follow through protecting residents?

Prediction: Our next Governor will be Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Perhaps, even in the next election Cuomo could be tapped for a role in the White House or Cabinet. Or, in the following election as Cuomo’s aspirations will become clearer. Schneiderman’s bona fides are well documented. And, look for Nassau county D.A. Kathleen Rice to again move on the Attorney General slot once Schneiderman moves on.

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