Skip to main content

Columnist Lee Siegel on Mayor Mike Bloomberg: "Tammany Hall with a Carnegie Hall face"

Without mentioning Atlantic Yards, New York Observer columnist Lee Siegel, in a pungent column headlined Boss Pinstripes: Bloomberg Isn’t a Democrat, or a Republican, or an Independent. He’s 18 Billion Dollars., summarizes how Mayor Mike Bloomberg does his job:
The surprise that greeted Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement of the exceptionally unqualified Cathie Black, the former chairman of Hearst Magazines, as the city's new schools chancellor was par for the course. The very fact of Mr. Bloomberg as mayor is an ongoing surprise. His political ascension in New York is as unnatural an event as a typhoon in Ohio.

In a capital of the world that has always prided itself on a rich public life, Mr. Bloomberg is devoted to managing government like a private enterprise. To go from the hot banter of Lindsay's, or Koch's, or even Giuliani's news conferences to Mr. Bloomberg's petulantly ignoring a question by saying, "I have a city to run"—yes, well, that's what we want to talk to you about, if you have a minute—is to go from being a rambunctiously engaged citizen of New York to feeling like the frustrated client of a remote service provider. In a place that demands colorful candor from its mayors, he is secretive and peremptory, hiring Ms. Black without any kind of public discussion...

And in the city of the Draft riots, and the Columbia student protests, and Stonewall, and bohemian dissent, and bristling intellectuality, and Baldwin, and Mailer, and Steinem, and Hamill, and Kramer (Larry), and William F. Buckley, for heaven's sake—in this primordially independent and troublemaking place, Mayor Mike buys himself the right to run for an unprecedented third term, and then carpet-spends his way to an easy win.

Chutzpah? Try contempt. The chutzpah would be to defy him. But he gets his third term with no more than a hushed protest from his once-ferocious city-state. Under Mr. Bloomberg, the city that never has to sleep has become the city that doesn't make a peep.
Worth mentioning: a likely reason why mayoral rival Bill Thompson never took the gloves off: the mayor poured money into pet project of the Comptroller's wife.

The influence on media

Siegel writes:
Mr. Bloomberg's gravitational force affects everyone who might be in the business of consequentially criticizing him. (For example: Go after him, and you can forget about opining on the Bloomberg L.P.-funded Charlie Rose Show.) His enveloping wealth produces all the effects of corruption without, itself (as far as we know), being corrupt.
Well, the New York Times has produced some reasonably tough coverage of Bloomberg's appointment of Black. And the Daily News has reported civic concern.

But the editorial pages report to the publishers and, as with Atlantic Yards and term limits, they seem to be getting in line. Today the Daily News opines, Mayor Bloomberg must get Cathie Black as schools chancellor if mayoral control means anything:
The Daily News front page that reported the Black pick summed up the response with the word, "HUH?" over the question, "No education experience, kids went to private school - she's perfect to run our struggling schools! Right?"

Bloomberg is convinced she is. His opinion demands respect, given his track record in identifying talent and the fact that mayoral control of the schools means mayoral control of the schools.
The power of the (lack of) paycheck

Seigel writes about machine politics upended:
Machine politics derives its staying power from putting the "little people" on the payroll. Mr. Bloomberg doesn't need to do that. He puts business-executive friends like Robert Lieber, Daniel Doctoroff and Patricia Harris—many of whom shuttle back and forth between his media business and his mayoral administration—in charge of the payroll and centralizes the system so seamlessly that top-down management performs the ordering function of a political machine. The whole thing stinks of undemocracy. When Mr. Bloomberg's rich appointees boast that they are taking only one dollar as an annual salary, they want to demonstrate a public servant's self-sacrifice. But what they are really doing is displaying an investor's indifference to the relationship between money and work. They are redefining responsibility in government. If the public doesn't pay their salary, then they are not accountable to the public. The result is Tammany Hall with a Carnegie Hall face. Mr. Bloomberg is not Boss Tweed. He is Boss Pinstripes.
Such a business arrangement recalls somewhat the role of Susan Rahm, a volunteer helping the Empire State Development Corporation manage the Atlantic Yards project at the request of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer. To whom was she accountable?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …